In his recent opinion piece in the Chronicle of Higher Education, “Is Obama at War With the For-Profit Universities?” Richard Vedder makes an interesting point. By attacking private sector institutions, President Obama and his administration are jeopardizing their self-proclaimed goal of increasing the number of college graduates. And in this economy, when a college education is necessary to get and keep a job, we should not be discouraging any student from pursuing higher education.
Private sector colleges and universities increasingly are the innovators among higher education institutions. Many increasingly fuse innovative teaching practices with the latest in technology; they have a record of “customer focus” that has resulted in their offering convenient class times at nearby locations with career-related degrees. The private sector of the higher education industry has thrived, in part because of its innovation and accessibility.
We should neither be employing legislative nor executive remedies to rising student debt that jeopardize access to higher education for only some students in only some programs at only some schools. Our focus should be Instead on raising the quality of all of the higher education players, making the experience of higher education a transformative one that educates and raises the quality of our labor supply. And that focus should be on traditional, public and private colleges and universities as well as private sector colleges and universities. We should work to improve the state of higher education as a whole, without depriving students of access to federal financial aid.