Home > feedback loop, modeling > Great news: for-profit college Corinthian to close

Great news: for-profit college Corinthian to close

July 9, 2014

I’ve talked before about the industry of for-profit colleges which exists largely to game the federal student loan program. They survive almost entirely on federal student loans of their students, while delivering terrible services and worthless credentials.

Well, good news: one of the worst of the bunch is closing its doors. Corinthian College, Inc (CCI) got caught lying about job placement of its graduates (in some cases, they said 100% when the truth was closer to 0%). They were also caught advertising programs they didn’t actually have.

But here’s what interests me the most, which I will excerpt from the California Office of the Attorney General:

CCI’s predatory marketing efforts specifically target vulnerable, low-income job seekers and single parents who have annual incomes near the federal poverty line. In internal company documents obtained by the Department of Justice, CCI describes its target demographic as “isolated,” “impatient,” individuals with “low self-esteem,” who have “few people in their lives who care about them” and who are “stuck” and “unable to see and plan well for future.”

I’d like to know more about how they did this. I’m guessing it was substantially online, and I’m guessing they got help from data warehousing services.

After skimming the complaint I’m afraid it doesn’t include such information, although it does say that the company advertised programs it didn’t have and then tricked potential students into filling out information about them so CCI could follow up and try to enroll them. Talk about predatory advertising!

Update: I’m getting some information by checking out their recent marketing job postings.

Categories: feedback loop, modeling
  1. July 9, 2014 at 7:18 am

    it’s a shame that every essentially good idea (…and I think online education is essentially a good idea) must be inevitably corrupted by hucksters and scumbags… but that’s capitalism (in cahoots with human nature) at work; and yet some want it more unfettered than it already is.


  2. July 9, 2014 at 7:28 am

    Perversely this will be used as evidence that privatization is a good thing… Why? This article from a MI blog explains it: http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/20258. I wouldn’t be surprised to see a pro-privatization think tank identifying a struggling publicly funded college that is doing poorly and remaining “in business” and use that as evidence that the only way forward is to close ALL “failing” institutions of higher learning.


  3. ionf
    July 9, 2014 at 8:01 am

    But, how does one write an internal company document like that and not say, “Hey, maybe I should do something else with my life? “


    • July 9, 2014 at 8:09 am

      Seriously. Who is that person?

      On Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 8:01 AM, mathbabe wrote:



    • cat
      July 9, 2014 at 10:13 am

      Some of my best friends are middle managers with no marketable skills other then their ability to switch off their empathy and drink the Kool-aid. Thats a lie. :-0

      But seriously, the middle tier of any large corporation is full people that match this description and it’s ugly.


      • Guest2
        July 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm

        Worse yet, all bureaucracies mass produce moral indifference, and displace moral responsibility (chain of command idea), in Bauman on Holocaust.

        This is the underlying premise of modern life. Without it, for example, privates would be telling generals what to do. The basic idea was made famous by Max Weber, but already in 1867, E. L. Godkin said :

        “When a mad agrees to sell his labor, he agrees by implication to sell his moral and social independence.”


      • Guest2
        July 9, 2014 at 8:18 pm

        This is at the root of Cornell’s unethical involvement in mood manipulation at FACEBOOK. No protections for victims (subjects of psychological experiments).



  4. mathematrucker
    July 9, 2014 at 10:09 am

    For-profit colleges’ sights aren’t just set on hapless students either. I know someone who got laid off a few years ago from his longtime programming job at a large defense contractor – one of those fifty-somethings we occasionally hear about who can’t find work. Where he did finally find work was teaching math at a for-profit college (brick and mortar). The reason he still works there isn’t the sub-minimum wage, it’s the false hope that it will somehow lead to a real full-time teaching job at a real institution of higher learning somewhere.

    He did actually land a part-time job teaching a couple of math classes last semester at his local community college. The school experienced a surge in enrollments and needed to scramble to find teachers fast. Maybe his for-profit teaching did play a role in getting that, but the probability of him getting a full-time teaching job there remains naught.


  5. July 9, 2014 at 10:44 am

    Several years ago I met someone who told me they’d gotten a math degree from one of the very prominent for-profit online colleges, and immediately got work teaching students math at night. They loved the whole experience, and I was impressed with what I was hearing… then I asked where they taught, presuming it was one of our nearby community colleges, and she explained she was teaching over the internet for the same online school she’d received the degree from, and went into a sales pitch of why I too should enroll in the institution. In short, by the time we finished conversing she seemed more like just another salesperson or multi-level marketing person for the online school than a for-real math instructor. I wonder how many other online graduates who do get jobs are simply churned back into the system in some sort of marketing role?


    • July 9, 2014 at 10:46 am

      I believe it – I’ve been perusing the Corinthian College reviews on glassdoor.com just for fun.

      On Wed, Jul 9, 2014 at 10:44 AM, mathbabe wrote:



  6. July 9, 2014 at 3:56 pm

    I’m happy to see a paper-mill shut down. But can someone please explain the difference between for-profit and not-for-profit colleges? It seems that many not-for-profits pay 7 figure salaries (squarely putting their benefdiciaries in the 1% range), have local tax breaks, hire low-pay adjuncts to teach the masses, and seem to operate just like for-profit businesses. What exactly is the distinction or difference?


    • Guest2
      July 9, 2014 at 8:08 pm

      The diff is a consequence of their tax status.


  7. Alan Fekete
    July 10, 2014 at 2:04 am

    There is some insightful discussion of for-profits and the connection with socio-economic status of the students, by sociologist Tressie McMillan Cottom http://tressiemc.com/2013/03/08/how-admissions-works-differently-at-for-profit-colleges-sorting-and-signaling/


    • July 10, 2014 at 6:33 am

      Hey, that is an AMAZING link, thanks so much!

      On Thu, Jul 10, 2014 at 2:04 AM, mathbabe wrote:



      • Guest2
        July 10, 2014 at 8:36 am

        I came across a thought that deeply disturbs me — the idea that modern education is the fall-back position for failing social and cultural institutions. Education is a hinge institution. Apprenticeship, family, etc., are now subsumed by educational institutions that lack accountability, and are not transparent.

        The big question is, what will replace the current system of distributing opportunity when the entire sector, and not just one school, collapses?


  1. July 9, 2014 at 7:41 am
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