The following is response from CCA President and CEO Harris N. Miller to Stephen Burd's latest post:
In his latest posting about The Chronicle of Higher Education, bloggist Stephen Burd bemoans a lack of balanced reporting about career colleges by his former employer.
To start with, Stephen worrying about a lack of balance seems as odd as Olympic superstar Apolo Anton Ohno worrying about getting his next date.
So let’s look at his argument. I would call it logic, but he has none, as usual. He must have missed that course at the small elitist institution that his parents probably paid for him to attend.
From our point of view, we found the article, “For-Profit Colleges Change Higher Education's Landscape,” published in The Chronicle of Higher Education to be a fair and balanced piece that included some of our sector’s challenges in addition to our strengths or, as my mother used to say was “complete” – warts and all.
When Stephen was a journalist at the Chronicle of Higher Education, we are to believe it was a bastion of fair play and totally objective reporting. But years later, when he’s a page-view hungry blogger, and a career college sponsors one event run by the Chronicle, we now are to understand the reporters and the editors are being bought off by evil capitalists.
Stephen denies he is making an inflammatory accusation at the same time he makes it – a trick used by some bloggers to increase page views, the facts be damned. If he really does not believe the Chronicle’s news staff is subject to advertising pressure, then why even raise the issue? No one else did. Stephen is demonstrating a trait of ideologues—make ad hominem attacks, when the facts are against you.
Having led a small but persistent chorus of career college critics for many years, Stephen seems to be concerned that he is no longer preaching to the choir. He’s correct. Increasingly he is alone in the choir. From a higher education policy and analysis perspective, Stephen and his elitist thoughts about career education are becoming marginalized. In a tight economy, others are looking for solutions while Stephen continues to look for a punching bag. He claims to be looking out for the little guy just as he maligns their education. Oddly, where others in higher education see outcomes worth emulating, Stephen sees only outrage. His potshots at the sector are always taken from the margins, not from the mainstream.
For instance, Stephen claims career colleges are not student focused because there are many former career college students stuck with unmanageable debt loads for “training.” His use of coded language aside, there are many students in every walk of higher education dealing with difficult debt loads, not just career college students. The overwhelming majority of student debt owed today by students who have borrowed to attend institutions of higher learning is owed by students who attended traditional higher education institutions. The overwhelming majority of students in default—by numbers and by dollars—are those who have attended traditional higher education institutions. So logically isn’t this a far greater issue than the smaller numbers of career college students who fall into the same category?
He calls high default rates evidence of students not being well served. High default rates reflect only a sour economy and a student population where over 62 percent of the students at for-profit schools (nearly 71 at two-year schools) are at or below 200 percent of the poverty level. Similarly situated students at community colleges and minority serving institutions have comparably high default rates, as organizations such as the Government Accountability Office (GAO) have explained repeatedly. Of course, again, not too many of those students are at Stephen’s alma mater. But why would our country want to promote lower income people and working adults getting a postsecondary education? Stephen should call the President and Congress and talk them out of that crazy “expanding access” idea.
But Stephen’s charge that graduates of career colleges are left stranded? Hardly. Career colleges represent the one higher education sector that worries about getting students placed in jobs after graduation, and focuses on the relationship of their education to their careers from day one, without apology. How about those placement rates for traditional higher education? Pretty impressive, huh? Well, not really, because no one knows what they are, because no one tracks or reports them. The career college system works. Nationally accredited institutions place 70 percent or more in field, even in a U-shaped recession.
Stephen is also upset that in recent reporting on the career education sector, his former employer, The Chronicle of Higher Education, makes no mention of two issues discussed at the Department of Education’s just concluded Negotiated Rulemaking session: gainful employment and misrepresentation. Stephen terms the newspaper’s omission “mind-boggling.” Well, first, unless Stephen only reads his former employer’s publication once a year, he would know that The Chronicle never fails to report controversy about our sector, just as it reports controversy about traditional higher education—whether it be in disappointing American attitudes toward higher education, lending scandals, “amateur” sports programs, misuse of funds, etc.
We believe that the Chronicle took a fair and balanced look at the growth of career colleges. Would that Stephen would ever do the same.