Lower Ed

The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy

A former insider discloses the story behind for-profit schools to explain the exorbitant price tags, the questionable credentials, and the lose-lose options for Americans seeking a better life.

More than two million students are enrolled in for-profit colleges, from the small family-run operations to the behemoths brandished on billboards, subway ads, and late-night commercials. These schools have been around just as long as their not-for-profit counterparts, yet shockingly little is know about why they have expanded so rapidly in recent years.

Lower Ed, a new book by Tressie McMillan Cottom, herself a former for-profit college recruiter, lifts the lid on this big-money industry to show precisely how it is part and parcel of the growing inequality plaguing the country today. Behind the shareholder earnings and congressional battles are human stories—from mothers struggling to pay for beauty school to accomplished professionals pursuing doctoral degrees—that illustrate the inextricable links between the for-profit industry and the stifled promise of opportunity in America.

Join New America's Education Policy program for a conversation with Tressie McMillan Cottom and other leading experts and activists on the benefits, pitfalls, and real costs of a for-profit education.


Tressie McMillan Cottom @tressiemcphd
Assistant Professor of Sociology, Virginia Commonwealth University
Author, Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy

Robert Shireman @bob_shireman
Senior Fellow, The Century Foundation
Former Deputy Undersecretary, U.S. Department of Education

Laura Hanna @0debtzone
Political organizer and filmmaker
Founder and Co-director, Debt Collective

Sarah Jaffe @sarahljaffe
Journalist and Fellow, The Nation Institute
Author, Necessary Trouble: Americans In Revolt

Stephen Burd @StephenBurd2
Senior Policy Analyst, Education Policy, New America

Copies of Tressie McMillan Cottom's Lower Ed: The Troubling Rise of For-Profit Colleges in the New Economy will be available for purchase. Follow the conversation online using #LowerEd and by following @NewAmericaNYC