All that, and it's financed almost exclusively by the U.S. taxpayer. In 2013 alone, for-profit schools collected $22 billion in federal tuition assistance, and while students at such schools account for just 11 percent of student loans, they account for 44 percent of defaults.
It's a scandal, and the government shares in the blame. According to experts, many of the problems can be traced to a deregulatory action by the Bush administration that for the first time allowed schools to pay recruiters based on how many students they successfully enrolled and got signed up for student aid. The more students they signed up, the more money they made, so naturally they began to drag in people off the street to sign up. It was repeat of the mortgage scandal, just in another setting.
Even now, Republicans in both the House and Senate are pushing legislation that would undo the new rules. Proposed budgets in both the House and Senate would strip the Department of Education of the power to enforce them. Marco Rubio, Jeb Bush and other GOP presidential contenders have condemned the rule as well, with Bush calling it "a sledgehammer to the entire field of higher education." (Mitt Romney was also an enthusiastic defender of the industry, which backed his campaign.)
Some of that support probably reflects an ideological preference for private enterprise, although it's beyond me how an industry that relies on the federal government for almost all of its revenue can be considered private enterprise and off-limits to regulation. I also have a hard time understanding how a general preference for private-enterprise solutions becomes a willful blindness to the grotesque, wasteful excesses that such solutions can sometimes produce.
Finally, even if you believe that the government has no role in protecting students from such scam operations, at the very least government shouldn't be a willing, knowing accomplice to fraud. Is that too much to ask?