Announced in a Washington Post article last Friday was the Roadmap for Ensuring America’s Future. It makes clear that achieving President Obama’s higher education goals by 2020 and becoming the world leader in college degree attainment will heavily depend on substantially increasing Latino degree attainment. The graduation deficit is substantial with a need for Hispanics to earn 5.5 million college degrees by 2020. The Roadmap also makes clear what this blog has argued before; access to higher education is not enough. Higher education must substantially improve its success rate with much higher rates of retention of Hispanic students along with their ultimate graduation.
The challenge is made evident by the typical enrollment patterns of many Latino students. They often enroll part-time; they frequently delay enrollment until later in life, and they choose institutions closer to their homes. These are all characteristics of the enrollment patterns of many for-profit colleges and universities, and they are especially characteristic of for-profit, career colleges.
The role that for-profit higher education can play in the roadmap to 2020 goal accomplishment is evident; the for-profit sector of higher education already disproportionately enrolls more non-white students than its traditional counterpart. Making the for-profit sector a more prominent player in the roadmap is an obvious means to increasing our success in achieving the 2020 goal in light of the characteristic enrollment patterns of Latino students.
However, for-profit institutions face some considerable challenges. Like all colleges and universities, they have to face their responsibility for outcomes assessment that links educational goals to results in learning, and they can lead in this area, in part because of their structure. But they also face the peculiar challenges of seemingly deliberate attempts to limit their growth in the form of sometimes misleading reports and new regulations like the Department of Education’s gainful employment rule. Making for-profit education the enemy hurts our ability to achieve the President’s goal.
It is time to stop the narrow focus on for-profit institutions as the enemy because of their for-profit status. Instead it is time to work with the for-profit elements of higher education as part of the solution to achieving the President’s goal. The Roadmap’s focus on Latinos’ educational needs along with the characteristics patterns of for-profit enrollment is just another reason for a more rational discussion.