More For-Profit Problems? Melinda Gates Leaves Washington Post Board

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On November 12 Melinda Gates (right) resigned from the Washington Post Company’s board of directors. She’s been on the board since 2004. According to the Wall Street Journal’s Market Watch:

Donald E. Graham, chairman and chief executive officer of The Washington Post Company said: “With her knowledge of technology, education and media, Melinda Gates has been a uniquely wonderful board member, taking time out of one of the world’s busiest and most impressive lives to help our Company. We are sad at losing her from the board, but will continue to watch the Gates Foundation’s work with the highest admiration.”

The highest admiration. Neither Gates nor Graham explained why she’s leaving, but it’s probably Kaplan again.

Kaplan, Inc., which consists of a test preparation company and several for-profit colleges, has been a subsidiary of the Washington Post Company since the Post Company bought Kaplan in 1984. Kaplan is the company’s largest revenue producer. It’s also becoming the company’s biggest problem.

In the middle of November the Education Trust released a report, “Subprime Opportunity,” detailing extensive problems in America’s for-profit colleges. The disclosures in the report weren’t exactly ground-breaking (low graduation rates, high debt levels, etc.) but, unlike in many discussions, the Ed Trust didn’t qualify the report by talking about weeding out “bad apples.” No, the industry itself appears to be the problem. As the report says:

For-profit colleges argue that they are models of access and efficiency in America’s overburdened higher education system. But instead of providing a solid pathway to the middle class, they are paving a path into the subbasement of the American economy. They enroll students in high-cost degree programs that have little chance of leading to highpaying careers, and saddle the most vulnerable students with more debt than they could reasonably manage to pay off, even if they do graduate.

Kaplan, which enrolls some 66,000 students, is one of America’s larger for-profit colleges.

Gates is co-founder and co-chair of the multibillion-dollar Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which she runs with her husband. The Gates Foundation helps fund the Education Trust.[Image via]

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