For-Profit Colleges Face Big Questions, Regulations, Lawsuits In Mass.

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Right now in Massachusetts, for-profit colleges are facing big questions, new regulations and lawsuits. The state attorney general is investigating about 12 of them — amid charges of low graduation rates and deceptive sales tactics that leave too many students mired in debt.

Consider the case of Mike DiGiacomo. He's an Army veteran who lives in Randolph who wanted to get a degree in animation and learn how to design video games.

He enrolled at two for-profit schools. First, Gibbs College in Boston, and then the New England Institute of Art, where he hoped to get a bachelor's degree.

DiGiacomo says the schools made him a series of promises: including they that they could land him a paid internship and contacts with the video game industry. That didn't happen.

Instead, DiGiacomo ended up with just an associates degree, no job and a whole lot of debt — about $90,000.

We reached out to the The New England Institute of Art to talk to them about Mike DiGiacomo's story, but the school declined to comment.

A written statement Gibbs College released in 2011 regarding DiGiacomo said the school has never offered a degree in animation and that they don't promise to connect students with industry contacts.

But Mike DiGiacomo's story is just one of many that raises a lot of questions about the for-profit college industry, at a time when it's facing a lot scrutiny over high rates of debt and low rates of graduation and employment.

Note: The Massachusetts Association of Private Career Schools was scheduled to join this conversation, but they pulled out at the last minute citing the organization's ongoing challenge to Attorney General Martha Coakley's proposed regulations. We subsequently reached out to a number of for-profit colleges, but they declined to participate.


David Deming, associate professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and faculty research fellow at the National Bureau of Economic Research.

Toby Merrill, attorney and senior clinical fellow at the predatory lending practice at the legal services center of Harvard Law School. She tweets @tobmer.


The Boston Globe: For-Profit Universities Are Not Inherently Bad

  • "For all their problems, for-profit universities are not inherently bad — just empirically bad."

The Boston Globe: Stopping Student Loan Predators

  • "Taking on these schools is a moral issue. Access to education is how we expand opportunity, but only if the promise is real."

The Boston Globe: For-Profit Colleges Get Harsh Grades By Former Students

  • "The pitch made by for-profit colleges, a staple of daytime and late-night TV, often features successful alumni from the schools, from Pulitzer Prize-winning photographers to Hollywood animators. Yet the US Department of Education estimated that 72 percent of the for-profit programs at 7,000 schools produced graduates who on average earned less than high school dropouts."

This segment aired on November 20, 2014.


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