The Dangers and Complexities of Privatizing Higher Education

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From the Hammer Museum: As for-profit colleges proliferate and billionaires publicly push for private charter schools to replace public education, we examine the impact on students, who now carry more debt than the housing sector. David Halperin, a senior fellow at Republic Report, discusses the taxpayer-subsidized for-profit college industry and its successful lobbying efforts. California Competes director Robert Shireman works to rein in abuses by for-profit colleges and student loan companies. He led the Obama administration's efforts to reform student lending. USC researcher, PhD candidate at the Rossier School of Education, and Gates Millennium Scholar Constance Iloh offers a nuanced perspective on the nature of the student presence in the for-profit sector. Her research addresses privatization, access, equity, and the experiences of low-income students and students of color in higher education.

Many important and often overlooked points were illuminated in the presentations and the following panel. David Halperin points out that Marc Morial, the current president of the National Urban League, has accepted donations from for-profit institutions and has served as a paid advisor. But we particularly loved Ph.D. candidate Constance Iloh's presentation (starts at 34:00) in which she centers her work on the students who attend these universities. Iloh notes that 65% of those enrolled at for-profit universities are women. These women are disproportionately low-income and Black and Latina.  The universities serve the most excluded and underserved students, and the University of Phoenix, for example, gave out the most bachelors degrees to Black students in 2011.

Kimberly Foster is the founder and editor of For Harriet. Email or


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