I can understand the cliche business fear about regulation and red tape, although in my experience private rather than government red tape is much more of an issue. I don’t have a small business, of course. Still, I suspect that in many if not most cases the hassles of dealing with the government pale beside the hassles of dealing with ordinary commercial firms, particularly the large ones.
So I think that regulation is in general a good thing. It’s how we got all sorts of benefits, from the weekend to the end of child labor to seat belts and ever higher (if still too low) gas mileage. The right has done everything in its power, of course, to make regulations seem by definition illegitimate. That means that there have been almost no regulatory oversight in for-profit higher education.
Actually, there’s too little regulatory oversight in public higher education either, in everything from labor policy to tuition to nepotism. That’s another story. A regulatory system, in any case, is more than simply a set of rules and laws and guidelines. An effective regulatory system has to have teeth, too, in the forms of fines and, maybe especially in the U.S., lawsuits.
So as the Congressional hearings begin to suggest something of the regulatory system being proposed for for-profit higher education, it’s good to see that the rest of the regulatory ecosystem is beginning to come alive too. The website needs a face-lift, but “Higher Education Issues” is a great place to watch the emerging legal action both for students as well as faculty.