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Illustration: Rebecca Zisser/Axios

For-profit universities, often criticized for recruiting disadvantaged Americans and offering overpriced degrees, saw their enrollments more than triple during the Great Recession.

Why it matters: People went back to school in droves when the job market dried up, and for-profit colleges which can be more flexible with class sizes attracted students looking for an alternative to traditional institutions. But studies show that students at for-profit universities are less likely to graduate and and more likely to have significant debt and default on their loans, compared to traditional 4-year-degree counterparts.

At their peak enrollment in 2010, students at for-profit colleges only represented 11% of the overall student population, according to NCES. For-profit institutions can be an option for those who may not otherwise have access to education.

Expand chart
Data: National Center for Education Statistics; Chart: Naema Ahmed/Axios

But there are downsides of for-profit universities:

The impact: The high costs of many for-profit colleges can worsen socio-economic inequality. Minorities, women, older and low-income students are overrepresented in for-profit colleges, according to studies by Rajashri Chakrabarti, a senior economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

  • The Obama administration implemented new regulations, requiring proof of a reasonable debt-to-income ratio among graduates. It also shut down two major for-profit college chains — Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech — which had been accused of false advertising and predatory lending.
  • Enrollment in for-profit institutions has recently leveled off, likely due to a more welcoming labor environment and the new rules, which had a "chilling effect" on for-profit colleges, Lowell Rickets from the St. Louis Federal Reserve told Axios.
  • The Trump administration is rolling back those rules aimed at abuses at for-profit schools.

Go deeper

DOJ seizes 36 U.S. website domains for Iranian government disinformation

Iran's President-Elect Ebrahim Raisi holds a press conference at Shahid Beheshti conference hall in Tehran on Monday. Photo: Majid Saeedi/Getty Images

American officials seized 36 news website domains linked to Iran's government for spreading disinformation as part of a propaganda campaign, the Department of Justice said Tuesday.

Why it matters: The action comes at a time of heightened tension between the two countries, with Iran's hardline President-elect Ebrahim Raisi on Monday ruling out negotiating over missiles or meeting with President Biden as the two nations hold talks on returning Tehran to the 2015 nuclear deal.

NYT: Khashoggi's killers had paramilitary training in U.S.

A vigil for journalist Jamal Khashoggi outside the Saudi Arabia consulate in Istanbul, following his killing in 2018 in Turkey. Photo: Chris McGrath/Getty Images

Several Saudis who took part in the killing of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi had paramilitary training in the U.S. under a State Department contract a year before his 2018 death, the New York Times reported Tuesday.

Why it matters: While there's no evidence the department knew that Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman sanctioned Saudi officials to detain, kidnap and torture dissidents in 2017, the approval of such training underscores how "intensely intertwined" the U.S. has become with a nation known for human rights abuses, per the NYT.

U.S. attorney finalist trashes Labor secretary

Rachael Rollins and Marty Walsh. Photos: Jessica Rinaldi/The Boston Globe via Getty Images (Rollins); Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call Inc. via Getty Images (Walsh)

A finalist for U.S. attorney in Boston is publicly trashing the city's former mayor — Labor Secretary Marty Walsh.

Why it matters: Rachael Rollins’ approach is perpetuating scrutiny of a troubled Cabinet secretary and fellow Democrat — and hints at the independence she may exhibit if tapped for top federal prosecutor for the eastern half of Massachusetts.