I think that proprietary online education universities ought to see their histories, up this point, in terms of market building. It’s often a brutal process, particularly in a political climate in which regulation, indeed all government intervention in the market, is so suspect. Capitalism, especially under the sway of free market ideologies, preys on the vulnerable. The existing system, then, owes a certain debt to the people who suffered through the years of creative destruction. I think its past time that we invest in our own reputations if not pay reparations.
It’s an optimistic narrative, of course, since the industry shows so little awareness of its history, much less any sense of public obligation beyond limited philanthropy. If our reputations continue to suffer, though, we might kill the Goose. I’d like to think for-profit administrations could learn to see themselves in a context more analogous to service and education rather than industry narrowly defined. That’s all too rare anywhere. It’s not any measure of public service, of course, but perhaps one starting point could be the emerging U.S. News Rankings for online education.