What’s Left After Higher Education Is Dismantled

Jul 18, 2015 by

"Schools are the frontline of this new age, and it is incumbent on all of us to educate our young in how to move from being digital natives to digital citizens, with all the responsibility and accountability that implies." -- Anthony Seldon, Wellington College

We’re soon going to be left with no viable option for providing quality higher education to the masses

By Mike Konczal –

The two big higher-education stories this month couldn’t be more different. On one hand, you have financier Stephen A. Schwarzman donating $150 million to Yale to build a state-of-the-art campus center. On the other, you have Corinthian Colleges declaring bankruptcy under a flood of allegations of fraud and abuse, leaving 77,000 students demanding student debt relief for the “subprime education” they received.

But they tell a similar story: There’s no set of institutions capable of or interested in providing quality, affordable higher education for a large population outside public schools. We must remember this as state legislatures continue to dismantle, defund and privatize public higher education, because as that project succeeds no one else will step into the void and provide the education that will disappear.

Let’s start with the Yale story: $150 million is a lot of money, and even if it is earmarked for a giant vanity project, it does mean that other funds can be freed up for educating students. But how much will Yale increase its enrollment numbers as a result of this money?

We can make a good guess: zero. Yale’s freshman enrollment this past year was 1,360 students. That’s virtually the same as in 2003. Like many elite private schools, Yale is basically a hedge fund with a university attached for tax status and marketing purposes, and it’s quick to brag about its outsized endowment returns over that time period. However, all that new cash hasn’t brought any new students. And it would have been a great time to expand, as public tuition began increasing, and more students overall went to college.

It’s not clear that Americans’ tax dollars need to be subsidizing the conspicuous consumption Schwarzman is engaged in here. But there’s a more pernicious edge to his donation. As with state-of-the-art gyms, stadiums and other elite facilities, this kind of spending is likely to set off an arms race with other private and public flagship schools. Those places will have to charge higher tuition overall in order to provide these services – services that will be expected by the rich potential students that these institutions will compete for.

Now, Yale is an extreme example of private higher education. But overall private non-profit schools have been increasing their absolute numbers of students over the past 20 years, while their percentage of total students educated has stayed flat. What has been expanding rapidly and picking up a greater and greater share of college students? The for-profit school industry.

Source: What’s Left After Higher Education Is Dismantled | Rolling Stone

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1 Comment

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    Science Teacher

    They are not only doing this to higher education.
    The charter school movement, which may have begin as folks taking an idea and starting a school with public monies to use as a laboratory for testing potential reform ideas, has become a business. A charter school is started by an entrepreneur who refines his/her idea of how to teach and run a school, then exports this management plan, opening additional schools on the same model. It is a non-profit, though hedge funds apparently love these guys.
    Meanwhile, small charter school nonprofits that operate, sometimes 3-4 schools educating fewer than 1000 students award their CEO salaries in the range of $350,000 per annum. The superintendent of my public district (14 schools, 10,000+ students) earns $196,000 (OK, there are probably perks, but that CEO receives them, too). This is an egregious waste of tax $$$.

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