Clearing the Mist

I just saw the movie The Mist (actually, one of those really good B horror movies that hasn’t gotten enough notice) so maybe that metaphor is just on my mind. But that’s the metaphor that popped into my head when I read about the new regulations for the for-profit education sector (where I teach). I am mostly talking about the ‘truth in advertising’ requirements that would force schools to put all sorts of information in a prominent place on their websites (“Splitting the Difference on Gainful Employment“).

It’s a good idea but I wonder too if it’s naive, in the short run. After all, despite the nearly half-century of dire warnings (more dire than debt) on cigarettes, there are still smokers. How many Sham-Wow’s were sold, or Pocket Fisherman? Still, if we are going to market education as primarily a pragmatic economic strategy, then I think it’s only fair that students be allowed to make a informed decision. What will be interesting is to see how the not-for profit-sector responds, particular in the liberal arts.

The for-profits need to be tightly regulated (and the financial industry and the medical sector and…). Some things are just too important to be left to the vicissitudes of the market and greed. We can fill a niche, and as Kevin Carey suggests (“Why Do You Think They’re Called For-Profit Colleges?”), we can be an important spur in the side of the public universities. Public universities can either try to compete directly with the for-profits, or they can make the case for something else. If the public schools don’t take the lead, the for-profits will…

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 I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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