Sunday, January 15, 2012

For-profits and the gutting of public higher ed

I've been pointing out constantly for the last year that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is working hard to destroy the University of Wisconsin System, including UW–Madison. An amazing number of people, of various political stripes, have been asking me why he would want to do something so drastic. They think I've gone all lefty paranoid on them.

My answer has been this: Walker and his ilk want the University of Phoenix and Kaplan to replace UW. Every single thing in the world is an opportunity for profit, and there is no pretense of concern for actually educating people and no interest in the broader value of public higher education. Walker does whatever his minders tell him to do and the right-wing think-tank world is heavily invested (pun intended) in for-profit education. Hey, nobody gets rich off UW! No profit = no good.

Most rank-and-file people working in public higher ed aren't, I think, quite yet fully aware of how immediate and pervasive this threat is. The University of Phoenix, for example, had a half million students enrolled in 2010 and got $24,000,000,000 (yes, billion) in federal loans and grants (according to ABC News, here). HuffPo (graphic from here) has done lots of reporting on this and scholars in the field of education have done tons of research on it (most of which I don't know), but long story short, these corporations are expensive for students, don't invest a lot of actually educating students, have low graduation rates and very high default rates.

This morning's NYT has a piece on Mitt Romney's close ties to this industry, with the example being Full Sail University in Florida. He apparently said for-profits:
“hold down the cost of education” and help students get jobs without saddling them with excessive debt.
Nope. The Times says that the 21-month program in video game art costs $80,000, had a 14% on-time graduation rate and only 38% overall, and "students carried a median debt load of nearly $59,000 in federal and private loans in 2008".

There is a systematic and well-funded effort to destroy public higher ed. We're down to the end of the road here if we don't stop them now.


Anonymous said...

Interesting opinion. I'm curious, however, as to why you would lump Upper Iowa University into the for-profit mix. They are not only a non-profit, but keep their students' average college debt way below that of similar schools.

Mr. Verb said...

Oh, you're right. I changed the post. Somebody had recently mentioned Upper Iowa in that context and I didn't think to check. I didn't look into the debt situation.