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For-profit schools’ practices, results call for oversight

I agree with Attorney General Martha Coakley’s comparison of for-profit colleges with subprime mortgage lenders (“Coakley widens schools inquiry,” Page A1, Feb. 4). In both cases, vulnerable people have been seduced into expensive programs, leaving them and taxpayers holding the bag.

As someone who has worked with refugees and recent immigrants, I have seen these organizations persistently call people who can barely speak English, promising them lucrative careers at twice or three times the cost of the same program at a community college. Sometimes, there are no requirements, such as a basic mastery of English, so that even once they get these so-called degrees, the students are unemployable.

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Since the government picks up part of the tab with Pell grants, many students believe this is a good deal. But they are still left with a mountain of debt.

By contrast, our community colleges, where I worked for 30 years, provide excellent accredited low-cost programs in many of the same fields as the for-profits, with the requirements that the students meet basic academic standards. The goal of the community college is not to generate profit, but to help students advance along their career paths and receive genuine employment.

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These institutions should receive the same rigorous oversight as community and state colleges. Moreover, taxpayers should not have to pay for unscrupulous behavior. If these institutions are proven to be dishonest, their eligibility to accept Pell grants should be taken away.

Susan Jhirad

Medford

The writer is a retired English professor at North Shore Community College.

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