Forbes blogger Steven Salzberg levels his sites at for-profit universities (FPUs) in a post dated September, 27 2010. Dubbing them "The Yugos of Higher Education," Salzberg lambasts for-profit universities for a number of vices. The items of his indictment may be summarized as follows:
Salzberg marshals data from such official sources as the U.S. Department of Education and the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to support his indictment of for-profit universities, which in his estimation engage in practices so deceptive as to verge on outright fraud.
In his post Salzberg essentially supplies a choleric counterpoint to a more sanguine tune piped by former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings in a piece appearing in the September 26, 2010 edition of The Washington Post. In it, Spellings claims that the Obama administration, which purports to support Americans who pursue higher education, in fact threatens "to thwart those in the private sector who are investing capital and spurring innovation to accommodate students who need more convenient and creative educational opportunities than those offered by traditional schools."
For Spellings, the Obama administration stands guilty of allowing an allergy to private-sector solutions to dictate its higher-education policy. The course of action the Obama administration has taken "doesn't make sense," Spellings continues.
At a time when the administration should be focused on job creation and strategies to prepare today's students for tomorrow's jobs, it is targeting private-sector higher-education providers that serve about 3 million students a year.
Spellings' Washington Post opinion piece stresses three basic points, which can be summarized as follows:
Spellings' opinion piece shows Salzburg's comparison of for-profit universities to Yugos to be especially apt -- more so, perhaps, than even Salzberg himself realizes. What was the Yugo, after all, but an automobile imported to American shores for its no-frills affordability from a country then in the twilight of Soviet domination?
Warmer relations between nations of directly opposing political principles resulted in freedom from the fetters of Big Government (governments don't come bigger than they do under communism) on one side, and the availability of affordable cars on the other. If only, then, there could be a similar détente between online and "brick-and-mortar" higher education. Call it for-profit perestroika.