In a state where the need for education far outstrips the resources to pay for it, Attorney General Jack Conway's investigation of for-profit colleges and schools is a welcome development.
Graduates of for-profit colleges are at least twice as likely to default on federal student loans as graduates of other institutions. And for-profit colleges live on federal financial aid; their share increased from $4.6 billion in 2000 to $26.5 billion last year.
Students at for-profit schools represented 26 percent of the borrowers in 2008-09 and 43 percent of all defaulters.
The median federal student loan debt carried by those earning associate (two-year) degrees at for-profit institutions was $14,000 while the majority of students at community colleges do not borrow, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Kentucky's student loan programs consistently run out of money before they run out of qualified applicants.
All this raises big questions for policy-makers about how to get as much education value as possible from limited financial resources.
Conway is not responsible for answering those policy questions, although the information yielded by the subpoenas he has issued to six proprietary colleges should be useful to elected officials and the Council on Postsecondary Education.
As attorney general, Conway is responsible for policing the practices of businesses operating in Kentucky.
And there are serious questions about whether for-profit colleges lure students with high-pressure sales tactics and deceptive claims about the costs, their job prospects once they graduate and whether credits will be transferable to other colleges.
At a time when 1 in 10 working Kentuckians is jobless, it's easier than ever to prey on consumers with misleading promises of a high-paying job and bright future.
Criticism from the Obama administration, congressional investigations and now Conway's investigation have put the for-profit schools on notice.
For prospective students, the best advice remains "buyer beware." Step back from high-pressure sales pitches and comparison shop before signing on any dotted lines, whether you're in the market for a used car or an advanced education degree.