"College Inc." is still as relevant today as it first aired in 2010. This documentary traced the evolution of higher education in the late 90s and early 00s into big business and raised questions about its legitimacy and whether the federal government should finance it.
Higher education in America is extremely expensive and is often not a viable choice for many people. They work straight out of high school graduation in low-paying jobs or vocational trades due to the high price tag of colleges and universities. And while there is a robust network of community colleges across the country offering lower-priced or subsidized tuition, many can't keep up with the demand of fresh high school grads and working adults who want to return to school.
In the current employment landscape, a higher education degree is now, more than ever, necessary to enter the workforce. And this gap in the educational market, the need for more colleges to open up that can accommodate many kinds of students, is what former GE CEO Jack Welch and former musician Michael Clifford capitalized on.
As an "educational entrepreneur", Michael Clifford invests in failing colleges and universities across the country, buying them up, rebranding them and turning them into for-profit companies to cater to the many students looking for schools. Many for-profit schools today cater to adult students who work and can't study during regular school hours. They tailor-fit their operations to the needs of their students, holding classes at night and even online and don't follow the traditional school calendar and so on.
However, due to the loan interests students have to pay, for-profit schools are now more expensive or just as expensive as traditional and well-established universities. These for-profit colleges are run as corporations and not educational institutions, spending more on marketing than many other big consumer brands per year. Many would employ false advertising and illegal recruitment efforts where their sales team, rebranded as their "enrollment advisors", would use high-pressure tactics to get students to apply.
Many for-profits targeted low-income students with promises that a college education would make them financially "free." Data gathered show otherwise, with the debt of for-profit students being twice that of public and private non-profit schools. Even worse, these schools do not fulfill their commitment to providing proper training and accreditation for students to enter their chosen fields. Many of their former students are now drowning in tuition interest debts.
During President Obama's administration, the Gainful employment rule was introduced that threatened to stop federal student aid from career training programs that had graduates with high student debt payments relative to their incomes.
More than a decade since this film first came out, higher education is still big business. As of now President Biden announced a plan to forgive $10,000 in federal student debt for most borrowers.
All higher education should be free because of the external benefits and the opportunity cost.