In The New Yorker gets one right, “Dean Dad” praises a short article in The New Yorker about for-profit colleges;
A tip o’the cap to James Suroweicki, at The New Yorker, for encapsulating the issues around for-profit colleges clearly and well in a single page. The piece is well worth the couple of minutes it takes, not least because Suroweicki neatly dispatches a couple of widely held, but false, assumptions.
…The way to get the best outcome all around isn’t to ban them or to try to pass lawyer-proof regulations. It’s to outcompete them Flood the zone with well-funded public colleges with the staffing, the facilities, and yes, the marketing, to compete. Force the for-profits to compete on quality. Frankly, if they can prove they do a better job with students, I have no theological objection to them. But the experience of the last ten years suggests that if they can only compete on quality, they’ll shrink to a much less threatening size, and students will be better off.For-profits met a need. The way to beat them is to meet that need better. Austerity in the public sector cedes the field to people with other agendas. Beef up the publics, and the need that fed the for-profits in the first place will fade away. They can’t lawyer their way out of that.
Suroweicki’s articleThe Rise and Fall of For-Profit Colleges has the same message, plus a bit more. The article ends with
But if we really want more people to go to college we should put more money into community colleges and public universities, which have been starved of funding in recent years. We should also rethink our assumption that college is always the right answer, regardless of cost. Politicians love to invoke education as the solution to our economic ills. But they’re often papering over the fact that our economy just isn’t creating enough good jobs for ordinary Americans. The notion that college will transform your job prospects is, in many cases, an illusion, and for a while for-profit schools turned it into a very lucrative one.
The business model for the for-profit colleges has been to get students to take out as much debt as they can, give all the money to the college (who then transfer it to a handful of executives and investors), and deliver little or nothing useful in return, leaving the students with debts that they can’t discharge. This was obviously a socially undesirable outcome, but legislators have been doing all they can to get rid of funding for public colleges and force them to follow the same model. I really don’t understand politicians—do they really want the sort of world that they are building?