By the numbers: For-profit college math

  • Tuition and fees charged by corporate colleges average $35,000 for a two-year degree and $63,000 for a four-year degree–more than four times the average cost of a community college and $11,000 more than the average 4-year bachelor’s degree at public schools.
  • Such high prices charged to low-income students mean that 96% of those who go to for-profit schools must take out loans (versus 13% of community college students and 48% of those in four-year public schools).
  • Those loans amount to $32 billion a year in revenue for private schools. That’s 25% of all federal student aid–and it provides nearly 90% of the annual income for the biggest for-profit colleges.
  • 88% of for-profit graduates leave school saddled with debt, which averaged a staggering $39,950 per student in 2012.
  • With interest rates, penalties, and collection fees assessed on the many students who struggle to pay off these loans, the real cost of a for-profit degree can end up being almost double the price of a Harvard education.
  • A two-year investigation by Sen. Tom Harkin revealed that in 2012 for-profits spent only 17% of their revenue on teaching, while 19% went to corporate profits and nearly 23% was dumped into marketing.
  • The Harkin study also found that CEOs of the corporate schools averaged $7.3 million in pay–about seven times more than top executives of large public universities.
  • The Department of Education reports that 72% of those who do graduate are in jobs that average less pay than high school dropouts.
  • Although only 13% of college enrollees, students from these schools account for 47% of loan defaults (half of them within three years).

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