Higher Education's Capital Financing Costs

May 23, 2014

Roughly 9 percent of the $511 billion spent in 2011 in the United States on higher education went to financing interest payments or to corporate profits, according to a new analysis from the Center for Culture, Organizations and Politics at the University of California at Berkeley. The American Federation of Teachers (AFT) commissioned the report, which found that $45 billion in higher education spending that year was for interest on individual student loan debt or on colleges' borrowing, or went to profits made by for-profit college companies.

The bulk of the $45 billion figure is attributable to student and institutional borrowing. Operating profits among for-profit colleges were roughly $4 billion in 2011, according to the report, and less than $1 billion in 2012 -- due to plunging enrollments in the sector. The student debt figure cited in the report refers to interest payments on both private and federal loans. The bulk of institutional borrowing was to fund "amenities" and construction projects, according to the study, such as for football stadiums.

For-profits got plenty of attention at a Wednesday AFT event to unveil the report. Rep. Mark Takano, a California Democrat, was there. He urged tighter regulation of the sector.

"This is an insane way to educate low-income students," said Takano. "We need strong gainful emploment rules."

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