A For-Profit College Straight-Up Shut Down, Leaving Students With Few Options

When the pressure is on and your workload is high, it’s totally reasonable to indulge in fantasies about what life would be like as a drop-out — or to say a quick prayer before you first open your eyes, hoping to wake up to the news that your class or test has been canceled. But what if you woke up to your college itself being canceled?

This is what students at Brightwood College experienced this week as it was announced, with little advance warning, that their college would be closing by the week’s end. The announcement left the community reeling — with students left wondering how they will complete their the degrees and, equally (if not more importantly) how they can make up the money they've already spent paying for their education.

Melissa Gonzalez, an 18-year-old Brightwood student who was studying to be a medical assistant, lamented to NBC News about the end of Brightwood, saying, “It’s horrible for me, I wasted all my money on school paying every month, I took out a loan.”  

Brightwood is one of several colleges in a chain owned by a company called the Education Corp. Of America (ECA). The chain ran 70 other now-shuttered college campuses as for-profit institutions.

As MTV News wrote in 2015, for-profit colleges are "run by companies that operate under the demands of investors and stockholders. These institutions are privately run and exist, at least in part, to earn money for their owners. Nevertheless, for-profit colleges can receive up to 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid."

If this story sounds at all like a scam, that’s because it is. And its effects stretch far beyond the Brightwood campus. The premise and tactics used by most for-profit institutions are predatory, to say the least. With most applicants coming from lower-income backgrounds, students stand to lose a lot from these for-profit institutions.

In a piece on for-profit colleges "Last Week Tonight" reported that the debt incurred from for-profit colleges makes up over a third of all student debt despite the fact that they only 13 percent  

However, applicants are likely unaware of this reality because of the marketing tactics used by for-profit institutions which paint a much different reality by overpromising the benefits of their programs.

To add insult to financial injury, a recent study from the University of Michigan has also concluded that students enrolled in for-profit institutions are actually saddled with more debt than students who attend more selective four-year colleges and universities.

In the face of unfairness at Brightwood, students have been making the best of their bad situation by forming a Facebook group to help students find jobs and stay informed about transferring credits to other institutions as they slowly rebuild their present and plans for the future.