By Contributor on June 10, 2013

For-profit colleges are not the answer to the rising cost of higher education.

This increase is having a disastrous impact on many poor and middle income Americans, and it's disastrous for Mexican-American and other Latino communities. Over time, this trend will destroy all hope for millions of young people.

Low-income students made up half of all the students in for-profit colleges, with minorities making up 37 percent of that population.

To earn a bachelor's degree from a for-profit school costs almost four times what one from a state university costs, according to the Education Trust. But despite these exorbitant expenses, for-profit schools still scoop up the federal dollars.

"In the 2008-09 academic year, for-profit colleges received $4.3 billion in Pell Grants -- quadruple the amount they received just ten years earlier ... and approximately $20 billion in federal student loans," the Education Trust noted in a 2010 report called "Subprime Opportunity: The Unfulfilled Promise of For-Profit Colleges and Universities." "As a result of this large federal investment, the average for-profit school derives 66 percent of its revenues from federal student aid."

These for-profit colleges are indenturing our students. About 95 percent of students starting for-profit colleges take out federal student loans compared to 13 percent at community colleges.

Tuition is the main barrier to minorities getting a higher education. Private nonprofit universities also charge an exorbitant amount, and even some state schools are increasingly out of reach. We need to offer a competing nonprofit model so the cost to students can come down to affordable levels.

Quality low-cost education for working class students is within our reach. A preliminary study suggests that the cost of tuition for an alternative nonprofit could be as low as $1,000 per year for undergraduate students.

The cost of public and private universities is driven by lush campuses and inflated administrator and faculty salaries. For-profit schools are even less dedicated to education, spending only 17.2 percent of their revenues on instruction. In 2009, the CEOs of major for-profit education companies took home, on average, $7.3 million.

A better model is a nonprofit university solely dedicated to teaching students.

We could hire adjunct faculty members from prestigious universities as well as retired college and high school faculty members.

We could run academic centers out of storefronts or rented space in public colleges and universities.

And we could offer degrees online. Almost every new computer is capable of running Skype, through which we could lecture to a group of students and greatly reduce costs.

Working-class and middle-class students are being priced out of higher education. We must make it affordable to them.

Rodolfo F. Acuna is a professor at Cal State Northridge. He can be reached at pmproj@progressive.org.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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