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Comedian John Oliver Skewers For-Profit Colleges

Topics: Current Events

Sunday’s Last Week Tonight delivered a 16 minute tongue lashing directed at for-profit colleges and their role in the student debt crisis. The schools have been at the center of a congressional investigation and have been called into question by the media and the public for their recruiting tactics and student loan practices. Host John Oliver didn’t hold back in his recap of the situation.

(Photo Credit: The World Famous Comedy Store/Flickr)

Currently seven out of 10 college students in the U.S. are graduating with debt and student debt in its entirety tops a trillion dollars. Oliver described the situation using classic college student cache as a comparison.

Do You Know What You're Worth?

“Student debt has surpassed Bob Marley’s Greatest Hits album as the thing seemingly every college student has,” says Oliver.

As explained in Oliver’s segment, for-profit colleges account for nearly one-third of student debt, even though only about 13 percent of the total higher ed population is enrolled in for-profit colleges. One of the reasons the debt is disproportionate to enrollment is that for-profit colleges are very expensive. Tuition at for-profit schools is five to six times the tuition at a community college and about double the cost of a four-year state university.

Sunday’s episode pulls from investigative documentaries about for-profit colleges in which former employees and former students recount their troubling experiences.

This year the U.S. Department of Education is trying for a second time to impose Gainful Employment Standards directed at for-profit schools, with the latest version of the rules expected in November.

Oliver’s parting statement to this year’s college freshmen is laden with cynicism.

“Make sure the college years are the best ones of your life because thanks to the debt we’re saddling you with, they most certainly will be.”

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Tavia Tindall
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