Neem: Regulate For-Profit Colleges

Historian Johan Neem, an expert on civil society in early America, argues that for-profit colleges are “challenging a centuries-old practice of separating philanthropy from business.”  Colleges and universities, as public and non-profit organizations, Neem writes, “become corrupted when profit becomes their goal rather than a means to fulfilling their mission.”  Here is a further taste of Neem’s piece at Inside Higher Ed:

For-profits must be regulated as businesses. They are not charities, despite being subsidized heavily by public student loan dollars. In reality, in return for these public subsidies, for-profits should live by the same rules as other nonprofits. They should make the common good their primary goal and reinvest all revenue to fulfill their mission. They will not, however, because, as Kevin Kinser argues in From Main Street to Wall Street, they exist to generate wealth for investors and shareholders. As recent scandals have made clear, for-profit institutions in higher education, like other Wall Street businesses, too often put their bottom line ahead of the common good.

2 thoughts on “Neem: Regulate For-Profit Colleges

  1. I happen to agree that the correspondence schools are likely rip-offs.

    But the bigger scandal is the “legitimate” academic establishment, letting these kids go into even more crushing debt than “for profit” schools for fancy but scandalously overpriced parchment:

    “Here is the insight from the Chronicle of Higher Education: “As someone who teaches humanities in an expensive private liberal arts college, I like to keep abreast of the trends in the job market for my students. This useful chart from the Chronicle of Higher Education takes US Census data and breaks out the median income for graduates depending on their major. As you might expect, some of the tastiest salaries come from the toughest subjects. Petroleum engineering majors earn $120,000. Brown jobs really do rule. Ecology majors on the other hand get a little more than one third of that: $44,000. And remember: that isn’t a starting salary; it’s the median income for all the people in the field up to age 65. Stuffing envelopes for Greenpeace does not often lead to great things.”

    And elsewhere:

    Yes, this is median lifetime earnings. So if you're a college student and your major is to the right of say biology, well you really have no business borrowing money for college. It's a bad investment.


    This isn't Right-Wing Tom spouting conspiracy theories or tu quoques, this stuff is in The Chronicle of Higher Ed, hiding in plain sight.


  2. Not a fan of Neem's approach:

    Step 1) Vilify the profit motive.
    Step 2) Imply that for-profit educators are intrinsically corrupt.
    Step 3) Make vague, sweeping statements like, “They suggest that all goods — including education, charity, and religion — should be commodities. History and common sense tell us otherwise.”
    Step 4) Suggest that it's a simple matter of leveling the playing field between for-profits and non-profits. (When the clash last year was actually over new restrictions for lending rules that would have applied only to for-profits.)


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