The last several blogs have been about the scrutiny - primarily from the Obama Administration and Democrats on Capitol Hill - of for profit higher education. Damaging allegations from the GAO's "secret shopper" tapes made it difficult to argue that it was a case of "just a few bad actors." But the for-profit sector is fighting back. Millions of dollars are being spent on various lobbying campaigns and the effort was successful in delaying the proposed "gainful employment" rules from the US Department of Education.
Then, just the day before the historic (and first-ever) White House Summit on Community Colleges, a report was issued claiming that community colleges engage in "unsavory recruitment practices" and offer students "poorer-than-expected academic quality, course availability, class scheduling, job placement and personal attention." The firm that produced this report (on behalf of several for-profit companies) did some of their own "secret shopping." But the value of this "research" seemed highly questionable. The sample of students surveyed, for example, was composed of people who had withdrawn or graduated from community colleges and then enrolled in a for-profit institution. The authors of the report acknowledged this might mean that "bias may be present" (!).
On another front, Inside Higher Education reported that for-profit Keiser University filed a lawsuit against Florida State College at Jacksonville, complaining that college administrators "disseminated false information about proprietary schools, including Keiser, by working through advocacy groups and 'short sellers' who profit when the price of a publicly traded stock declines in value."
There's no question that community colleges have their own set of problems, especially in these economic times of severe budget cutting. But for-profit and non-profit alike need to do a better job of improving graduation rates and helping their "non-traditional" students to succeed.
Imagine if all the money that is being spent on lobbying and litigation went, instead, to program improvement? But, of course, that's not the way our system works, especially in these highly polarized times. We just have to hope that the students who need these programs if they ever are going to have a shot at a better life, are not "collateral damage" in these ongoing battles.