The Breakdown | Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: The comical student loan default rates of for-profit California colleges

Holly Petraeus, wife of CIA Director and former U.S. Army Gen. David Petraeus, has intensified the debate about for-profit colleges, their astronomical student-load default rates, and accusations that they're looking to market hard to members of the military. NPR covered the issue this morning with her, and referenced an opinion piece she wrote on the subject for the New York Times.

I've been thinking a lot lately about for-profit educational models, given that the way forward for California's economy clearly lies with a better-educated workforce. But the state's public school system is under a lot of strain. Can private companies, operating charter schools, technical schools, and other types of institutions be a solution? If you look at the ability of many for-profit Southern California colleges to graduate people who can actually pay for their education, the answer is no.

The above chart comes from the U.S. Department of Education, via an excellent story that Erica Perez wrote for California Watch in February. I've highlighted the worst offenders, all of whom have default rates verging on 50 percent. This is categorically absurd and a disservice to California. We can probably do better. It's questionable whether for-profit college operators can.

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