COLLEGE INC.: contextualizing the PBS documentary on for-profit universities, Wall Street, and government regulation

Link here for access to PBS’s COLLEGE INC., which was aired on 4 May 2010. RAINmedia, which produced the documentary for PBS’s FRONTLINE, describes the show this way:

Higher education is a multi-billion industry fueled by taxpayer money. One of the fastest-growing–and most controversial–sectors of the industry is the for-profit colleges and universities. Unlike traditional colleges that raise money from wealthy alumni and other donors, many for-profit schools sell shares to investors on Wall Street. But what are students getting out of the deal? Critics say a worthless degree and a mountain of debt. Proponents insist they’re innovators, widening access to education. FRONTLINE producer and correspondent Martin Smith follows the money to uncover how for-profit universities are transforming the way we think about college in America…

This show, which is currently generating ripples across the higher education and investment landscapes in the US, is also relevant for readers in other countries, most notably the UK, Chile and Mexico (where Apollo Global is particularly active), and Australia (e.g., see ‘Commercial campuses ready to fill gap‘, The Australian, 5 May 2010).

And speaking of topical news, it is noteworthy (but purely coincidental, re. timing?) that former US President Bill Clinton “accepted the role of Honorary Chancellor of Laureate International Universities, the global network of leading private universities” one week ago. This is a paid position, “honorary” title aside, though Laureate has refused to disclose the sums involved.

And is it purely coincidental that the show is being released amidst vigorous debates about forthcoming US federal regulations that, according to Bloomberg news:

may reduce the amount of federal financial aid flowing to for-profit colleges, cutting the companies’ annual revenue growth by as much as a third.

In response, the $29 billion industry and its supporters including Republican Senators have enlisted top Washington lobbyists and are courting black and Hispanic legislators to fight the proposed rules scheduled to be released as early as this month.

While these debates may seem US-centric at first glance, their outcomes will have implications at a much large scale for these firms are establishing global agendas and networks.

Kris Olds

5 thoughts on “COLLEGE INC.: contextualizing the PBS documentary on for-profit universities, Wall Street, and government regulation

  1. While it’s true that non-traditional education is changing our conception of formal education, it’s important not to generalize these schools. Some do a lot of good, providing education where it would be otherwise unavailable.

    Here’s our take: http://bit.ly/9YE3Gm

  2. As a post-graduate student of a for profit school, I have to say I would never have been able to pursue my educational interests without the existence of for profit institutions. When I was considering my next step in education, I analyzed 12 different programs in my area. I discussed my options with people from each of these places and I got the same answer–I need to quit working full time in order to pursue my educational objectives. Needless to say, as a family man, quitting work was not possible.
    To that end, I enrolled at a for profit school and I am pleasantly suprised with the experience. I do not feel like I am earning a “worthless degree with a mountain of debt.” Conversely, as I enter my third year of the program, I have seen myself grow as an educator and more importantly, as a human being!

  3. look this for profits school are destroying americas real education and putting a blind eye in our benefit of education that is for our youth. If we dont we loose out on being more technologically more advanced then other nations. We need schools that can give more appropriate education that can challenge the young minds of this country not dump a boat load of dept and money into our future. Hey i know higher education is something that each individuals needs get on his own and their are schools that are capable of challenging you. But thats what a college degree is to challenge not some paper they give you attached bill. You can put a price or our children future and not on education. Thats why i say for-profits school are ruining our future.

  4. look this for profits school are destroying americas real education and putting a blind eye in our benefit of education that is for our youth. If we dont we loose out on being more technologically more advanced then other nations. We need schools that can give more appropriate education that can challenge the young minds of this country not dump a boat load of dept and money into our future. Hey i know higher education is something that each individuals needs get on his own and their are schools that are capable of challenging you. But thats what a college degree is to challenge not some paper they give you attached bill. You cant put a price or our children future and not on education. Thats why i say for-profits school are ruining our future.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s