With college students returning to school this past week, HBO’s Last Week Tonight host John Oliver turned his focus to rising student debt and, in particular, the the predatory practices of for-profit colleges.
Oliver noted that student debt, now estimated to top $1 trillion, is second only to mortgage debt in America.
“That’s right. Student debt is the U.S. is now bigger than credit cards and auto loans, and it is second only to mortgages,” Oliver explained. “Essentially student debt is like HPV. If you go to college, you’re almost certainly going to get it. And if you do, it will follow you for the rest of your life.”
With states cutting funding for community colleges — leading to rising tuition costs — young people seeking an education are turning to for-profit schools with disastrous results.
For-profit tuition rates are now five to six times the cost of a community college, with Oliver noting that part of the higher fees — estimated to be twenty to twenty-five percent of the budget — going towards marketing and recruiting, with half of that amount used to pay teachers.
Oliver used a segment where a former for-profit recruiter explained how she used what she called “pain points,” such as telling a recruit who worked at McDonald’s that they didn’t always want to work there, in order to to get low-income youth to enroll.
‘Yeah. They are told to hit people’s ‘pain points,'” Oliver said. “The only professionals who should be doing that are dominatrix’s and emo bands. That’s it.”
Asking what kind of education recruits can expect, Oliver related the story of a group of nursing students from Corithian College who were unable to find work since the school never provided them with hands-on training in a hospital. One student explained that the only visit the students made outside of school was a visit to a Museum of Scientology for their psychiatric rotation.
“What?” an incredulous Oliver said. “Scientologists do not believe in psychiatry. Their museum is literally called ‘Psychiatry and Museum of Death.’ Going to the museum of Scientology for your psychiatric rotation is certifiably insane. Or, evidence of a build-up of Thetans in your system. It’s… it’s… you teach the controversy.”
Oliver then highlighted push-back from the for-profit institutions who, when faced with legislation that would reign in their predatory tactics, initiated a $10 million campaign using form letters for students and administrators to send to congressman asking them to leave the industry alone.
Oliver pointed out that many students failed to even fill in the form letters, leaving them reading: “I am a career student at [INSTITUTION] studying [PROGRAM].”
Disgusted with for-profits’ predatory habits, Oliver is now offering a form letter on his Facebook page for viewers to send to the for-profits lobbying group, APSCU, which reads:
To Whom It May Concern:
I am [NAME HERE], a human being with [DESCRIBE AT LEAST SOME LEVEL OF SENSE] who is sick of your [SYNONYM FOR BULLSHIT].
Whatever the benefits of for-profit schools, your trade group is protecting the worst actors, and [ADDITIONAL INSULTS]. [IDEAS FOR PLACES TO CRAM THIS LETTER ONCE ROLLED UP]. [PROPOSALS FOR HUMAN WASTE PRODUCTS TO BE EATEN].
Thank you for your time,
[NAME HERE AGAIN]
Oliver advised not even filling in the blanks.
Watch the video below from Last Week Tonight: