Pyrrhic Victory

It might be surprising, at least to some, to find that as someone who teaches in the proprietary education system, I am generally in favor of more regulations. And while it’s theoretically possible to imagine regulations that go too far and kill the goose that laid the golden egg, that seems unlikely in the extreme in the current political climate. It looks like a loose-loose situation.

In fact, the recent election debacle suggests that the already weak regulations may be weakened even further. I don’t think this is a victory for anyone. On the other hand, I think writers like Allen Singer go too far when they try to paint the for-profit sector with the charter school brush. He also seems to ignore the abuses in the so-called not for profit sector, further undermining his case.

It seems bizarre, for example, to complain about the student debt problem without also mentioning that student debt is a chronic, deeply destructive problem in all of higher education. Clearly the rules about recruitment need to be tightened so that students are not fooled about what they are getting into when they try to get a degree from a proprietary school.

Just as clearly the so-called non profits’ marketing programs deserve further scrutiny. The large football and basketball programs are essentially multti-million dollar corporations run in part on public money. Why should any school that gets federal money– for profit or otherwise– be allowed to waste millions of dollars in administrative salaries, either for coaches or for presidents?

The proposed regulations leave out a wide variety of other issues that need attention in every sector of the higher education system. What about the ratio of full-time to part-time professors and academic freedom of speech? None of these things are mentioned either in Singer’s piece or in the proposed regulations. Neither political party seems willing to add real teeth to the rules.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn’t want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so.

I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and Smarthinking.com.

I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that ‘at’ symbol] writinginthewild.com

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