Thursday, October 31, 2013

The For-Profit Vision for the Future of Education

Frank Pasquale

The ABA Task Force on the Future of Legal Education has tentatively endorsed the reduction of regulation of law schools, which might lead to the rise of more for-profit institutions in the field. I hope that, as the Task Force continues its work, it will consult empirical studies and Congressional investigations of for-profit education. Stefan Collini helpfully collects some eye-popping findings in the October London Review of Books:
At the end of July 2012 the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labour and Pensions presented an 800-page report, the culmination of a two-year investigation into ‘for-profit’ higher education institutions.​ The senators found that at such institutions a mere 17.4% of annual revenue was spent on teaching, while nearly 20% was distributed as profit (the proportion spent on marketing and recruitment was even higher).
Between 2003 and 2010, the vice chair of the University of Phoenix collected $574.3 million. The Phoenix vision may well be the future of the human services sector, in fields ranging from health to education. But let's not kid ourselves about its being predicated on improving efficiency, quality, or access. It may have certain advantages on each metric, and may well be the only option left for students shut out of a defunded public sector. But one has to wonder whether the jackpot paydays of those at the top are directly related to the low graduation rates, "instructional shortcuts, unqualified professors and recruiting abuses" alleged by Phoenix's critics.

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