Proprietary colleges are not all created equally, but they are certainly — undeservedly — treated equally when it comes to being tarnished by the same negative coverage brush.
Whether commenting on the sector in the press, in meetings, or on the Hill, proprietary institutions’ most vehement critics are quick to recite a handful of unscrupulous colleges’ bad outcomes. And while the preponderance of bad headlines might suggest otherwise, it’s worth keeping the scale of the problem in perspective. As Ben Miller, former U.S. Department of Education advisor, wrote: “It looks like some of the identified problems are concentrated in a few bad actors. According to the Department, a subset of 11 percent of for-profit institutions account for 90 percent of students in failing or zone programs at these types of colleges.”
In an effort to protect students carrying excessive student loan debt and low-paying job prospects, the Department of Education set out to draft the Gainful Employment rule. We applaud the good intentions inherent in this endeavor, as we’ve asserted before. APC wholeheartedly supports efforts to curtail egregious practices and ensure that a college education represents a worthwhile return on investment for all students. That means creation of regulations that draw on clear – not arbitrary or speculative – data to develop a realistic, fair standard for all colleges, regardless of tax status.
Being on the front lines and seeing the great work that APC member colleges do on a daily basis, it’s disheartening at times to note that the media is so singularly focused on the negative stories, overlooking the abundance of positive outcomes being put forth by the majority of proprietary colleges. Accordingly, it’s always a surprise and a pleasure to read stories, big or small, that bring balance, directly or indirectly, to the national debate on the value of proprietary colleges by underscoring their positive impact on students.
Case in point: In a recent Huffington Post blog, LIM College graduate Angela Pellegrini — who was recently named one of Fairfield County’s (Connecticut) ’40 Under 40’ — discussed her senior management role at fast-growing food brand Saffron Road. Tellingly, she attributes her successes to her time as an undergraduate and explains how her rigorous education at New York-based LIM College equipped her with the requisite skills to thrive in the business world: “The curriculum and environment taught me how to embrace thinking outside the box, run a successful business and challenge myself in everyday tasks.”
Another recent news brief: Up in Norwalk, Connecticut, marketing firm J. Mason Inc. this week sang the praises of one of its most promising employees – who happened to be a two-time Monroe College graduate, having received her bachelor’s degree in business administration and master’s degree in business management from the school. In announcing her promotion, the company applauded her extensive education and training, as well as her unwavering drive.
Yet another example: Recently, Long Island Newsday announced that highly celebrated, Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist Matt Davies, a former student of Manhattan’s School of Visual Arts, has been added to their staff roster. Davies’ work has been published by outlets as prolific as The New York Times, USA Today, TIME Magazine and CNN – an impressive career track by any measure.
These examples are not anomalous, and represent just a handful of the myriad students whose education at a proprietary college has more than prepared them for life in the real world, and for rewarding employment opportunities: from notable film directors to entrepreneurs.
It’s just a shame that the popular media is so often used to create the impression that “for-profit” is antithetical to “for-students.”