The real problem is the entire student loan system is a scam. The government guarantees student loans so colleges have every reason to make the loans no matter how poor the student or how high the cost of education relative to job pay upon graduation.
Government guaranteeing the loans makes the money readily available to all takers driving up the cost of education.
The problem is particularly acute in Arizona, which has the nation's highest overall default rate on federal student loans: 9.8 percent in fiscal year 2007, the latest figures available.
But more than default rates, it is the high levels of debt that are provoking alarm among consumer advocates. That has heightened scrutiny of for-profit schools.
Tuition at for-profit schools can easily top $10,000 a year. The average loans for a student who earned a bachelor's degree totaled $32,650 in the 2007-08 school year, compared with $17,700 at public universities. At community colleges, the average for two-year degrees was $7,125.
In Arizona, for-profit schools are booming. They have more than doubled the number of students they serve in the past five years, and more students are at for-profit schools than all three of the state's public universities combined.
Last school year, for-profit schools enrolled nearly 468,000 students, according to the Arizona State Board for Private Postsecondary Education, a state agency that licenses and regulates most for-profit schools. About 55 percent were from Arizona, and the rest lived elsewhere and attended school online.