2015 The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Large Newsroom finalist

Counterfeit Ed

Meral Agish, Sarah Barrett, Mark Fahey, Audrey McGlinchy, Jake Naughton, Oresti Tsonopoulos

NYCity News Service

The David Teeuwen Student Journalism Award, Large Newsroom


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About the Project

Education long has been the bedrock of the American Dream. But unscrupulous for-profit schools can dash hopes for a better life – saddling students who paid to learn a trade with crushing debt and leaving them with little chance of finding financially rewarding employment.

Some 100,000 students in the New York City area attend such schools, drawn by ad-heavy recruiting blitzes touting sometimes dubious claims of job placement.

In “Counterfeit Ed,” our team of reporters from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism’s NYCity News Service expose these lucrative education mills through the stories of former students – disproportionately poor people of color who are often persuaded to take out federal student loans that they’re left struggling to payoff after failing to get the kinds of living-wage jobs they were promised.

“Counterfeit Ed,” in words, interactive graphics and video accounts from victims and other players, portrays a broken system beset by scattershot government oversight and a dearth of accurate information for those who ambitions are preyed upon. The project also details the beginnings of a backlash by students and their advocates against the powerful for-profit college industry.