John Oliver was back with a vengeance on Sunday’s Last Week Tonight. Previously the host attacked the male/female wage gap, hyperbolic Internet headlines, and the Ferguson police. So who was his latest target? Colleges, especially those created for profit.
John Oliver’s latest takedown began with a conversation about student debt. Oliver showed PBS footage revealing that seven out of 10 graduating students last year left college in debt, and that student debt in America has now reached $1 trillion.
“Student debt in the US is now bigger than debt from credit cards and auto loans, and is second only to mortgages,” John Oliver said. “Essentially, student debt is like HPV. If you go to college, you’re almost certainly going to get it. And if you do, it will follow you for the rest of your life.”
So who did John Oliver blame for this rise in student debt? Unsurprisingly, he went in on the government. Oliver noted that states have reduced their funding for secondary education, which has forced public colleges in particular to raise tuition.
“Why else do you think the colleges have so many f–king a cappella groups?” John Oliver joked. “They know they sound stupid, they just can’t afford instruments anymore.”
But John Oliver saved his harshest comments for for-profit colleges, like University of Phoenix, ITT Tech, DeVry, and other schools you see ads for on television. While only about 13 percent of American students attend for-profit colleges, these young adults account for more than 30 percent of the country’s student loan debt.
The main issue with these for-profit schools? As the name implies, they care more about making money than educating their students. John Oliver revealed that for-profit colleges spend twice as much money on marketing as they do on teachers. And this marketing includes recruiters targeting “pain points” for prospective students, like the fear they may end up working at a fast food restaurant for the rest of their lives.
Even worse, most students at these for-profit schools end up not graduating and/or unemployed. Of the 115 people enrolled in one ITT Tech engineering program in 2012, only 27 of them graduated, and only 13 found work in their desired field. “Everyone else would have genuinely been better off studying engineering at Hogwarts, because at least that way they’d have a f–king owl to show for it,” John Oliver said.
Part of the problem is that students at these for-profit schools do not receive on-the-job training. John Oliver relayed the story of psychiatry nursing students at Corinthian Colleges receiving their training at a Scientology Museum, even though Scientologists don’t believe in psychiatry.
And just when you think these universities can’t sound any worse, John Oliver even noted how they scam veterans out of their GI benefits. Ashford University even allegedly recruited veterans with bad brain injuries who could not even remember which courses they had signed up for.
“I will say this for for-profit colleges: They’ve just given us all a first-class education in the depths of human depravity,” John Oliver said on Last Week Tonight. “We all have a diploma in that now.”
And after telling viewers about the intense lobbying for-profit colleges do to prevent the government from passing regulations (and encouraging fans to send angry letters of their own to the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities), John Oliver gave a bit of advice to current college freshman:
“You need to stop watching this show right now; you don’t have time for this. Get out there and enjoy the f–k out of your college experience because you may be paying for it for the rest of your life.”