For-Profit Colleges and Racial Justice

Secondary Resources

Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, Mississippi Center for Justice, North Carolina Justice Center, Project on Predatory Student Lending, Southern Poverty Law Center

Letter to Senators Doug Jones, Elizabeth Warren, Kamala Harris, and Catherine Cortez Masto proposing reform to address inequities in higher education.

American Civil Liberties Union Foundation, INC. American Civil Liberties Union & National Consumer Law Center v. United States Department of Education

A lawsuit under the Freedom of Information Act for release of information about the disparate impact of student loan collection practices on communities of color.

United States of America, ex rel. Saphronia Boyd, Ruthie Parker and Stanley Watts v. Corinthian Colleges

Former employees assert that Corinthian College in Merrionette Park, Illinois used discriminatory practices to enroll a student body that was 72 percent African American.

Tiffeny Anderson, Dianna Bond, Veronica Boyd, Crystal Larkin, Sharonda Nixon, Barbara Turner, and Shirley Washington v. Virginia College

A lawsuit asserting that Virginia College engaged in “reverse redlining” in violation of the Equal Credit Opportunity Act by targeting African Americans.

Mary Morgan, et. al., v. Richmond School of Health and Technology, Inc.

Case charging for-profit vocational school with targeting African Americans for recruitment into sham programs, in violation of civil rights and consumer protection statutes.





December 2020

Combating Exploitative Education | Student Borrower Protection Center

For-profit schools have exploited the long-held belief that higher education is the key to a stable and meaningful job while simultaneously failing to deliver on promises of providing a quality education or enhancing the employment prospects of their students.

July 2020

Unequal Burden: Black Borrowers and the Student Loan Debt Crisis | NYC Consumer and Worker Protection

In New York City, data has shown that Black New Yorkers have suffered disproportionately from COVID-19: higher rates of infection; higher rates of death; higher risk of income and job loss relative to other New Yorkers. National data shows the same disproportionate impact.


Gainful Employment: A Civil Rights Perspective | The Leadership Conference Education Fund

For years, studies and investigations have found the for-profit schools implement policies and practices that produce adverse outcomes for African-American and Latino students.

December 2020

Combating Exploitative Education | Student Borrower Protection Center

For-profit schools have exploited the long-held belief that higher education is the key to a stable and meaningful job while simultaneously failing to deliver on promises of providing a quality education or enhancing the employment prospects of their students.

September 2019

Stalling Dreams | Institute of Asset and Social Policy

How student debt is disrupting life chances and widening the racial wealth gap.

February 2019

State of Higher Education for Black Californians | College Opportunity

The  California  Dream  envisions  a  place  of  new  beginnings  where  hard  work  is  rewarded,  and  opportunity and good fortune are available to anyone who seeks it. This dream is threatened, as is our collective future as Californians, when its promise is only achievable by a few or when a Californian’s  ZIP  code, race/ethnicity, gender, or the amount of money in their bank account make that dream an illusion.

May 2016, Revised January 2018

Gainfully Employed? Assessing the Employment and Earnings of For-Profit College Students Using Administrative Data | NBER

Despite the much higher costs of attendance, earnings effects are smaller in the for-profit sector relative to the effects for comparable students in public community colleges.

February 28, 2017

Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges | Tressie McMillan Cottom

Lower Ed, the first book to link the rapid expansion of for-profit degrees to America’s increasing inequality, reveals the story of an industry that exploits the pain, desperation, and aspirations of the most vulnerable and exposes the conditions that allow for-profit education to thrive.


February 2017

A Profile of the Enrollment Patterns and Demographic Characteristics of Undergraduates at For-Profit Institutions | NCES

The rapid growth of the for-profit sector has renewed public scrutiny and concern about the historically poor labor market outcomes of students at many of these institutions and the amount of debt students in these institutions often take on.

October 20, 2016

Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More Than Triples After Graduation | Economic Studies at Brookings

Our analysis reveals the surprising, disproportionate role of graduate school enrollment—particularly for-profit graduate enrollment—in contributing to the overall black-white debt gap.

September 15, 2016

"Why Wait Years to Become Something?" Low-Income African American Youth and the Costly Career Search in For-Profit Trade Schools | ASA

Increasing numbers of low-income and minority youth are now pursuing shorter-duration sub-baccalaureate credentials at for-profit trade and technical schools. However, many students drop out of these schools, leaving with large debts and few job prospects.

June 2016

How Wall Street's Predatory Products Pillage Women's Wealth, Opportunities, & Futures | Suparna Bhaskaran

This report demonstrates how gendered and racialized economic vulnerability is increasingly exploited and exacerbated by Wall Street and the financial sector.

February 2016

Mapping Student Debt | Marshall Steinbaum and Kavya Vaghul

Maps tell us that: delinquency disproportionately affects minority communities; even after controlling for income, race still has a strong impact on student loan delinquency; middle-class minorities are hurt the most by student loan delinquency.


Education Deserts The Continued Significance of "Place" in the Twenty-First Century | ACE

The purpose of this brief is to explore the importance of place even further, and to raise important questions about how geography shapes educational equity and opportunity.


The Debt Divide, The Racial and Class Bias Behind the "New Normal" of Student Borrowing | Demos

Our analysis, using data from three U.S. Department of Education surveys, the Federal Reserve’s 2013 Survey of Consumer Finances, and existing academic literature, reveals a system that is deeply biased along class and racial lines.

October 2014

Do Students of Color Profit from For-Profit College? Poor Outcomes and High Debt Hamper Attendees' Futures | Center for Responsible Lending

African Americans and Latinos
are at greater risk of the high debt burdens and poor outcomes caused by for-profit colleges because
they are more likely to attend these schools than their white peers.

November 2010

Subprime Opportunity: The Unfulfilled Promise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities | The Education Trust

For-profit colleges provide high cost degree programs that have little chance of leading to high-paying careers, and saddle the most vulnerable students with heavy debt. Instead of providing a solid pathway to the middle class, they pave a path into the subbasement of the American economy...


February 24, 2019

California's Black Students Lag in College Completion Despite Some Gains | The Mercury News

Black students in California have shown progress in enrolling and completing college in recent years but still lag behind other racial and ethnic groups.

August 14, 2018

Betsy DeVos’ Elimination of Obama Rules Allows For-Profit Colleges To Swindle Poor Black Students | Atlanta Black Star

Under the Trump administration, U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is on a mission to roll back Obama-era measures designed to ease the debt burden on students attending for-profit schools, and make these institutions prove their graduates emerge gainfully employed.

July 30, 2018

For-Profit Schools’ Predatory Practices and Students of Color: A Mission to Enroll Rather than Educate | Harvard Law Review

In a move with significant implications for federal civil rights enforcement, the Department of Education has halted investigations into several large for-profit institutions widely accused of defrauding students.

July 30, 2018

Betsy DeVos Doesn't Give a Damn About Students, Education or the Cost Thereof | The Root

Can we stop telling the lie that Betsy DeVos has the best interest of this nation’s students at heart? The U.S. Department of Education has devolved into yet another classist system of oppression set up to hold down people of color and low-income families. This latest move by DeVos is proof of that.

June 18, 2018

Are Betsy DeVos's policies exacerbating racial inequities in student debt? These lawmakers think so. | Washington Post

Senate and House Democrats are accusing Education Secretary Betsy DeVos of exacerbating racial disparities in student debt by failing to help defrauded borrowers, enforce consumer protections and examine the root causes of debt inequity.

May 6, 2017

The Black-White Wealth Gap is Fueled by Student Debt | MarketWatch

Student debt is becoming a nearly-universal American experience, but the particulars of that experience can vary widely depending on the color of your skin.

March 27, 2017

How For-Profit Colleges Sell 'Risky Education' to the Most Vulnerable | NPR

For-profit colleges have faced federal and state investigations in recent years for their aggressive recruiting tactics.

March 20, 2017

How to Con Black Law Students: A Case Study | New York Times

This month, Bethune-Cookman, a historically black university in Daytona Beach, Fla., announced an “affiliation” deal with Arizona Summit Law School, a for-profit institution in Phoenix.

February 22, 2017

The Coded Language of For-Profit Colleges | The Atlantic

For-profit colleges do not simply participate in revenue-generating activities, as do all institutions of higher education. Instead, for-profit colleges are also defined by their profit-seeking imperative.

October 24, 2016

When For-Profit Colleges Prey on Unsuspecting Students | The Atlantic

Without access to counseling in high school, many ambitious yet disadvantaged students still end up in schools where they’re most likely to drop out and accrue lots of debt.

October 24, 2016

Student Debt May be Contributing to Racial Inequality | Bloomberg

The pursuit of higher education may be exacerbating gaps in financial well-being between blacks and whites, rather than narrowing them.

October 20, 2016

Black-White Disparity in Student Loan Debt More Than Triples After Graduation | Brookings

The moment they earn their bachelor’s degrees, black college graduates owe $7,400 more on average than their white peers ($23,400 versus $16,000, including non-borrowers in the averages).

October 7, 2016

Why Lower-Income Students are Drawn to For-Profit Schools | Chicago Tribune

Students seeking to improve their lot in life often look to college for a leg up, but a lack of information and an urgency to land a job can drive youth from lower-income communities to enroll in for-profit trade schools they often can't afford.

February 17, 2016

How the Student Debt Crisis Affects African Americans and Latinos | Washington Center for Equitable Growth

Our analysis finds that among minority student borrowers, those most adversely affected are the middle class—those who have taken out debt to go to college but who haven’t been able to find jobs or don’t have sufficient family wealth to pay it back.

August 31, 2015

For Profit Colleges, Students of Color And The Debt Crisis No One Really Talks About | Think Progress

A Federal Reserve of St. Louis report pointed out that although for-profit colleges account for nearly 10 percent of college enrollment in the U.S. they represent almost half of all student loan defaults, according to U.S. Department of Education data.

September 23, 2014

Subprime Students: How For-Profit Universities Make a Killing by Exploiting College Dreams | Mother Jones

For-profit graduates fare little better on the job market than job seekers with high school degrees; their diplomas, that is, are a net loss, offering essentially the same grim job prospects as if they had never gone to college, plus a lifetime debt sentence.

May 12, 2011

For-Profit Colleges: Targeting People Who Can't Pay | NPR

For-profit colleges are making billions of dollars in profits by targeting vulnerable populations with misleading promises of low-cost tuition and jobs after graduation, says Bloomberg News investigative reporter Daniel Golden.