As the U.S. Department of Education discusses ways to regulate for-profit education institutions, many industry leaders are warning them not to “overstep.” The U.S.D.E. is on track to implement new policies in 2011 in response to several reports that for-profit colleges are employing aggressive recruiting tactics and dishonest marketing practices.
But these rules could “slow the growth of career colleges,” for-profit schools which traditionally cater to low-income or non-traditional students, cautioned Randy Pronto CEO of the American Institute, a company that operates schools in New Jersey, Connecticut and Florida.
Career colleges are some of the biggest exporters of medical and healthcare graduates; graduates that help meet the growing needs of the nation’s rapidly expanding healthcare field. In online education and career schools, healthcare is one of the most frequently pursued areas of study, and these schools pride themselves on placing graduates straight into the healthcare workforce, an expansive industry which employs millions. In fact, surveys performed by the National Center for Education Statistics show that 42% of healthcare students attend online schools or career training programs.
Pronto understands the charges against for-profits, and with $24 billion in federal financial aid funneling into for-profits, the American Institute CEO agrees that regulations need to be enforced. However, he wants to ensure that for-profits are not singled out and that regulations are imposed across the entire higher-education spectrum. “I’m not opposed to being regulated,” he said in an interview. “We just want fair rules.”
Ultimately, says Pronto, “the rules are being applied unequally,” and lessening the chances some underprivileged students may have to pursue a degree. Steve Pearlstein, an award-winning business columnist for The Washington Post and surprise for-profit supporter commented recently that for-profits, “offer the only way to make cost-effective higher education more widely available.”
Regulations are fundamentally important, but regulations that lessen the chance of some students to earn a degree, says Pearlstein, may be a “huge mistake.”