“College, Inc.” Special on PBS Frontline

On May 4 PBS aired a special report on private sector education.  It purported to explore the comparisons between traditional higher education and private sector higher education.  It found the private sector lacking.

There is no question that private sector higher education has to be committed to quality and placement success for its graduates, but so does traditional higher education.  And assessment and public reporting of quality is essential for both the private sector and traditional higher education.  Unfortunately, the PBS report did not address this central challenge for both.  Instead, it presented an unfair portrayal based on underlying – but unstated premises.  Those premises included the following: marketing is wrong; there is nothing that traditional schools need to improve; and the “industry has a black eye.”

It is too bad that PBS could not have told the full story about private sector institutions, including the story about those that are providing quality education to students in the same way that many traditional institutions strive to do. In his blog, North Carolina State University’s Chief Communications Office Joe Hice stated today that:

“The for-profit institutions are filling a need that is unmet by today’s state and private universities.  All told, they have millions of students and they spend hundreds of millions of dollars promoting the importance of higher education in today’s economy.  I don’t understand what’s wrong with that.”


Hice wraps up his blog by stating, “Take that PBS,” arguing that for-profit schools will significantly change the higher education industry in the coming years – a sentiment I find it hard to disagree with.


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