Friends in High Places

Well somebody in the Obama administration likes for-profit colleges. U.S. Under Secretary of Education Martha J. Kanter speaking at a Career College Association investor meeting, thinks that for-profit schools “have so much to offer the country in promoting opportunity to students.” According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

Kanter noted that for-profit colleges, with their accommodating schedules and job-focused curricula, have succeeded in reaching the same kind of adult, working, and minority students that President Obama is hoping to encourage to attend college in greater numbers. With two-thirds of undergraduates now also holding jobs while going to college, she told the audience it was important for the country to “build on models you already know” for serving students.

Kanter also explained these colleges matter because a lot of Americans are students at for-profit schools:

“Two-thirds of the students who are underrepresented in higher education enter through community colleges and your colleges,” she said. “It’s time people understood that nearly half of all students in the country are already in community colleges and career colleges, and the rest are in institutions that are in many ways becoming nontraditional.”

Before joining the Obama administration, Kanter was the chancellor of the Foothill-De Anza Community College District, a highly regarded California program. The trouble is that now Kanter seems to be conflating for-profit schools and community colleges. While the two types of schools educate students from similar backgrounds, community college is a low-risk endeavor. They offer students the opportunity to begin or try out higher education at low cost. Attending a for-profit school is a much more dangerous choice. Community colleges serve low income students. Proprietary colleges may just take advantage of low income students.

President Obama plans to create a $50 million a year competitive grant program to improve American education through new online courses. Kanter encouraged for-profit school to apply for this money.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer