Defending Private Sector Education

Millions of Americans are either students or graduates of private sector institutions (sometimes called career colleges). And they all have important achievements in common – every one of them has invested in themselves, studied very hard, gone above and beyond for a better life and future. They deserve our country’s respect!

The investment these students make goes beyond taking out loans or seeking grants. Career college students–often working adults, single moms, veterans, or those returning to school after a significant lapse–give up their free time, missing children’s events, family get-togethers and other activities. They sacrifice in the short term for gains down the road, and society is better off for their efforts. Educated and working adults earn much more money, pay more taxes, and rely less on the nation’s social safety net. The combination of education and hard work powers American economic growth and social stability.

As a Board member and the chairman of the communication’s committee of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC), I see first-hand the devastation that unwarranted, broad-brushed policy-maker and media assaults are having on Private Sector Education and the students that career colleges serve. This is a sector of education that is graduating students at a rate of more than double that of two-year community colleges, while coping with burdensome regulations that no other sector could withstand. Sadly, it is the students that are being hurt!

What motivates this assault on private sector education is less clear. Accredited and licensed institutions all have rigorous academic requirements. Graduates of these schools have all read the same or similar textbooks used at public institutions. Private sector education often employs instructors who have been or who are still employed at public sector colleges. The campuses and/or equipment used to teach classes is state-of-the-industry, often better than that used in public sector schools. Private sector schools feature important differences:

  • institutions often have fewer students in classrooms so individual attention is greater,
  • better student service programs resolve barriers to learning,
  • career placement programs actively help students prepare for and find jobs.

In short, it is education tailored to the academic and lifestyle needs of its student body as well as the career focused motivations of its students.

Critics rarely get this point, or the connection between recruitment and completion. Media rarely mentions the fact that millions of adult learners’ lives are better off because of the private sector education—and that most of them would not have learned about their school, college or university if it wasn’t for their school’s education advertising efforts.

Under the guise of helping students, the critics’ attacks actually dilute and degrade the value of millions of students’ educations and the degrees that they worked so hard to earn. No sector of higher education is perfect, as recent headlines from sexual assaults to bogus academic programs clearly demonstrate. A small number of career colleges have had their problems too. Unfortunately, criticism of private sector education is often more about bias, less about balance and objective appraisal. How many critics have actually visited a career college or spent an hour with a typical career college student?

It is time that everyone who has ever been involved in private sector education step up to the plate and defend the sector for the good it is doing – and be proud every time they see an ad marketing education. We should celebrate the fact that adult learners are better off for all of these efforts. We should remind critics that their cheap shots do hit a target–our hard-working students and the families who depend on them.

-Mitch Talenfeld