Harvard Program Fails Federal Gainful Employment Test, Pauses Admissions
Federal sanctions aren't just for predatory for-profits any more... The Harvard A.R.T. Institute (not to be confused with the plethora of Art Institute for-profit offerings in culinary arts, etc.) made the list of schools where the loan amounts don't lead to appropriate salaries. From the NYTimes:
The A.R.T. program has been selective, admitting only 24 students a year into a graduate program for "acting, dramaturgy or voice pedagogy." The average graduate of the program borrows $78,000 and earns a mere $36,000 per year. Harvard is pausing admissions to the program for this year.
This raises an interesting question... I am sure the experience is great and that the graduates are talented. I'm equally sure nobody would want to deny these students the right to spend a bunch of money to pursue their dream and work in a field they love. Even those who don't achieve stardom may make great artistic contributions and enjoy their work tremendously. Not everybody wants to work for Goldman Sachs or Google, nor should they. BUT, should the taxpayers support these students and incur a high risk of non-payment? And, even more important, should anyone be discouraging young people from assuming what will become a crushing debt burden?
A couple of more data points would be helpful, notably the longer term loan performance. Are there many defaults? How many are paid back early? Is family income a factor, i.e., could some grads from this program knowingly pursue a lower income career because their spouse/partner's income would allow both repayment and a reasonable lifestyle? Or, are young people signing off on big debt without a realistic picture of what their prospects are? Even if they don't default, will they spend a decade or more struggling to make ends meet?
Personally, I'd distinguish between a program like Harvard's and an online "computer science" degree that racks up the same kind of loans with little or no career benefit. But, non-profit colleges can definitely fail the gainful employment test. Here's a link to several versions of the list, which includes programs at George Washington University, the University of Florida, and other well-known non-profits: