But the new requirements also snagged a few private universities and even some public schools, underscoring college’s rising costs and the tolls they take after graduation.
Ninety-nine percent of public university programs easily passed each of the three measures, while 89 percent of private ones did. The figure was 64 percent for four-year for-profits.
In addition to the taxpayer dollars lost when students default, the District is paying for-profit schools directly for some students through its Rehabilitation Services Administration (RSA).
It paid a quarter-million dollars to Strayer and the Art Institute of Washington, a for-profit fashion and art school, for 33 students this year. For the same amount, it sent 145 students to the University of the District of Columbia.
Deborah Bonsock, chief of staff of the RSA’s parent agency, said RSA works with participants to create “individual paths to employment,” but said “certainly we’d love to see people go to UDC” because it is cheaper and has higher success rates.
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a trade group that spent $2 million in the past two years lobbying Congress to protect the industry, said the federal numbers are flawed and that for-profit colleges provide flexible schedules and that legislative action against them harms the minorities attending the schools.
“The Department of Education’s ‘gainful employment’ regulation has an unfortunate history using erroneous metrics … while dismissing the impact on minority students who represent 39 percent of all career college graduates and rely almost exclusively on federal financial aid to attend,” said Steve Gunderson, the association’s president.
But at the Career Technical Institute, in the basement of an office building on L Street Northwest, a 30-year-old black student whose tuition was paid by RSA said students are attracted by its lack of academic rigor and the fact that attendance is not enforced.
“Most of the people don’t work, they’re on some type of assistance. But they don’t come to class either,” the woman said. “It’s an open-book test, and in one of my classes people were just Googling the answers. How many places give out open-book tests?”
She attributed their desire to drift aimlessly through a curriculum and their failure to do research to poverty, which she said makes them easy pickings for executives.
“They know what’s going on,” she said of administrators. “They pass out fliers only at Metro stations in the poor neighborhoods.”
As a reporter pulled out statistics to show the student on the L Street sidewalk, school administrators emerged and said they would call the police if the reporter did not take the statistics a full block away. The student asked not to be named to avoid angering managers at her school.
“Just seeing what just happened alone makes me wary about this place,” she said.
The federal government provided more than $1 million in loans for students attending Career Technical Institute to learn how to do “data entry.” After completing the program, they earn an average of $17,000: minimum wage.
In its computer and health programs, only 15 percent of former CTI students make on-time payments. But even being shown the repayment statistics did not faze a dreadlocked, middle-age man entering to enroll at CTI.