Surprising statistics from the Department of Education; it turns out that for-profit higher education, the tip of the spear of the Online Teaching Revolution, is comparatively terrible.
Students at for-profit colleges represent about 13% of the total higher education population, but a disproportionate number of federal student loans — about 31% of all loans –go to such schools, which are popular with adult students and veterans trying to launch careers. Nearly half of all college loan defaults are from students enrolled in such programs, according to Department of Education statistics.
Half – HALF! – of all loan defaults come from the 13% of students at for-profits. The dirty secret throughout this boom is that the Phoenixes and Kaplans and Strayers are really, staggeringly bad at educating students. I don't mean that only in the "online classes are terrible" sense (although god knows they are) but in terms of basic measures like student retention, graduation rates, and post-graduation success. When 20% of your students are graduating compared to 55% across all public universities and nearly two-thirds at privates, you're barely a university.
It's refreshing to see the administration take some (baby) steps toward reining in this mess of an industry – and yes, the exact same standards and penalties should be applied to brick-and-mortar not-for-profit universities. If a four-year public school is graduating something like 5-10% of enrolled first-time students, the state legislature and university system need to consider, in a serious, non-condescending way, whether that student population could be better served by a two-year or technical school.
And while we're at it, why don't we stop requiring degrees for jobs that don't actually require a degree to do. And encouraging everyone to go to college even if they have neither an idea of why they're going nor a desire to go. And moving government employees up the pay scale based not on their good performance but on whether they buy a Master's Degree from some ludicrous online diploma mill. And allowing economic and political elites to use "Go to college!" as some kind of blanket solution to a crippled economy when what they really mean is "Hide out for four years, amass debt, and…maybe things will be better by then?"
But those are arguments for another day.