Under his American Graduation Initiative President Obama’s goal is to produce some 63 million additional graduates by 2020.
Career colleges are growing because they make higher learning accessible to nontraditional and underserved students. That’s a lot of potential students: Statistics show that only about 25 percent of the population has the money or time to attend a traditional four-year college.
Career colleges serve all Americans — not just the fortunate 25 percent. Just look at the demographics for career-college students: A majority are 25 or older; about half come from families with incomes in the lowest 25 percent; almost half are the first member of their family to go to college; and many have just completed military service. Tellingly, more than 75 percent of adult students work while they attend college.
At a time when, as Harris put it, “states are slashing funding for higher education,” endowments are down, and “community colleges are turning students away or creating multiyear waiting lists” apparently it might be good to begin a vast expansion of career colleges. The trouble with this line of thinking is that career colleges appear to be mostly for-profit institutions. These schools don’t have to worry about “states slashing funding” because states never gave them funding; the schools simply passed the cost of education directly back to students.
There might very well be something conventional education can learn from America’s career schools—like about class scheduling and emphasizing some jobs training—but let’s hope the career college revenue stream isn’t the lesson traditional colleges take away.