A common accusation hurled by critics of proprietary colleges concerns allegations of “putting profits before students,” the suggestion being that the administrators, faculty, and staff at these colleges and universities simply serve the financial motivations of the owners and investors. The idealistic suggestion seems to be that public and non-profit institutions are not revenue-minded and that they are somehow above having to concern themselves with the practical realities of finance.

That is clearly not the case.

A New York Magazine piece last year flippantly described Ivy League powerhouse Harvard University as “a real-estate and hedge-fund concern that happens to have a college attached.” And more recently, Inside Higher Ed published an article this week casting a rather harsh light on how the troubled finances of some non-profit universities are causing them to make significant cuts in order to satisfy bondholders.

Amid declining enrollments and uncertain fiduciary times, indebted non-profit institutions are being forced to implement certain changes that certainly put dollars before students’ interests. Chief among them: tuition and expense increases, shrinking faculty numbers, and increasing class sizes. Such actions, however necessary they may seem to those making them, hardly are in line with the Department of Education’s goal to ensure students are receiving optimum return on investment for their tuition dollars.

Financially motivated actions are occurring at non-profit or public colleges every day. Yet they don’t result in the same public outcry or negative publicity because the prevailing (and misguided) wisdom seems to be that non-profit and public institutions only make those tough decisions because they have to, whereas proprietary colleges do so because they want to.

Nothing could be further from the truth. APC member colleges uphold a proud tradition of changing lives for the better, and their exceptional program outcome statistics should speak for themselves. Until they do, we will continue to ardently advocate for the best interests of the students we represent today and the many we look forward to educating in the years to come.

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