Friday, May 14, 2010
Barry Yeoman’s article in the June issue of Good Housekeeping titled “School of Hard Knocks” painted an inaccurate picture of career and professional colleges, the fastest growing segment of higher education.
Professional and career education plays an essential role in preparing the 21st century workforce and meeting President Obama’s 2020 goal of regaining America’s top rank in the world higher education competition. Yet the story was a distorted denunciation of an entire sector of higher education and of the 2.8 million students who attend career and professional colleges.
Mr. Yeoman’s fabulation used a small number of negative anecdotes to portray inaccurately a model that is the future of higher education. Even when he grudgingly included one paragraph about a graduate who talked about the positive impact of her education, he went on to make a demeaning remark about her school and, by implication, her educational experience.
Those of us who deal with career college students and graduates every day know that the successful graduate he barely mentioned typifies our sector, and should have been the focus of his story. For journalists such as Mr. Yeoman, who wrote almost the same article in the same publication 13 years ago, describing graduates who use their education at our schools to launch or advance their careers is not as sexy as writing about a small number of students who have not been as pleased or successful. Of course, thirteen years ago, our sector was approximately 2% of higher education, while we are now 10%. And that indicates that the customers—the prospective students—embrace our value proposition, even if Mr. Yeoman does not.
Missing from the story was any understanding of what advantages our institutions offer, or accurate comparisons between our sector and traditional colleges. The over 1450 institutions represented by the Career College Association, all accredited, offer a focused flexible route to an education with classes held in easy access locations and at a variety of hours to fit the needs of working students. Our institutions provide quality educational experiences to people who ordinarily are shut out of traditional higher education whether due to previous educational experience, time or money constraints. They are highly focused on career preparation or advancement, at a time when the mantra of the American electorate is “Jobs, jobs, jobs.” We get it. Many others do not.
Some students graduate from career colleges with more debt than students who attend traditional institutions of higher learning. That is because our students are more likely to be living on their own, on low-or moderate incomes; many are single parents. They do not have well to do parents who have been preparing to pay college tuition since their offspring were in utero. And when most analysts report on relative student debt between graduates in our sector and traditional students, they only talk about debt the students themselves are incurring, not including debt parents undertake. So they are rarely comparing apples and apples.
Mr. Yeoman repeats the canard that our schools’ admission officers systematically enroll students regardless of their likely success, again based on a few anecdotes or old cases. He conveniently fails to mention a widely distributed recent report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Congress’ investigative arm, that concluded that violations of the rule prohibiting admission officers being compensated solely on number of enrollees are rare, and are almost as frequent in traditional schools as in career schools. Schools that enroll students solely to meet admission targets—whether those institutions are non profit or for profit—will not long survive.
Employers look to our students to fill necessary and important positions. It is our graduation and placement rates where we truly succeed. The graduation rate for students in two‐year institutions seeking degrees or certificates is 61 percent, much higher than at public community colleges. And our nationally accredited schools have placement rates north of 70 percent even in these tough times.
Not to be entirely critical of Mr. Yeoman’s, I do commend him for his recommendation that prospective students should talk to current students or graduates as part of their enrollment decision. When I talk to current students, I invariably find that the factor that most influenced their decisions was validation by people they trust who are attending or who have attended our schools. And our schools know that, too, which is another reason that strive every day to provide the best possible education for their students.
Education is a transformative experience , and that every student deserves a wide field of options for receiving high-quality instruction. Our member colleges and universities are helping prepare American workers to compete effectively in an increasingly competitive and complex global marketplace. We are proud of our graduates, and will continue to improve our institutions based on their needs.
President and CEO of the Career College Association
Posted by APSCU User at 4:47 PM