Democrats are from Harvard; Republicans are from DeVry

 

Everyone, it seems, hates for-profit education. The Democrats, led by Senator Tom Harkin, are trying to regulate it by tightening up the federal rules on student loans. Famous hedge fund investor Steve Eisman has schools like University of Phoenix and DeVry in his sights. He’s testified in Congress about shady loan practices at some of these places; about loose standards for job placement; about the practice of overburdening students with loans while preparing them for low-paying jobs.

(Eisman is also a major short-seller in the sector. So having him publicly run down the industry is not only good for Senator Harkin and the regulation-happy Democrats, it’s also going to make him rich. Richer, I mean.)

No one, of course, worries that federal student loans are going to students at, say, Yale, with its sky-high tuition and plentiful course offerings in the — how do I put this? — less job-centered disciplines. Put it this way: they don’t teach anything like “(Re)-Presenting the Modern: Studies in Gender Identity and Power in the 18th Century French Lyric” at DeVry. They teach things like how to maintain an office IT system and how to be a veterinary assistant.

Heather Smith at the Daily Caller brings it into perspective:

Not everyone is cut out to spend four years in a dorm at State U. Some must work as they attend college. Others spent the traditional college years on other pursuits and are trying to catch up and get a degree while juggling family and career responsibilities. Still others don’t get serious about doing the work it takes to obtain a degree until they’ve spent a few years in the workforce.As a result, they are looking for different things in a college than other students. They like the convenience of online courses or night school. They have no use for the traditional accoutrements of campus life – the student union, expensive climbing walls, student activities, ball games and the like.

That’s putting it nicely. What’s really going on here is snobbery. Pure and simple. And power. Even purer and simpler. For-profit colleges aren’t part of the vast network of teachers’ unions and community college organizations that feed the corrupt, failing, indefensible Democrat-Education Complex. Harkin, and the Obama administration, should be ashamed. No, not ashamed: they should be punished. They should be forced to a lifetime of haircuts, computer repair, IT help, veterinary care, and basic bookkeeping all performed by political science majors from Princeton.Got a problem with your flat screen? Call a poetry major.

There are 23 comments.

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  1. Profile Photo Member
    @WillCollier

    Actually Rob, Liberals are from Harvard, conservatives are from Auburn. But hey, it’s a start.

    On a (slightly) more serious note, one of the most brilliant and capible engineers I ever worked with in my career got his degree from an ITT school. One of the dumbest and most incompetent graduated from Rensselaer…

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  2. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Thanks for this Rob. This is my life these days as I follow the for-profit school companies for Wall Street (prince! prince!)

    The government’s preamble supporting the regulations for “Gainful Employment” which dictates the “right” level of debt for a given occupation, reads like a socialist manifesto for the role of the state. The basic argument is that students at vocational schools (poor, minority, less successful academically) are unable to make good decisions for themselves and so it is incumbent on the government to protect them from their choices.

    The rules completely second-guess the market’s ability to correct for high prices or sub-optimal outcomes. That many of these schools have been in business for 60+ years they take as proof of nothing.

    The solution the government prefers is that vocational students attend community colleges where the cost of dropping out is born by state and municipal taxpayers rather than the students themselves. Yet states simply can’t afford to absorb all the students that want and need this training.

    If you consider drop-out rate differentials, loan defaults, tax subsidies and corporate taxes, taxpayers are better off with for-profit schools serving the vocational sector.

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    @GADean
    Rob Long

    What’s really going on here is snobbery. Pure and simple. And power. Even purer and simpler.

    Hmmm… Weren’t we just talking about hubris? It’s always about power, which generally means money. The snobbery is just an affectation amongst these goons.

    And to Will’s point, increasingly the very best and most capable engineers I find here in Silicon Valley got their degrees in India. (Funny thing is that they can be just as snobby about their educational credentials, and they are not over-impressed with American engineers.)

    • #3
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    @OttomanUmpire

    Rob, I take some issue with aligning politics and education, for three reasons:

    1. I don’t think it’s entirely accurate. Close observers of this site will note that Ricochet insiders possess degrees from, in part, (correct me if I’m wrong) Yale, Dartmouth, Stanford, Oxford, Duke, USC, and Georgetown. While I’d stipulate a correlation between holding certain liberal arts degrees and, well, liberalism, the correlation almost certainly declines as you extend it to all majors and then to political party alignment. Instead, we’re united by first principles. Off the top of my head, these include a preference for limited government; a respect for the individual, the political process, and the rule of law; and, an understanding of human limitations.
    2. It promotes a reverse snobbery. We need to be careful that we don’t engage in the same class warfare as the left, preening ourselves instead about how unpretentious and honest we are. (I’m not at all accusing you of this preening, Rob, just inadvertently fostering it.)
    3. It suggests that conservatives lack some intellectual horsepower. The most nakedly intelligent political conversations I see are among conservatives, not among the left.
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  5. Profile Photo Member
    @
    G.A. Dean …increasingly the very best and most capable engineers I find here in Silicon Valley got their degrees in India.· Jul 30 at 10:41am

    To be fair, we’re talking apples and oranges here. Your DV/ITT grad is installing hand-held POS devices for servers at Appleby’s, not designing rockets in Silicon Valley.

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    @
    Ottoman Umpire: Rob, I take some issue with aligning politics and education, for three reasons: · Jul 30 at 10:42am

    Ottoman — To be fair to Rob, I think he was simply going for a snappy headline and some gentle self-deprecation. The real issue are the double-standards being applied based solely on — as he correctly says — snobbery.

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    @MichaelTee

    Where will Mr. Long get his Maserati serviced?

    I don’t think Ottoman, that Rob is arguing against Caltech, MIT, etc. He’s arguing FOR for profit education, and its place in the crosshairs of federal regulators. The intellectual elites have made it clear their disdain for the American people. A lot of American people go or went to these online or Vo-Tech schools. The result of these regulations will increase the costs of your average American in fly-over country to get their education in automobile repair, hairdressing, etc.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Contributor
    @GeorgeSavage
    Michael Tee: Where will Mr. Long get his Maserati serviced? · Jul 30 at 11:13am

    Michael, I’ve been in Brother Rob’s car and it’s an unassuming, practical, American-made SUV. But let’s all urge him to buy a Maserati or, my favorite, a Bentley Continental GT. As long as he gives me a ride.

    • #8
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    @JonathanZasloff

    Rob (and Trace) — I take your points about over-regulation, but it’s also important to recognize that there has been a real and significant problem with outright fraud and criminal behavior in a lot of vocational schools. I remember working on this issue briefly a few years ago: people would get federal money to learn, e.g., how to repair computers, would learn nothing, would use up their grant money, and the operator would skip town. For example: http://articles.latimes.com/1997-01-18/local/me-19724_1_pell-grant-program. My vague sense — and it is only a sense — is that Harkin doesn’t care about DeVry: he cares about Joe’s Computer Training “School” that rips people off. No one has ever accused Harkin of being a legislative craftsman, and maybe the regs are overbroad. But the origins of this, at least, are not about snobbery: “(Re)-Presenting the Modern: Studies in Gender Identity and Power in the 18th Century French Lyric”, on the other hand, is.

    By the way, Rob, what’d you get in that class? ;-)

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Jonathan Zasloff: Rob (and Trace) — I take your points about over-regulation, but it’s also important to recognize that there has been a real and significant problem with outright fraud and criminal behavior in a lot of vocational schools. · Jul 30 at 4:10pm

    Hi Jonathan — Welcome here. I’m excited to have to in the mix.

    This sector has been the focus of my work life for 13 years. (I’ll try to contain myself.) The simplest point I guess is that the Department already has very broad powers to stamp out abuse and the CLC issue you cite was an outlier that was dealt with through the existing regs. I would also say that the “criminal behavior” has not been shown to be a truly prevalent problem. Though anecdotes from bloggers abound, no student-based suit has ever prevailed in court. I would argue that these anecdotes are a smokescreen to avoid discussing the real issue:

    How much subsidy do we has a society want to bear to give those at the bottom end of the socio-economic ladder a shot at climbing out? And how much cost should the student bear for his/her success/failure?

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Member
    @
    StickerShock: Some of these for-profits have good track records. Sure, the scams take advantage of the most vulnerable, but that’s the case with any field, not just education and training. · Jul 30 at 7:47pm

    Part of what is so frustrating is the government wants to hold the schools responsible, not just for outcomes (completion/job placement) but their choices about how much debt to pull down and what their salary is. Not even Senator Harkin has credibly impugned the quality of the instruction offered. And having toured many, many schools and community colleges, I can tell you that in most cases the for-profit schools have smaller classes, smaller schools, more attentive administrators, better equipment, and FAR better job placement services.

    In all his time serving on HELP (under Boehner/Kennedy) and in the redraft of HEOA Harkin never uttered a peep about any of this. This is purely mid-term politics. He sees this as a red-meat issue for the base and a way to get his name in the newspapers.

    • #11
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    @StickerShock

    While the for-profits can be guilty of ourtright fraud, I’d argue that plenty of accredited colleges are just as guilty. Students bringing federal $$$ are welcomed at both, regardless of the fit or likelihood of anything useful being learned.

    I remember over 25 years ago several co-workers with elite bachelors degrees went to Chubb Institute for computer networking training and were quite pleased. A few years ago a nighborhood kid who was always fascinated with cars went to Lincoln Tech here in NJ and after completing a short program was hired as an auto mechanic for $75K. His high school classmates were still deciding which fraternity to rush and he had a great head start doing important work that suited his talents.

    Some of these for-profits have good track records. Sure, the scams take advantage of the most vulnerable, but that’s the case with any field, not just education and training.

    So how much intervention should government have? I’m always wary of government involvement and growing the nanny state. Health care, home mortgatges, and education are probably the three industries most poked, prodded, and interfered with of any. How’s that working out….

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    @StickerShock

    Re: holding the school responsible for how much debt a student pulls down.

    I’m curious to know what type of financial information is provided to the kids who are considering these for-profits. Is it presented in an understandable format for unsophisticated teens and their parents? I’m guessing the population served would have lower than average likelihood of seasoned, financially savy parents reading the fine print on loan agreements and the like.

    My own daughter is starting her sophmore year in college. She’s quite bright, has always had a job, is a partner in an LLC, & knows the value of a dollar (sort of.) But she would be clueless trying to navigate the college loan world. Are teens even capable of absorbing the long term consequences? I don’t know if they are. Add in language barriers for many of the families and it would be pretty easy to snooker a naive kid.

    A bit off topic, but starting in NJ this year, all students must complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate.

    • #13
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    @OttomanUmpire
    Trace Urdan

    Ottoman Umpire: Rob, I take some issue with aligning politics and education, for three reasons: · Jul 30 at 10:42am

    Ottoman — To be fair to Rob, I think he was simply going for a snappy headline and some gentle self-deprecation. The real issue are the double-standards being applied based solely on — as he correctly says — snobbery. · Jul 30 at 10:54am

    That’s a fair point, and a reasonable interpretation.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Inactive
    @OttomanUmpire
    Trace Urdan

    G.A. Dean …increasingly the very best and most capable engineers I find here in Silicon Valley got their degrees in India.· Jul 30 at 10:41am

    To be fair, we’re talking apples and oranges here. Your DV/ITT grad is installing hand-held POS devices for servers at Appleby’s, not designing rockets in Silicon Valley. · Jul 30 at 10:52am

    G.A. Dean – There may be some confusion here (I’ve experienced it myself, at least) between ITT and IIT.

    • #15
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    @GADean
    Ottoman Umpire

    G.A. Dean – There may be some confusion here (I’ve experienced it myself, at least) between ITT and IIT. · Jul 30 at 12:14pm

    Oh, I hear all about IIT. There’s quite a club of them out here. They’re not shy about explaining the excellence of the place. (Said in fun… some very good friends from IIT)

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Member
    @MarkWilson
    Trace Urdan

    G.A. Dean …increasingly the very best and most capable engineers I find here in Silicon Valley got their degrees in India.· Jul 30 at 10:41am

    To be fair, we’re talking apples and oranges here. Your DV/ITT grad is installing hand-held POS devices for servers at Appleby’s, not designing rockets in Silicon Valley. · Jul 30 at 10:52am

    Even in the rocket business, where you’d expect the US citizenship requirement for a security clearance to give you thoroughly all-American workforce, we have more than the expected share of Indian and Chinese-born-and-educated engineers (naturalized US citizens, of course). Most of them did grad school here in the US though.

    • #17
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    @OttomanUmpire
    StickerShock: A bit off topic, but starting in NJ this year, all students must complete a financial literacy course in order to graduate. · Jul 31 at 8:20am

    That, StickerShock, is the best news I’ve read all day.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Member
    @

    The money quote from Dept Ed rulemaking:

    The standards for institutions participating in the HEA title IV student financial aidprograms are important to protect taxpayers against wasting resources on educational programs of little or no value that also lead to high indebtedness for students. The proposed standards also protect students who lack the information needed to evaluate their post-secondary education options and may be mislead by skillful marketing, resulting in significant student loan debts without meaningful career opportunities. Unlike publicly-controlled or non-profit institutions – for-profitinstitutions are legally obligated to make their profitability for shareholders their overriding objective. Furthermore, for-profit institutions and may be subject to less oversight by States and other entities.

    Does anyone else see the elitism in judging “quality” or the strong anti-capitalist bias here?

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Member
    @
    StickerShock: Re: holding the school responsible for how much debt a student pulls down.

    I’m curious to know what type of financial information is provided to the kids who are considering these for-profits. Is it presented in an understandable format for unsophisticated teens and their parents? I’m guessing the population served would have lower than average likelihood of seasoned, financially savy parents reading the fine print on loan agreements and the like. · Jul 31 at 8:20am

    Fair criticism and exactly (I think) what the government should be focused on. Make the choice crystal clear to the prospective student — but then let the student make the choice how to direct their own benefits. In my personal experience many students transfer from low-cost community colleges into higher-cost for-profit programs and are perfectly aware of the financial decision they’ve made.

    • #20
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    @RobLong

    It just seems crazy to me that a student can borrow tens of thousands of dollars to study transgender puppet theater and Senator Harkin and the Democrats are okay with that, just because the student is studying it at an institution with a non-profit tax status. But if another student wants to borrow tens of thousands of dollars to study to be an x-ray technician, suddenly the federal government wants to get all up in it.

    Imagine what they’ll do if — God forbid — we ever get real school choice, a real voucher system, in place for secondary school?

    It’s the choice they hate.

    • #21
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    @RobLong

    What I’m really talking about here is choice. Fancy college degrees aren’t for everyone. And of course students who borrow a lot of money (and the taxpayers who backstop those loans) deserve some consumer protection. But it’s not clear to me that what Harkin et al are up to is consumer protection. It looks more like they’re protecting a sub-par education monopoly (the community college system) at the expense of an efficient, effective, consumer-responsive system (the for-profit colleges).

    And I guess a wider point is, whose side should we be on? I’m not making a cultural point — I’m proud of my education, and I’ll never surrender the smart badge to the left — but maybe it’s time to let some of the air out of what’s become a pretty rigid class system in this country.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Member
    @

    For anyone interested, Round Two of the Senate HELP hearings on for-profit education are live today at 10AM EDT. Don’t miss your chance to see self-serving speeches from not only Tom Harkin and Al Franken, but yes… wait for it… Bernie Sanders!:

    http://help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=19454102-5056-9502-5d44-e2aa8233ba5a

    • #23

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