Thursday, November 12, 2009

Exploiting poor people's desire to learn

As I was walking out of my office the other day, a friend of mine in the housing development where I work approached me with a big smile on her face. "I'm so glad I caught you! I wanted to give you my graduation announcement!"

Being the educator I am, I try to make every graduation I can. Graduations excite me. I was honored that she would think of me when she was inviting people.

As I opened the invitation in front of her and saw Everest College, I tried to keep the smile on my face, though my heart cringed. I knew she had just wasted two years of her life and probably had the debt to prove it.

I don't know that our country realizes how well it has sold the idea that education is the key to one's future. I hear it preached over and over again in the inner-city where I live and work...and people listen.

People in the neighborhoods and in the housing developments where I lived and worked have bought into the belief that education is they key to their future. It is because of that belief that they actively pursue "higher education." The problem isn't in their effort. Their problem lies in where they've been convinced to pursue this "higher education."

If someone comes to me to ask for college advice, I immediately, emphatically tell them to stay away from "colleges" like Everest, Remington, ATI, or some these other for-profit schools that promise them they will have no financial obligation and promise them a high-paying job when they finish. I try to convince them what many of us know already. Those institutions lie to get people in the door. See this article: The Subprime Student Loan Racket - Stephen Burd

Sometimes, I can convince people of the lies they've been told. Other times I can't. The for-profit institutions market so strongly to poor communities that people are convinced they are their ticket out of their life of poverty. Instead, they are their ticket into more poverty.

However, it is one thing for me to convince someone before they start their educational career. It is yet another when someone is 1/2 way or all the way through one of these exploitative schools. They are so proud of working toward something, I don't have the heart to tell them the reality they are about to face. Unfortunately, because of these schools, they often get dissuaded and then convince their children that they have to accept the reality that there isn't a way out.

So what do we do about "colleges" like ITT Tech, University of Phoenix, Westwood, Career Education, Corinthian College, DeVry, Brooks Institute, and Everest?

We need to change legislation. We need to prevent these institutions from profiting off of the backs of poor people.

Right now, the government acknowledges these schools and assists with their funding by backing defaulted loans. Sallie Mae works in conjunction with them because they make big profits in working with these for-profit schools.

If you have a similar story, post it here. If you know of people who are being taken advantage of because of these schools, post that as well. Maybe we can build enough stories to convince Congress there need to be strict regulations against them.

We need to get the word out that it is not ok to exploit poor people's desire to learn.
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