The word “profit” has two too many letters in it to accurately reflect the way in which it has been treated by the Obama administration. Attacks on profit, the only thing that allows everyone in the private sector to be employed (aside from government bailouts), have risen to an unprecedented level in the last 20 months. You’d think companies like Koch Industries were out raping and pillaging small villages rather than employing people and providing needed services. So it comes as no surprise that there are attacks on for-profit colleges by politicians for costing taxpayers more than the subsidized educational institutions. Unfortunately for those with anti-profit agendas, the facts simply aren’t on their side.
Congress has held hearings on the cost of for-profit colleges to taxpayers and the Department of Education is considering whether or not to ban student loans, over which the government now has a monopoly, for students who choose to attend for-profit colleges. These actions have been predicated under the assumption that for-profit colleges cost taxpayers more money than taxpayer subsidized colleges. A new report by a former Clinton administration economist blows a hole in that talking point, showing they actually cost taxpayers less. But that hasn’t stopped some from pressing forward with their crusade against for-profit colleges.
Generally it’s been liberals who’ve gone after for-profit institutions. They are champions of choice in every aspect of life, as long as it’s only abortion. Choice in education is a bridge too far; they support students attending anywhere they like, as long as they don’t choose for-profit colleges and technical schools.
Now comes word that outgoing Florida attorney general and failed Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum, a Republican, is investigating five for-profit institutions for engaging in “possible misrepresentations about financial aid, deceptive recruiting tactics, and other practices…” It reads as a very Kafkaesque list of charges.
Although “the current investigation is civil and not criminal at this time, meaning the investigations do not intend to prove the universities have broken any laws,” an investigation has been launched because, well, it’s not really clear. It’s too easy to say that McCollum has too much time on his hands now that he’s not running for anything, or that he could be maneuvering for a job at a taxpayer subsidized college somewhere. So why waste resources on this case?
John Wiley, former chancellor of the University of Wisconsin, encapsulated the liberals’ flimsy charges against for-profit schools when he told the Badger Herald that “they try to find students who are eligible for national education grants and have them bring that money to the schools, even if the student is not prepared for school or has no chance of graduating.”
The question is this — how does Wiley or Attorney General McCollum determine if a prospective student is “prepared for school” or stands a chance of graduating? If they have a crystal ball that can see that, I’d like to ask them to give me some lottery numbers.
The fact of the matter is this: there is no way to know if a student is “ready” for college, any type of college. There is no college recruiter in the country who will tell a student that college just doesn’t sound like it’s for them. Add to that the fact that politicians, up to and including the President of the United States, constantly tout the importance of a college education, and you can see why someone might think they’re ready, tell people they’re ready, and not be ready. I did it. I wasn’t ready when I went right out of high school. I took classes for a year and realized it, dropped out and worked. Once I was ready and had determined that college was for me, that I wasn’t going because it was what you do after high school, I went back and finished. And I was on financial aid, attending a public, taxpayer subsidized university.
When I dropped out, there was no investigation by Michigan’s attorney general, no Congressional hearings, no outcry over the fact that I wasn’t ready and they let me in anyway. The truth is that no one can know if they’re ready for college until they’re IN college. But that doesn’t seem good enough to Attorney General McCollum. He wants to spend tax dollars to find out if tax dollars are being wasted to answer a question that can’t be answered until the dollars are spent. It’s a logic that makes you dizzy.
Students are free to attend whatever college they can get into, at least as of now. And they’re free to drop out for whatever reason they want. It’s called freedom. If governments don’t like that freedom because it might cost them money, they should get out of the higher education business altogether. Since they won’t do that, they have to respect the fact that people are free to make their own choices in life, even if a president, Congress or attorney general think some of those choices are mistakes.
Derek Hunter is a Washington based writer and consultant. He can be stalked on Twitter @derekahunter