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Maine’s For-Profit College Students Struggle Under Heavy Debt

Thursday, April 20, 2017
Whitney Barkley-Denney

A new report released today by the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) shows that students at Maine’s for-profit colleges carry higher levels of debt, borrow in higher percentages, and have worse repayment rates on that debt compared to their peers at public and private non-profit institutions. These debt burdens fall especially heavily on African-Americans, women, and low-income students, who are disproportionately enrolled in for-profit colleges in the state.

CRL analyzed data from the U.S. Department of Education and found the following:

  • The for-profit sector enrolls 6% of all Maine undergrads.  For-profit enrollment at the institution level is disproportionately low-income (60%), African-American (8%), and female (76%) compared to public and private peers.
  • On average, 75% of Maine’s for-profit students borrowed compared to 41% and 66% respectively of students at public and private institutions.   
  • Maine’s for-profit graduates carry $23,781 in median debt levels compared to $10,940 and $16,000 for public and private institution peers, respectively.
  • Maine’s for-profit students repay their student debt at only about two-thirds the rate of public school peers, and one-half the rate of private school peers.

"Unfortunately, for-profit colleges are typically not providing students with the quality education they promise," said CRL Policy Counsel Whitney Barkley-Denney. "So when we look at these really wide differences in debt burden, we can see more of the extent of the injustice here. These students, many of them already on the low end of wealth disparities, are paying dearly for an education that they thought would help them get ahead but too often has set them further back.”

For more information, or to arrange an interview with a CRL spokesperson on this issue, please contact Carol Hammerstein at