About 35 years ago, entrepreneur John Sperling changed the face of higher education forever. He is said to be the pioneer of the for-profit education model.
For-profit is defined by Webster’s Dictionary as “established, maintained or conducted for the purpose of making a profit.” This structure was created to encourage financial moguls to invest in these colleges in order to turn a profit.
The controversy over the quality and validity of a for-profit education system has been long debated.
Critics of the for-profit model say a profit-seeking educational organization provides students with lower curriculum standards in an attempt to maximize revenue.
Supporters of the for-profit movement say the education provided by these institutions is much more flexible and efficient for working adults.
One of the largest players in this field of education is University of Phoenix. Its revenue for 2009 increased 26.5 percent to $3.9 billion.
“Many people from Pierce College go to the University of Phoenix,” Patrick Schmitt, president of Pierce College Puyallup, said. “I presume they do it because they think it will be more convenient to their schedules. I fear they have not really investigated public higher education to the extent they need to.”
Schmitt says students who transfer from community colleges to a for-profit college such as University of Phoenix don’t realize that even though it seems convenient, the expenditure is much higher.
The estimated cost of a two-year degree from a public non-profit school, such as Pierce College for example, averages $8,000. The cost of an equivalent degree from a for-profit school, such as University of Phoenix, typically equals $24,500 and consists mostly of online classes.
Despite the difference in costs, enrollment in for-profit schools continues to increase annually. Between 1998 and 2008, enrollment rose 225 percent at these colleges, according to a study by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).
Community colleges have seen an increase in enrollment of about 30 percent during the past five years, according to Schmitt, despite the decrease in class availability due to state budget cuts.
More than 76 percent of for profit-schools are Wall Street owned and $30 billion of profit was in the form of federal grants and loans.
This begs the question; why do for-profit institutions continue to increase in enrollment even though the cost of their education is vastly different from that of a public college? Is this cost difference in any way justifiable due to the fact that funding from the tax payers is not given to these private colleges? Public community colleges, on the other hand, receive about 65 percent of their proceeds from these revenues.
It’s obvious from the continued growth of for-profit schools something should be learned from this system.
The conflict arises when trying to determine who should be allowed to regulate their tuition.
As citizens, we find ourselves constantly fighting with “the man” in our attempt to remove government from the affairs of business. There always will be a financial underdog. The point is to not be a blissfully ignorant subservient to the forerunners in the financial world.
As a community college student, I find myself frustrated with the lack of exposure toward systems that continue to threaten my education—be it government or business.
I am fully aware the blame for this isn’t solely on that of the “profit seeking” educational sector but more so on the shoulders of myself and peers alike. We can’t be satisfied with a life of controversy if we refuse to involve ourselves fully in the decision making process.
If we continue to live our lives in such a fashion it may further hinder the lives of our children. We would be no better than those who wish to seek a profit from a much needed commodity as valuable as education.
We have created many of the problems our civilization has because of our continued silence. We must speak up. We must show future generations that nothing is above change.
The Puyallup Post is the award-winning student news of Pierce College Puyallup in Puyallup, Washington. Copyright The Puyallup Post 2017. Twitter/Instagram @puyalluppost