CRL interactive state-by-state map shows latest for-profit college data

January 30, 2019

Today, the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) released “The State of For-Profit Colleges” with new data that largely show for-profit college students continue to be less likely to graduate than their counterparts at public or private nonprofit institutions. These student borrowers carry more debt regardless of whether they graduate, and they default on that debt at higher rates, often because a for-profit college degree does not provide the anticipated access to higher-paying jobs. In many states, the figures reflect national stats indicating a disproportionate impact on low-income, African-American and female students.

For each state, the map shows total undergraduate enrollment, as well as total undergraduate enrollment at for-profit colleges. The three largest for-profit colleges in the state are listed, based on undergraduate enrollment. A caution symbol indicates institutions that have been flagged as low-performing by the GI Comparison Tool to warn veterans interested in using their education benefits about the questionable quality of those programs.

A printable fact sheet attached to each state (with a few exceptions based on available data) breaks down the disproportionate demographic impact and the graduation rates, debt loads and default rates for students of for-profit colleges as compared to other college students.

“For-profit colleges typically cost much more than comparable programs at public institutions. And yet, they rarely help students find the career opportunities they promote or to achieve the economic security that many of us believe should be the outcome of hard work and the pursuit of an education,” said CRL Senior Researcher Robin Howarth. “These students, who tend to be older than the average college student and may be holding down jobs and raising children, often end up in heavy debt and discouraged about their prospects, with no degree or one of little value even after years of perseverance.”

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has sought to delay, suspend and rewrite rules that were designed to hold career and technical institutions accountable by requiring they meet basic standards of value in order to qualify for federal taxpayer-funded loans and grants.

“The intention to roll back protections at the federal level is unconscionable given the propensity of for-profit institutions to grant worthless degrees at high cost, leaving large swaths of families financially ruined. Many low-income students are trying to free themselves from a multi-generational poverty trap, and are scammed by these predatory outfits without recourse,” said CRL Senior Policy Counsel Whitney Barkley-Denney. “The good news is that states can step up where the feds have stepped back, and take powerful steps to stop sham colleges from harming students — and raking in taxpayer dollars in the process.”

Some states are taking up reforms to address for-profit college harms. Measures can include requiring for-profit colleges to spend more on student instruction: they currently spend much more on marketing. States can also prohibit for-profit colleges from enrolling students in programs for fields where they will not end up being eligible for licensing. And they can protect students from steering and other predatory lending abuses.

New York is currently considering a bill that would require that for-profit schools operating within its borders meet minimum quality standards for education, a strong step in the right direction. The updated map shows that New York’s four-year for-profit students carry a median $28,568 in debt, as compared to 4-year public college students, who carry $16,665. Students at New York’s four-year for-profit institutions are more than twice as likely to default on their student loans as their counterparts at public and private nonprofit institutions, leading to economic instability for their families.

Maine reform would require a closer review of for-profit colleges operating in the state. The Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs will hear testimony on LD103/SP30 Wednesday, which would require reporting on graduation rates, default rates, repayment rates, and the amount of money being spent on instruction versus marketing. In Maine, students in 2-year for-profit college programs are much more likely to take out loans for their education at 67.9%. In comparison, 34% of public 2-year students take out loans, owing a median $10,887 at graduation compared to for-profit students, who owe a median $21,309.

For a deep dive on the experience of for-profit students, read Debt and Disillusionment: Stories of Former For-Profit College Students as Shared in Florida Focus Groups, released August 29, 2018 by CRL.


For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Carol Hammerstein at