A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article about Robert Shireman, the administration’s point man on higher education. Shireman had given a fiery speech on the need to crack down on for-profit colleges such as University of Phoenix and DeVry, sending the stocks of such companies tumbling. I noted that it was in keeping with Shireman’s hostility toward the private sector’s involvement in higher education.
Today, Shireman announced his resignation. Result? The stocks of these companies are up across the board. I find this odd. Do we have any reason to suspect Shireman’s replacement will be less ideological? Maybe investors are inferring that Shireman’s resignation is related to blowback from his attack on the for-profits, which could be the case. Education secretary Arne Duncan appeared to be walking back Shireman’s comments last week when he announced that for-profit schools will play a “vital role” in the administration’s job-training goals.
For now it’s all very speculative. New rules governing for-profit schools could come as soon as this week, and we won’t really know where the administration will come down until then. But we know for sure that investors in these schools are celebrating Shireman’s departure.