Every morning, as I nibble organic whole-wheat brioche outside, under a hand-woven parasol, gentle breezes fluttering my shiny hair, while sipping hand-simmered West African bark (that’s rooibos tea, thank you) at a table whose mosaic surface was designed and executed by a high-needs group, like women in Central America getting microfinanced, or cognitively impaired teens, I think of one thing. And one thing only.
What will I blog about today?
Will it be the surprisingly relevant book review of yet another diatribe against a certain kind of high-stakes parenting found only among the tenuously affluent but with lessons, shockingly, for all of us?
Will it be Romney’s continued refusal to finally enter a Gaffeaholics Anonymous program?
Will it be the sad story of a writer who got to plug his book, full of fabricated quotations of BOB DYLAN and who knows who else, on the freakin’ Daily Show?
NOPE! It’ll be higher ed.
Because the gummint’s report on the for-profit education sector came out today. And it is not good.
To wit: compared to AA, BA, and certification programs from the nonprofit ed sector, these institutions have
- Significantly higher drop-out rates
- Significantly higher student debt loads
- Significantly lower percentage of dollars going to instructional costs
- A lot of that dough coming from federal aid programs. Which means we are footing the bill for these corporations’ marketing and advertising outlays.
I want to stay balanced about this. There are people who are bad at school but need some degrees or certifications to make a basic living. Many for-profit programs offer these students alternative class structures and schedules, with additional support, that will help them attain the employer-friendly qualifications they need.
For these students, community colleges are too much like school. A for-profit course feels different and requires different responsibilities of them.
Now, why can’t the CC model offer these kinds of highly supported, small-class, hand-holding type programs? First of all, many do. But if they can’t, it’s because extensive student support is expensive.
And our culture has decided to privatize. Market pressures make everything better! Even education! So we have squeezed all we can out of the public school system and deprived CCs of the resources they need to adequately serve the low-cost post-secondary education market.
However, for-profit corporations have pressures to perform well on the stock market. They have to answer to their shareholders as much as (more than?) their students.
So it turns out that their outcomes just aren’t that good. See above.
With some big, bad regulatory thugs (Senate committee members???) breathing down their necks, they may be able to reform their internal norms enough to serve their students better. Maybe there’s room for an easier, but more expensive, degree and certification than what our public education system offers. Students who pay more for a more cosseting program.
As long as those students can be certain that these programs will be worth their money.