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For Profit Education

This post was posted originally on Equality 101, which is now defunct. My thoughts have not changed much on the topic of for profit education institutions.

I was catching up on the  Los Angeles Times and came across an article about higher education in the Business section. Reporter Michael Hiltzik’s article covers the intersection between education and profit. Essentially, neoliberalization’s claws have grabbed further into higher education. The article discusses how the state governments are outsourcing services in order to save money. However, the costs are going to be placed squarely on the shoulders of the students and their parents. This situation is not unique to California, as one can pore through The Chronicle of Higher Education to read about similar situations in other states.

What is California doing? The state of California is in financial straits and the higher education sector is feeling the pinch. The community college system is now going to outsource college courses to Kaplan University, who offers their courses online. Kaplan’s courses will be convenient, as they are online. However, even with a 42% discount for the community college student, the Kaplan course will be almost $600 more than a commensurate course at the community college.  One Kaplan course can cost almost as a year’s worth of courses at a California community college! I guess that one can argue that the market (students/learners) are willing to pay for this service (education).

Students will be hard pressed to find another option, yet if they are under pressure to enter a four year university for the next term, they will have few options. Who benefits? Kaplan. And, if we look at the high cost of education across the United States, we also will see that the majority of students at the community college are students who are trying to save money during those first few years at university. The most vulnerable are going to be charged these extra fees, when they have no other options. I don’t like this one bit, as I think it is a marked difference for a student to attempt to pick up other credits.  But, having the community college outsource to Kaplan for services (courses) that they should be providing really makes my blood boil.

Certainly, California can do better for the less than two million students enrolled in the system. With the four-year university tuitions going up 10-30% across the state, more students will enroll in the community college system. It is no surprise that this decision was just announced during the time when most students are working, so that they cannot mobilize a mass protest. With these sorts of neoliberal policies, the states’ responsibility and investment in higher education shrinks. But, lower middle-class families, and working class families will pay for this. In my opinion it is shameful to make higher education harder for more students to pursue.

This also means that the student will have to enroll in an online course and this will not work for all students. Some students need the face-to-face experience in order to get as much out of the class and interact with an instructor and classmates. I am an undergraduate advisor at my institution, and I have found that more than 50% of the students in my office state that their online course experience was dreadful. The very motivated student will usually find that an online course worked for them. This is from their anecdotal comments, but worth noting.

Another related issue is that this agreement makes it easier to layoff faculty at the community colleges, as well. This issue includes more than the students and money. It includes faculty and pedagogy. To be sure, I do not have a problem with a student opting to take an occasional online course in order to graduate on time or a blended-learning class, but this current arrangement does not sound like it is really for the students’ benefit.

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