MIAMI HERALD: Op-Ed: For-profit colleges’ success ignored

Career College Central Summary:

  • I have spent decades at the top of two businesses that were juxtaposed on your front page last week: journalism and for-profit education. I had the honor of being publisher of The Washington Post for more than 20 years and the CEO of the company that owned it for 22. And I now have the equal honor of being CEO of the company that owns Kaplan University, which is one of the many colleges mentioned in your series.
  • Reading your series has made me sad indeed for one of my two professions.
  • Every journalist knows that he or she is supposed to report all sides of a story. In this case the reporter wrote an account of his own work — How the Higher Ed Hustle was reported. Every word is devoted to his efforts to learn what critics of the industry had to say. If he lifted a finger to learn whether any for-profit colleges in fact do a good job educating their students, he forgot to say so.
  • In other words, reporting on a story that has more than one side, the Herald’s reporter wanted to know only one. Every word of his series reeks of this. Every charge — from plaintiffs’ attorneys, former employees who were fired (though the Herald’s readers were not permitted to know they were discharged) and lifelong critics of the industry — is treated reverently. The few scraps of evidence of another side are treated contemptuously. If a politician doesn’t agree with the critics of the industry, it must be because he or she has received a microscopic percentage of his or her campaign contributions from those connected to us. (For the record, neither I nor Kaplan has ever contributed to a Florida politician).
  • So help me: “Not all students at for-profit colleges have a bad experience” is the start of the first quasi-positive paragraph in the first article — and it appears in the 27th paragraph of a story that begins with a stripper recruiting students to a long-defunct college and goes on to other horror stories. And after that short, lonely paragraph, the horror stories resume. One story (among nine!) about two students who experienced some success at for-profits is presented under the headline Industry Touts Success Stories.
  • When he contacted Kaplan for comment on some of the material he mentioned in his articles, the reporter said he had been working on the series since July.
  • The call came in February.
  • He worked for more than half a year on a story about colleges before he actually called the colleges.
  • Is there another side to the story? Well …
  • There are 2 million students attending for-profit colleges. Does the editor of the Miami Herald think that all were tricked or deluded into enrolling? Isn’t it likelier that most were well aware of their alternatives and made what they considered the best choice for them? Isn’t yours (as the Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year says in the 13th paragraph of one of the articles) a snob’s position — that poor students cannot understand their choices as well as you can?
  • In fact, they do.
  • I cannot speak for all the colleges your reporter writes about (though I do not believe a word he writes). Kaplan University is a decent place trying to offer a good education to its students and thereby improve their lives. When we fail (and your reporter points to one student who is disappointed with her education), they and I are bitterly sorry. But it is fair to ask: Is that student typical? How many are disappointed and how many benefit?

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