Blog: Good Times, Bad Publicity for Career Colleges

Even during a golden era career colleges still manage to attract negative publicity. "For-profit schools," as the traditional media has dubbed them, are boasting their highest enrollment numbers ever and setting new revenue records. University of Phoenix, for example, set its first billion dollar quarter according to numbers released last month.

While traditional colleges, universities and community colleges are in the news for the challenges they are facing, you'd think some positive press might be directed toward the career college sector. More media attention has been focused on career training-oriented and online schools, but the majority of the attention has been negative.

Before I get too deep into this post, I have to apologize. In the last few months, I’ve turned into an online narc. On second thought, I’ve done some narcing in print, too. I’ve been the guy pointing out all the derogatory comments a few journalists and the sources they quote are making about you and your schools, the education you provide, and, in some instances, your students.

I am a journalist, of course. I like to read, I like to write, so naturally I am going to realize when reporters make sweeping comments about our sector from a decidedly negative perspective.

The logic behind these articles and the definitive statements they make are what perplexes me. After reading a few similar articles, you have to assume the writers believe you are going to take what they're giving (to use a saying affiliated with the education lexicon, you're response is simply going to be, “Thank you sir. May I have another?”) or they don’t think you are going to see what they’ve written at all.

Earlier this week, Andrew Snyder in Today’s Financial Times offered some strong opinions about the Obama administration’s plans to spend big to improve the nation’s community colleges. This is also a subject that captured my attention last week and, although with a perspective vastly different than his, our editorial board is considering the story as potential cover material for September.

The plan calls for spending $19 billion to help community colleges launch free online courses featuring curricula that will focus more on technical skills. Programs will emphasize the abilities students will need to perform in actual jobs. Money will be allotted to create an organization to oversee the courses. More than half is a loan to community colleges so that they can make improve campuses.

My initial post merely stated that career colleges already offer this sort of training, so why not partner with them to pull this off? You would think it might at least be a consideration given the sector's explosive growth at a time when other institutions are facing serious budget shortfalls.

Anyway, back to Snyder. I can’t say that I disagree with every point he makes in his article, just the ones about University of Phoenix and "for-profit" colleges. Snyder ties some of community college’s failures directly to career colleges. He writes:

“While many factors are to blame, one of the biggest problems is the recent growth of for-profit schools, especially the dicey online variety. With a long line of applicants knocking at their door, few schools care if a student meets his professional goals.”

That's a pretty bold statement to make – and those thoughts are expanded on until the article’s last line.

Yet another journalist is suggesting they know something about you – ALL of you. The degrees you offer are no good. You’re only interested in money. You could care less about your student’s career success. And, he doesn’t seem to care much for liberals, a point on which you might able to find some middle ground with him.

But journalists like Snyder have the podium. So … just sit back and take it like you always have. No one in the traditional media is going to care until the sound of your own knives sharpening drowns out their own voices.

I doubt we’ll see such a bloody battle waged. Why? Words might cut deep, but as long as career college profits are rising and traditional schools struggle, even I have to admit the numbers speak for themselves.

Best wishes, Andrew. Seriously. Your column was a great read, but those of us who really know the career education business read that one strictly for the entertainment value.

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of