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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Column: For-profit schools aren’t the devil

For-profit schools often spark the ire of the public. There is a conception that these schools prey on the desperate and weak and give them nothing in return.

This conception may be baseless. Instead we should view for-profit schools as an evolution of the institution of higher education, and the difficulties the public sees are simply the growing pains of organizations simply trying to provide an education for those who don’t follow a traditional path.

Often for-profit schools, such as the DeVry Education Group, are accused of intentionally recruiting the more desperate degree seekers and taking advantage of them.

Mark Kantrowitz, senior vice president of Edvisors, writes that 70 percent of all for-profit school revenue comes from Pell Grants and governmental education subsidies for lower-class Americans. The LA Times also reports that for-profit schools took in $8.2 billion in revenue from the G.I. Bill. Figures like these are commonly used as evidence proving that for-profit schools exist as a wolf in the hen house, preying on those who do not see another option.

I don’t think this is the case. People should instead remember that these are young men and women trying to take advantage of the American dream by first receiving an education, an education that—in the cases of some of these men and women—for-profit schools may be better suited to provide.

Often individuals will turn away from the more traditional non-profit private and public universities when their academic history doesn’t qualify them for admission or when their situation makes those options impossible. Historically, these motivated individuals have instead turned to community college and usually graduated with an associate’s degree after two years.

In the past 20 years private for-profit schools have seen a massive increase in attendance while community colleges have seen a massive decrease.

There is a stigma attached to community colleges that is rarely talked about. An associate’ degree from a community college is perceived to be worth very little in today’s professional jobs market.
Many community college students have shown they do not consider community college to be a worthwhile endeavor. US News reported on a study that shows one in four community college students drop out after their first year.

Students are flocking to for-profit schools because of one simple fact, they think it’s worth it.
Critics also commonly target for-profit schools by claiming that they fail to provide a worthwhile university experience.

They commonly cite that most for-profit schools have a graduation rate of roughly a quarter, but I do not consider this to be much of a negative. A degree is valuable because it is difficult to obtain. It’s an accomplishment which shows a potential employer that you are able to see a long and difficult project all the way to a successful conclusion. By providing difficult courses that some may find difficult to pass, they are supplying proof that those capable of earning a degree are worthy of gainful employment.

The Atlantic reports that a little more than a third of full time community college students are able to obtain a degree within six years.

So if a low graduation rate is a problematic statistic, it is not an issue exclusive to for-profit schools.
This is a controversy that has had an effect on the UA community as well. As a reader of the Daily Wildcat you may have heard that Ann Weaver Hart, the president of the UA, has become a member of the board of the DeVry Education Group. This decision has been met with widespread disapproval and calls for her resignation. 

There is a segment of the population that believes Hart has “sold out” and is now in bed with the enemy.

Those claims are unfounded.

It is illogical for these individuals to be diametrically opposed to the notion of for-profit schools and to oppose Hart’s appointment to the board.

Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents, has gone on record saying that she does not consider Hart’s affiliation with DeVry Education Group to be a conflict of interest that will negatively affect her performance at the UA.

Hart’s appointment to the board of DeVry Education Group will also provide a sense of legitimacy to the degrees the school gives. If there are improper educational practices at DeVry Education Group, a professional with a distinguished record such as Hart’s, will be able to recognize and resolve them.

For-profit schools are not the monster they have been made out to be. While it is important to monitor non-traditional institutions, they provide a desired service to a niche audience.

With a trend of well-established and qualified educators beginning to work with these universities, for-profit schools are starting to gain an air of legitimacy they haven’t previously enjoyed.

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