Thursday, March 3, 2011

For-Profit: Whipping Boys of Congress

Congress was at it again yesterday - taking shots at the for-profit industry and they did not hear from those that deliver the service or those that use the service.

Harkin testified and Harkin hates growth and can't come to grips with the fact that this is an online world - people want online programs and most public universities do a horrible job of getting into this market.  Therefore, consumers gravitate to the best available programs - the for-profits. You can't legislate or regulate what military students want to take!

The worse part is that no one offered any real problems - only some issues that some people in the field raised like one marketer who went through a wounded Marine barracks to get students.  Now - that is horrible but hardly worth indicting an entire industry on some interviews.  How about we gather actual complaint data and then offer it as fact. 

From Harkins actual facts:
  • DoD educational programs at 18 for profit education companies increased from $40 million in 2006 to an unexpected $175.1 million in 2010, a 337 percent increase.
  • Revenue from VA educational programs for the same 18 for-profit education companies increased from $26.3 million in 2006 to an unexpected $285.8 million for 2010, including a fivefold increase between 2009 and 2010.
  • Revenues from military education benefits at 20 for-profit education companies increased more rapidly than overall revenues in every year between 2006 and 2010. 
  • In the first year of Post-9/11 GI Bill implementation, the VA spent comparable amounts on tuition for students attending public schools and students attending for profit schools, but the VA funded 200,000 students at public schools compared to just 75,000 at for-profits
The funny part to me is the "unexpected" increase - let's put hundreds of millions out there to educate our troops and it is unexpected that economics in a capitalist system work?  It would be unexpected if the for-profits didn't go after these students.

Military students are great students and any good school would want to have them in their student body!  They are decisive, respectful, conscientious and focused on getting results and they have the money to pay for college.  The real indictment should be of the public schools that have done a poor job of attracting these great students by ignoring their need for great online programs and solid outreach.

We have a system that can work in the accreditation process.  The military does not need to set up new systems.  Put some teeth in the accreditation process and only pay out to those who are regionally accredited and you can solve the problem.