Over the last month, Barack Obama has toured a number of community colleges and job training facilities promoting what he believes is the next great job-creation and employment strategy: training young people graduating from high school and adult workers who have been laid off from their initial careers in the skilled trades. Experts estimate that nearly half a million skilled trade jobs remain unfilled because Americans simply lack the expertise necessary to fill these positions, and Obama is aiming to close the widening employment gap and give some semblance of normalcy to an increasingly irritated public by pushing programs that will get Americans back to work: training people to use the shovels for the shovel-ready jobs, if you will.
Of course, there’s a major flaw in his plan. While Obama is out promoting community colleges and job training programs, his administration is actively killing one of the most successful job training operations. Just last month, Obama’s Department of Education passed what is now called the “Gainful Employment rule,” a rule that severely limits the amount of federal financial aid students may receive to attend for-profit and career colleges – the very colleges that are training low-income, disadvantaged, minority and non-traditional students to enter or re-enter a dramatically changing workforce.
Obama’s Department of Education and it’s supporters in Congress claim that career and for-profit colleges have problems: that their students have a low graduation rate, a low employment rate following graduation and have a difficult time repaying loans. These concerns, they say, led to the need to limit the financial contribution taxpayers make to their education and opportunity. It’s understandable, except that the agenda really isn’t saving taxpayers money. The agenda is, instead, creating a preferential environment for incubators of the next Democratic generation: non-profit schools. If the agenda were saving taxpayer dollars, they might be targeting the very programs Obama is asking Americans to further contribute their support to.
Now, obviously, the educational elite are not fans of for-profit education.
Not only because the university education model, which hasn’t been serving graduates very well itself of late, replaced the traditional American trade school model years ago, but because the for-profit model has proven a better value, particularly with the union-propped salaries of government-employed professors increasing at a rapid rate. Additionally, for-profit schools are attracting a more heavily diverse student body, many of whom are choosing for-profit education, because of it’s cost and flexibility, over larger four-year colleges and universities. Many see the for-profit schools as a easier path to success. Fully 60% of one for-profit school’s student body transferred into their programs from government-sponsored community colleges.
Yes, they do have their problems, but a floundering economy and a glut of highly educated individuals has impacted the employment numbers for all schools. Nearly 17,000 Ph.D students will be finding themselves in service industry careers. A quarter of a million waitresses in the United States have college degrees. Only about half of all college students graduate within four years. At colleges that are historically dominated by minorities, four-year graduation rates are dropping into the 40s. Student loan defaults are at an all-time high (some reports put student loan repayment at a measly 30%) and the coming student loan “bubble” is threatening to deal another blow to the economy. All of these are serious problems, and all, perhaps, within the purview of the Department of Education.
Yet they focus only on the “problems” at for-profit institutions…as for-profit institutions graduate exactly those “shovel-ready” students Obama claims we need many, many more of to stimulate our flagging economic recovery. They focus on for-profits at the same time historically minority-dominated schools who’s numbers seem alarming are writing painful op-eds, begging for the protection minority students desperately need. They focus on for-profits at a time when the entire college model should undergo a serious reconsideration and redevelopment from the ground up. They focus on for-profits at a time when they truly need to re-examine their approach towards the educational and economic future of America’s young people.