Phi Beta Cons

The End of For-Profit Education?

An industry fueled by federal funds is downsizing drastically

What the government gives the government takes away. According to Inside Higher Ed, the for-profit education business is on its last legs. One major reason is the all-out attack over the past few years by the federal Department of Education, members of the U.S. Senate, and the media.

But the for-profit industry was a creature of federal funds. Typically, a school like Corinthian received 90 percent of its revenues from the federal government through student loans. In fact, a law (or perhaps it’s a regulation) prevents a school from getting more than 90 percent of its revenues from  the federal government. The result of this bonanza was a burgeoning government-spawned industry that at its height enrolled about ten percent of all students.

In eulogy, I’d like to make two points. First, for-profit education isn’t dead, but to some extent it has gone underground. Having developed expertise in online education (the other reason for its fast growth, as most nonprofits still struggle with online), some private companies are quietly working with nonprofit and public universities.  UNC-Chapel Hill developed its respected online MBA program working closely with 2U, a technology firm that is also a partner with such schools as the Georgetown School of Nursing and Health Studies and Northwestern University.

Second, Senator Dick Durbin, one of the most rabid enemies of for-profit education, was quoted by Inside Higher Ed. He expressed relief at “seeing a long overdue reckoning for an industry that profits off of students while sticking them with a worthless degree and insurmountable debt.”

Now, aren’t nonprofit and public universities also part of an industry “that profits off of students while sticking them with a worthless degree and insurmountable debt”?

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