Keep the Data Coming

The release of the Apollo Group’s study, Higher Education at a Crossroads, is another example of much-needed data in the for-profit education debate. While this study was commissioned by a private sector school, it should not be discounted, and it deserves attention along with what was reported here in a Chronicle of Higher Education article – about Apollo and about for-profit education in general. In this debate, all data should be welcomed and it should be evaluated on the usual issues, e.g., its methodology.

Private sector schools play an important role in our education system today.  They do so by providing non-traditional students access to college degrees. This study’s findings are quite startling and they have very significant policy implications.  While I have long argued that private sector schools are essential to meeting President Obama’s goal for college graduates, the study estimates that meeting the goal without proprietary colleges would cost taxpayers more than $800-billion over the next 10 years.  As anyone in a public college or university knows all too well, there is not enough public funding for our existing, public colleges and universities, much less an expansion of this enormity.

If the Department of Education moves forward with the gainful employment rule as proposed, the educational future of our students will be jeopardized. I encourage the Department to take another look at how the rule will affect thousands of students that attend private sector institutions.

Examining the Data

In an interview Tuesday on Bloomberg TV’s “In the Loop With Betty Liu,” Career College Association President Harris Miller discussed the current state of student loans at for-profit colleges. Following the U.S. Department of Education’s release of data last week on loan repayment rates at private sector schools across the country, Miller stressed the need to really understand the data before moving forward. He also highlighted the importance of focusing on the larger picture – why is the Department of Education going to cut access to hundreds of thousands of students?

I agree with President Miller. Understanding the data and its implications is a point I have argued before in this blog.  Yes, student debt is a problem, but it should not lead us to deprive some groups of students of their right to an education, nor should it lead us to risk becoming an even less competitive country in terms of graduation rates from colleges and universities.  If the goal of the Department of Education is to resolve the problem of growing student debt, it has far more analysis and examination to do in order to solve the problem.