Colleges and universities have a primary responsibility to the community in the social contract they are granted. An essential aspect of that responsibility is the education of students. Without students, there would be no purpose for an educational institution, including research universities. Private sector institutions exist to educate and train students with the knowledge and skills they will need in their careers, on-the-job, and in real-world settings.
In a recent Jackson Sun column, Professor Harry Lee Poe muses that education is not a commodity. While it might seem that Professor Poe was intending to argue against the for-profit education model, the article turns out to be quite the opposite. Instead, Poe emphasizes the importance of what he calls “corporate colleges” in adult education. “College education has become as important as a high school education was 40 years ago.” – he states – and private sector schools make it possible for adults to receive a vital portion of their education.
We need a variety of forms of higher education, and private sector schools in their considerable diversity represent many aspects of higher education. Restrictions, like the ones proposed by the Department of Education’s proposed gainful employment rule have the considerable potential to limit some of those forms of higher education – either by restricting access of students to some of them or restricting new entrants into the higher education market. Moreover, the rule is turning the attention of for-profit schools away from education and on regulation or the potential for it. It is time to re-examine the full consequences of the proposed rule before it is implemented – and before it jeopardizes the educational future of thousands of students.