Going for Broke

For-profit colleges have been accused of preying on poor students, loading them with debt and pocketing their government loans. But lawmakers are finally fighting back

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Photograph by Jeff Wilson for TIME

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Christina McNeely, 47, feels that distinction as keenly as anyone. McNeely worked her way through a program in medical billing at Westwood College while she was homeless, sleeping many nights on bus-stop benches or on classmates' floors. She was desperate for a job, which recruiters assured her would materialize, and they even promised to help her find housing. Since graduating from the program in 2010, McNeely has indeed managed to get her own apartment but only by working three jobs, none of them in medical billing. She now cleans houses, drives a forklift at a warehouse and works in a craft store every day. She is due to begin repaying her $15,000 loan this month.

"I cannot explain to you the odds I had to go against to do that and finish it. I hate them," she says. As for paying back her loans: "It'll take me forever."

This article originally appeared in the May 9, 2011 issue of TIME.

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