The Decline of the For-Profit Colleges Continues

Forbes September 7, 2015 issue will contain an article “Black Arts: The $800 Million Family Selling Art Degrees and False Hopes” by Katia Savchuk. It’s about the for-profit Academy of Art University, another of such colleges that expanded greatly over the last couple of decades. Since 1992, its “enrollment has skyrocketed from 2,200 to 16,000, generating an estimated $300 million in annual revenues, heavily subsidized by federal student loans.”

According to the article, AAU lures “starry-eyed art students into taking on massive amounts of debt based on the ‘revolutionary principle’ (Stephens’ phrase) that anyone can make a career as a professional artist. No observable talent is required to gain admission to AAU.” Not surprisingly, “Just 32% of full-time students graduate in six years, versus 59% for colleges nationally, and that rate drops to 6% for online-only students and 3% for part-time students.” And there seem to be few jobs for those who do graduate.

Read the article. Almost everything that’s happening to AAU will sound familiar from other for-profit colleges and universities. This is a classic case of why the corporate model is not a good one for education. Corporations look for profits, even if that means convincing others to borrow money they can ill afford—but can get thanks to government guarantees. Even if that means making unrealistic promises to incoming students. Even if… even if… even if….

Education has always worked best when operated under institutional structures quite different from the corporate one that has been busy bulldozing away just about everything else, these past decades. Now, with the death of Corinthian, the decline of Phoenix and the impending collapse of AAU (this Forbes article certainly won’t prop it up), perhaps we can start convincing our educational institutional governing boards that they should stop listening exclusively to the business community when it comes to education and start working with the educators.

Now, there’s a thought!

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