NAS president Peter Wood has written a four-part series considering the value of the for-profit higher education sector, and whether those who care about the liberal arts should also care about the fate of this besieged sector. If there is a higher education bubble, for-profits may outlive not-for-profits in the case of a burst. His series draws on a number of his personal encounters with the for-profit industry.
Last February, I participated in a debate organized by the Miller Center of Public Affairs and broadcast on PBS. That was one in a series of debates on issues of national importance the Miller Center has done. They followed that debate with another one on higher education, with the question being whether the business model of higher education is broken. In today's Pope Center Clarion Call, I take a rather critical look at the "business model" debate. It generated a little heat (specifically the hostility one debater, a community college president, has for the for-profit sector) but didn't shed much light on the key question: why does higher education cost so much?
In today's Pope Center piece, Richard Bishirjian, president and founder of Yorktown University, writes about the Obama administration's moves that have a strong negative impact on for-profit higher education. The president wants people to think that he is not anti-business, but in the realm of higher education at least, it's hard to resist that conclusion.
That's the subject of my Clarion Call today. I like some aspects of the book. Best of all is Wildavsky's argument that we should abandon educational mercantilism -- the notion that nations have to compete to be tops in educational "investment," university prestige, and similar distractions. Because knowledge is not constrained by national boundaries, we should stop worrying about musty old "us versus them" ideas. Also, Wildavsky doesn't go for the tendency to bash for-profit higher ed, showing that it fills some important niches. What I didn't care for so much was the author's enthusiasm for the trend toward globalized universities, with lots of American universities setting up campuses in places such as Abu Dhabi. I see that as mostly glitz and conspicuous consumption rather than true educational advance.