The Gainful Employment Rule appeared to be on its way out with the bipartisan vote in favor of an amendment in the House February 18. The amendment that passed would have prevented the Department of Education from using funds to implement the gainful employment rule. Today, however, Dennis Carter reported that the Senate was likely to move to maintain the rule according to anonymous sources in his article in eCampus News. This would be a disservice to students, an impediment to the economy’s recovery, and a strike against innovation in education.
For-profit schools are a great asset as our country addresses a 9% unemployment rate. Their focus on career-related education provides an avenue for changing careers and improving knowledge and skills. Their convenience and accessibility responds to the needs of working adults. Their heavy enrollment of minority students is one of their most important assets.
The convenience and flexibility of for-profit colleges and universities – and their attraction to so many students – comes, in part, from the market-driven structure of a for-profit organization and in part from disruptive technology. For-profit schools are heavy users of information technology and the internet. Some people believe that online providers of higher education will surpass traditional education in only a few years. The use of new technology in the for-profit industry is one of their greatest assets in improving the overall quality of higher education. With online classes, web-based faculty-student discussions, etextbooks, and online access to libraries, for-profit universities are transforming the industry and becoming formidable competitors of traditional schools. This is a transformation to education that deserves celebration – not restriction by the Department of Education.
Less than two months ago, Richard Alum and Josipa Roksa’s book, Academically Adrift, was published. Its focus was higher education’s failure to deal with the little problem of colleges and universities – “limited learning” for undergraduates. This little problem has the potential to be addressed with disruptive technology, and for-profits have the resources to invest in addressing it. This is not the time to restrict our higher education system, especially the part of it that has the resources to invest in improvements in learning. This is not the time to restrict our higher education system, especially the part of it that is driven toward innovation and creativity by market forces. This is not the time to restrict a part of it that is the most career-focused – a part of higher education system that is essential to the economy’s recovery. The Senate should join the House in bipartisan endorsement of the February 18 amendment.