Community Colleges Can Help Students Affected by For-Profit College Closures
Community colleges can help students transfer credits and identify sources of financial aid to complete their degree. Lawmakers can do more to support students and help community colleges avoid financial hardships.
In the wake of closures of many for-profit higher education institutions—including Corinthian Colleges, Inc., ITT Technical Institute, Education Corporation of America, Argosy University, and the Art Institutes—many community colleges have stepped in to enroll students of shuttered for-profit colleges and support them to continue their postsecondary education. Students impacted by the closure of a for-profit college face a number of financial hardships and challenges to continuing their postsecondary education.
A top concern for impacted students seeking to transfer to a community college is their eligibility to receive federal financial aid to finish their studies. Many low-income students seeking to transfer have used up or are close to their lifetime limit of Pell Grant eligibility. This problem is magnified by the challenge to transfer academic credits from the closed for-profit institutions to an equivalent course of study at the community college. The potential loss of credits results in many additional challenges, including increasing a student’s time to degree completion, and thus further using up their Pell Grant eligibility, increasing their expenses for attending college, and increasing their need to borrow student loans.
Community colleges serve an important role to help students affected by for-profit college closures continue their postsecondary education. The U.S. Department of Education sends information to students affected by closures; however, the rules and processes for students to continue their education can be difficult to decipher. Thus, community college staff have an important role in advising students on the steps to transfer credits and determine their financial aid eligibility. For example, in the aftermath of the recent closure of the Virginia College, Trident Technical College in Charleston, South Carolina is welcoming former students of the for-profit chain and helping them transfer as many credits as possible.
Another challenge faced by many students of closed for-profit colleges is significant federal loan debt. Community colleges can offer support to students on how to navigate the loan discharge process; however, the U.S. Department of Education’s process has proven to be lengthy and burdensome for those who seek relief. The uncertainty of loan discharge places financial harm on students and casts doubt on the ability of postsecondary education to lead to greater financial security.
Earlier this month, ACCT sent a letter to the House Committee on Education and Labor describing the negative impacts that for-profit closures can have on students. The letter also described financial burdens placed on the community colleges where they transfer, as a result of resources used to offer proper advising and support services. ACCT encouraged Congress to enact policies to provide greater assistance for impacted students to ensure they avoid financial hardship and can complete their degree. ACCT also encouraged Congress to provide greater oversight of for-profit colleges, such as by creating stricter rules to limit the percentage of total revenue that for-profit colleges can receive from federal financial aid programs.
Allison Beer is the Senior Policy Analyst for ACCT. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.