How Some of the nation’s biggest for-profit colleges and vocational schools are boosting enrollment through loans

Some of the nation’s biggest for-profit colleges and vocational schools are boosting enrollment in tough times by making more loans directly to cash-strapped students, knowing full well many of them probably won’t be able to repay what they borrowed.

Among the for-profit colleges that are booming are ITT, Corinthian Colleges and Career Education Corp. They and other such institutions have an estimated 1.2 million U.S. students …

Many students at these schools get thousands of dollars in tuition grants under various government programs, and take out loans to cover the rest …

But because the economic meltdown has made it harder for students to get bank loans, several of these schools are increasingly stepping in, financing degrees in the same way a furniture store or used-car dealer might extend credit …

… in some cases, students may find better terms than they used to get from lenders like Sallie Mae Corp., which have recently cut way back on student loans to high-risk borrowers.

But some experts worry students will get pushed into loans they shouldn’t take.

In fact, two publicly owned college chains have set aside roughly half their internal lending amount as a loss reserve — essentially telling investors they don’t expect students to repay more than half of what they borrow.

Another concern: Some companies label such loans consumer financing rather than student loans, which carry particular disclosure requirements. One for-profit school, Colorado-based Westwood College, has been hit with a class-action lawsuit accusing it of fraud and arguing that its lending program violates state banking laws. Westwood charges a relatively high 18 percent interest but doesn’t call its lending student loans.

“It’s very alarming,” said Deanne Loonin, director of the National Consumer Law Center’s student loan borrower assistance project. The colleges “can structure the products in all kinds of ways — things like revolving credit lines, unsecured loans, even secured loans. It’s this new thing and we’re worried about it.”

Westwood, which has been making such loans for eight years, calls the lawsuit unfounded.
Jessica Rosales was 17 when she enrolled at Westwood’s Inland Empire campus near Los Angeles. She dropped out after one term and was later told she owed Westwood around $18,000 — nearly half in interest and collection fees. Rosales said that the school misled her about the source of her aid and that she never signed a loan from the school.

Westwood’s Apex loan program, which is used by about 30 percent of its 12,000 students, has no credit requirement, said Bill Ojile, senior vice president of Westwood. He said that terms are clearly disclosed, interest accrues only after the student leaves school, and students are required to exhaust all other options first.

Many for-profits are seeing enrollment surge. New enrollments at ITT are up one-third from a year ago; last month the company forecast profits 50 percent higher than last year. Laid-off workers returning to school and increased government aid have boosted the number of students at many of these places.

See research by Mark Kantrowitz of the Web site

… on average, for-profit colleges have lower graduation rates and higher loan default rates than other schools.

Some companies, including Apollo Group, parent company of the giant University of Phoenix, have steered clear of such loans altogether, and the industry calls internal lending a relatively small practice, entered into reluctantly.

… Consider, for example, a school charging $10,000, hoping to enroll a student who has lined up $9,000 in aid from the government and elsewhere. Even if the school loses half of the $1,000 it lends to get the student in the door, it comes out $9,000 ahead.


And see:
New public, private and college-based programs are targeting a grim and growing market: unemployed college graduates who can’t afford to repay their student loans. This week, BridgeSpan Financial introduced SafeStart, a product designed to protect borrowers from the risk of defaulting on their loans. For an upfront payment of $40 to $60 per $1,000 of student debt, SafeStart will provide an …

Full story at: Programs to repay student loans target unemployed grads


Be Wary of Private Student Loans
Higher interest rates and more-stringent payback requirements could leave your student in a bind.

Program may help unemployed grads with loans
New public, private and college-based programs are targeting a grim and growing market: unemployed college graduates who can’t afford to repay their student loans.
The Arizona Republic

Consuming Interests: Forgiving student loans to boost economy
Would forgiving student loan be good for the economy? Some groups think so. A campaign is underway to get student loans forgiven so grads can afford to spend their money on other things. Proponents say this would immediately stimulate the economy.
Baltimore Sun

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