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Washington Monthly’s story about career colleges (“The Subprime Student Loan Racket”) contained several false and grossly misleading allegations against Everest College and career colleges generally. Space limitations do not permit us to correct all of the mischaracterizations and omissions in the article. However, we wanted to set the record straight regarding the core allegations, and point out that career colleges play a vital role in preparing more than two million people for meaningful, rewarding careers in an increasingly competitive job market.

Writer Stephen Burd focused largely on Martine Leveque, a graduate of Everest’s Licensed Vocational Nursing program. Attempting to create the misimpression that Ms. Leveque was a victim of predatory lending, Burd falsely reported that “two-thirds” of Ms. Leveque’s financial aid package consisted of private loans that “carried double-digit interest rates,” and that her loan balance for the $29,000 program had “ballooned to $40,000.” In fact, about 42% of Ms. Leveque’s financial package consisted of private loans (which did not carry double-digit interest rates), and her loan balance was actually about $32,000.

Burd reported that Everest failed to provide Ms. Leveque with adequate LVN training, claiming “she never learned to perform basic tasks.” Burd omitted the facts that she passed the national standardized exam for LVN applicants (NCLEX) and is currently licensed as an LVN in California. Burd reported that Ms. Leveque has been unable to get a job in her field, which is simply untrue.

The writer also stated that career college graduation rates were lower than those of any other higher education segment. Actually, graduation rates for career colleges are considerably higher than those of community colleges. Career colleges have served an increasingly important function in our education system as budget cuts in public schools and community colleges have resulted in steady declines in vocational training opportunities.

We are proud of the quality of the LVN program and the other career educational programs offered at Everest College. We are very disappointed that Washington Monthly presented such a biased and unfair picture of Everest Colleges and career colleges in general.

Peter Waller
Chief Executive Officer
Corinthian Colleges, Inc.

The overwhelming preponderance of career college students enroll, graduate, and find suitable, well-paid employment with none of the divisive issues described in Stephen Burd’s article, "The Subprime Student Loan Racket" (November/December 2009). It’s not surprising that this writer would miss the forest for the trees. He has been a persistent critic of career colleges for years, although his views appear to be shaped in conversations with self‐interested plaintiffs’ attorneys and not by actually visiting schools or speaking with students, as we invited him to do. Were he to visit, Burd would find a far different picture than the one he paints for Washington Monthly readers.

Career colleges serve 2.7 million students, a high percentage of whom are nontraditional students. Over half of the student population in career colleges is composed of minorities. Eighty percent are independent adults. Most are first-generation college students. Often, they are economically disadvantaged. These are individuals dramatically underserved by other types of institutions, or who are being turned away these days by state and community colleges with funding cuts and rising demands. In career college, they find a learning environment that adapts to their individual needs, responds to their academic or personal challenges, provides schedule flexibility for busy lifestyles, and prepares them for something more than just receiving a sheepskin: the transition to gainful employment. Over 60 percent of our students (four‐year, two‐year, and certificate) complete their programs, not the 38 percent cited in your article. We welcome outcome metrics, unlike much of traditional higher education that has fought them tooth and nail.

Reduced economic circumstances and not artful practices by schools or lenders explain why career college students default on their loans at higher rates than the elite institutions that more and more, according to all available research, are recruiting students almost exclusively from the highest socioeconomic strata. Community colleges and minority-serving institutions, also serving economically disadvantaged students, also average higher cohort default rates. Does this mean that poor students should not be able to borrow to attend the school of their choice? Certain patronizing critics may think so. But not allowing students to borrow is a sure prescription for limiting and ultimately eliminating higher education access.

Career college students understand their higher education options. They have a choice. They value the connection between purposeful postsecondary education and practical, employable job skills. If lower-cost, workable options to gain the same educational experience were available, students would take them instead. Today, they see a difference in value worth paying to receive. That is why enrollment in the career education sector is growing at an average annual rate of over 10 percent. As a society, we should applaud the fact that our most at‐risk students are willing to borrow in order to invest in themselves and the future.

Harris N. Miller
President and CEO
Career College Association

Stephen Burd responds:
Both Mr. Waller and Mr. Miller argue that the graduation rate of propriety school students is higher than portrayed in the article. I do not know the source of their numbers, but mine comes from an October 2008 American Enterprise Institute study by Mark Schneider, the former commissioner of the U.S. Department of Education’s National Center for Education Statistics (NCES). Schneider found that for-profit colleges had the lowest median graduation rate of any sector in higher education at 38 percent—which he noted was “almost twenty points lower than their private nonprofit counterparts and seven points lower than public institutions,” including community colleges. Schneider, who led the NCES from 2005 to 2008, based his study on data colleges reported to the NCES’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System in the 2005–06 academic year. The study, which was entitled “The Costs of Failure Factories in American Higher Education,” can be found at www.aei.org/out­look/28863

CORRECTION: Stephen Burd’s article “The Subprime Student Loan Racket” (November/December 2009) overstated the total student loan balance that Martine Leveque, a graduate of the Licensed Vocational Nursing program at the Alhambra campus of Everest College, faces. According to Sallie Mae records, which were provided to the Washington Monthly by Corinthian Colleges, Ms. Leveque’s total outstanding balance is approximately $32,000, which is less than the $40,000 the article stated. In addition, the article overstated the proportion of private loans that Everest College included in her financial aid package. Private loans made up about 42 percent of her financial aid package, rather than the two-thirds estimate that the article provided.
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