Tuesday, February 21, 2017
The Trump University Model
“It would be fine with me to have myself worked out of a job, but I'm not sure that — I'm not sure that there will be a champion movement in Congress to do that.”
Betsy DeVos on how she would feel if the Dept. of Education closed. Axios.com, February 17th
Education can be a very lucrative business, and in today’s world, it’s really hard to make a solid living without some sort of specialized training. Public education is an important component in our country today, even as legislatures everywhere have engaged in budget-slashing (from primary school all the way up to their best state universities) in recent years under the guise of austerity and financial responsibility. Now, we have a new head of the federal agency charged with maximizing how we educate our children. Betsy DeVos has dedicated her life to replace public secular education with private Christian education. Privatization with federal assistance through vouchers and charter school support. Religion (read: fundamentalist Christian biblical interpretation and thoughts) trumps science and math. It has been Betsy DeVos’ life work. Betsy also loves the private sector and distrusts the public sector.
“According to the most recent data provided by the U.S. Department of Education, post-secondary education is being provided to about 18.2 million students. Of that population, some [in 2016] 1.4 million are receiving their education through for-profit schools.” ValueLine.com. During the Obama administration, the U.S. Department of Education (and a few state attorneys-general) came down hard on the unrealistic promises made by oh-so-many vocational schools to people who simply wanted to better their work skills to earn better livings for themselves and their families. Schools lost accreditation, often being pushed out from federal loan programs as a result. Most such schools without federal loan funds simply close.
Lots of lawsuits were filed by aggrieved students against “universities” and trade schools that promised teaching hard skills purportedly in demand by government. These students had, in the aggregate, borrowed or invested millions and millions of their own dollars to get meaningless certificates and no new job prospects. It was precisely one of these “universities” – then already under investigation by the New York Attorney General – that generated a $25 million settlement (admitting no wrongdoing) in case filed by students who felt defrauded and misled. That would be Trump University, founded in 2005, which is no longer around.
With a new administration – including a president who made a pile from this sector – the stock market seems to think that these former pariahs are now the new darlings. “Since Election Day, for-profit college companies have been on a hot streak. DeVry Education Group’s stock has leapt more than 40 percent. Strayer’s jumped 35 percent and Grand Canyon Education’s more than 28 percent.
“You do not need an M.B.A. to figure out why. Top officials in Washington who spearheaded a relentless crackdown on the multibillion-dollar industry have been replaced by others who have profited from it… Betsy DeVos, the newly installed secretary of education, is an ardent campaigner for privately run schools and has investments in for-profit educational ventures.” New York Times, February 20th.
But the litany of horribles unraveled by the Obama administration now threatens to become a deregulated “business as usual” under Madam DeVos. And taxpayers have been disproportionately funding these certificate and diploma mills. “Under the Obama administration, the Education Department discouraged students from attending for-profit colleges, arguing recently that the data showed ‘community colleges offer a better deal than comparable programs at for-profit colleges with higher price tags.’
“The for-profit sector has about 8 percent of those enrolled in higher education, according to the Education Department, but it has 15 percent of subsidized student loans… While some career training schools delivered as promised, critics argued that too many burdened veterans, minorities and low-income strivers with unmanageable tuition debt without equipping them with jobs and skills that would enable them to pay it off.
“After years of growing complaints and lawsuits, the agency moved aggressively to end abusive practices that ranged from deceptive advertising to fraud and cost students and taxpayers billions of dollars.
“Two mammoth chains collapsed — Corinthian Colleges in 2015, and ITT Technical Institute in 2016 — leaving thousands of students stranded without degrees and in debt. Overall enrollment in for-profit institutions declined from 2.4 million in 2010 to 1.6 million in 2015 as hundreds of campuses closed. And as the largest provider of student loans, the federal government was left to bail out the defrauded.
“Just weeks before Mr. Trump took office, the department identified 800 failing programs by applying its new ‘gainful employment’ rule, which links vocational schools’ access to federal funds with their record on job placement and earnings. Ninety-eight percent of the programs were at for-profit colleges.” NY Times. While DeVos has not yet determined if she will eliminate that rule, the folks that pushed for her appointment have made their positions clear. Those in the know suggest it is just a matter of time.
“‘We’re going to get some regulatory relief, which is desperately needed,’ said Steven Gunderson, president and chief executive of Career Education College and Universities, a trade association of for-profit schools. He said he has repeatedly spoken with members of Trump’s transition team, White House domestic policy advisers and congressional Republicans… Repealing the gainful employment rule and ending expanded financial stability standards are at the top of the trade association’s priorities.”
This quest for deregulation could explain why “Representative Thomas Massie (R-Kentucky) introduced a bill on [February 7th] that would abolish the federal Department of Education. The bill, just one sentence long, reads ‘The Department of Education shall terminate on December 31, 2018.’” Tribune Media, February 7th. Massie believes education issues cannot be determined at a federal level.
In a 2015 study of high school students among 57 developed countries, “Students in the United States performed near the middle of the pack. On average 16 other industrialized countries scored above the United States in science, and 23 scored above us in math.” GreatSchools.org. For years, study after study, the United States does a little worse every year. But with our new “educational” deprioritization, let’s see how far we can fall over the next few years.
I’m Peter Dekom, and it is very painful to watch our educational standards increasingly make this nation that much less globally competitive, year-by-year.