I was reminded by a faithful reader (actually, I think “the faithful reader” would be more accurate) that I didn’t answer my own question yesterday. Which is right, because I don’t have an answer. I’m pretty sure, though, that one possibility is not an answer, and that’s for-profit colleges that try to pass themselves off as offering something approaching the traditional college experience.
Proprietary schools certainly have their place. We have a good relationship with our neighbors down the road at Bryant & Stratton and I have great respect for my CAO colleague there. But I get aggravated with others in their “industry” who seem to promise more than they can deliver. (For some reason, the commercials about going to college in your pajamas grate on me particularly.)
Fortunately, there is a growing wave of scrutiny. Lots of news on the subject today.
- Dick Durbin is promising investigations: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2010/06/durbin_warns_of_for-profit_col.html
This one makes me happy. The fact that some of these colleges load down their students with debt for a degree that employers don’t care about and other colleges won’t accept (if the prop school isn’t accredited) is outrageous.
(Here’s an interesting blog post on the growing meme that the student loan bubble is like the housing bubble. The responding comment may be more accurate than the blog post, though.
- One regional accreditor tries to close one of the loopholes that allows for-profits to buy struggling colleges and piggyback on their accreditation, even if they radically change the mission and operation of the college: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/01/hlc
It will be interesting to see if the other regionals follow up on this.
- The University of Phoenix, seeing the handwriting on the wall, I think, has decided to take a short term hit in enrollment to help retention (and profits, of course) in the long run:
The University of Phoenix plans to require all students who enter the for-profit institution with less than 24 hours of college credit to participate in a free, three-week orientation program aimed at ensuring that students are ready for college-level work, the university’s parent company, the Apollo Group, announced in a quarterly financial report Wednesday. The company said it expected that the change — which will expand a pilot program — would, along with changes in its marketing strategy designed to focus on stronger students, hurt its 2011 enrollment levels, “net revenue operating profit, and cash flow. However, we believe that these efforts are the right thing to do for our students and, over the long-term, will improve student persistence and completion rates and therefore reduce bad debt expense and position us for more stable long-term cash flow growth.” http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2010/07/01/qt#231423
All of this raises many questions we will explore. But today I will close by saying that while we in the non-profit sector certainly have things we can and should learn from the for-profits, we can’t lose sight of the fact that we have our own unique and valuable (and as I argued yesterday, I believe necessary) experience and expertise to provide to our students and our society.