American Legislative Exchange Council member and wind-up politician and arch-conservative, Virginia Foxx on the congressional floor
A recently submitted House Bill, H.R. 2117, would repeal a regulation commonly known as the “state authorization rule.” This rule is a mechanism designed to ensure that colleges adhere to state laws that govern them if they are to receive federal financial aid. States require that colleges seek authorization to operate within their borders. The problem is that with the rapid growth of online education programs, states have no way of knowing who or what company is operating within their jurisdiction, unless the college maintains a physical campus. The state authorization rule requires that programs receiving federal financial aid verify that they have authorization from the states they operate within.
The reactionary conservatives hate the regulation and many of them, like arch-conservative Virginia Foxx from North Carolina who is also a member of American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), are operating as hand tools for the for-profit educational industry in an attempt to dismantle all regulations that govern the for-profit educational sector. Instead, they seek to set up their own new ‘state enabling boards’.
During the floor debate on the new proposed House bill, Foxx claimed that the current Department of Education regulations would:
“stall the efforts in our country to make higher education more accessible and affordable to everyone” (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-28/u-s-house-votes-to-ease-restrictions-on-for-profit-colleges.htm).
Any cursory review of Foxx’s record (http://www.truthout.org/congresswoman-accepts-money-profit-college-lobbyists-then-touts-schools-efficiency/1325699179) shows that Foxx is in the pay of her corporate masters and has no interest in expanding educational opportunities for anyone, let alone North Carolina students. That is unless expanding opportunities mean gutting public education while accepting monies from the for-profit educational sector and at the same time working to assure that criminal enterprises like Kaplan University or the University of Phoenix are allowed to charge $40-50,000 or more in tuition for programs that are often unaccredited and send the ‘student/consumer’ spiraling into debt purgatory.
As I wrote at Truthout.com (http://www.truth-out.org/how-north-carolinas-shock-doctrine-artists-are-resegregating-higher-education/1329494334), North Carolina has just swept into being a new ‘enabling board’ to supervise the for-profit college and universities that operate and might wish to operate in the future. The new enabling board must have by law a majority of for-profit college members and has been created to assure the removal of public supervision, transparency and oversight of the colleges. The bill was introduced by ALEC members and the board is now packed with a majority of for-profit board members.
In Georgia the for-profit colleges and university regulatory board has been gutted as well (http://dailycensored.com/2012/02/22/georgia-north-carolina-for-profit-college-deregulation-tied-to-alec/) through a bill introduced by state legislature and ALEC member David Casas, and the same thing is happening in Arizona where a North Carolina type board is being conceived (http://www.azsos.gov/public_services/Title_04/4-39.htm, http://www.azleg.gov/legtext/49leg/1r/execnom_summaries/senate/jeffrey%20l%20%20gearhart%20acpe%20ed.doc.htm. One would have to go state by state to see what each of the states are doing in regards to passing favorable legislation for the for-profit educational industry. One thing is clear: ALEC is behind model legislation for the for-profit colleges and universities that is sweeping parts of the nation.
The reason that the for-profit colleges and university retail chains do not want regulation and oversight by the public is due to the fact that they are little more than ‘chop shops, ‘drop-out factories’ where students are directed due to lack of affordability and access to public colleges and institutions. They teach little if anything. This is why Foxx and her ALEC cohorts work assiduously to dismantle public education. Removing public education is like removing the public option for health care – it assures that the market for the for-profit educational slop shops where education is boiled down to a sickening, commodified roux is expanded.
Even though the Education Department said in May 2011 it won’t enforce the federal-aid ban on schools making “good-faith efforts” to obtain state authorizations by July 2014, the reactionary hand-tools for ALEC feel that the climate is now right to push for a House bill overturning the Department of Education regulations and they are doing so state by state.
The Obama administration is obviously against the new house bill and the Office of Management and Budget issued a statement this week that Congress shouldn’t prevent the Education Department from “responsibly administering these programs and ensuring that consumers and taxpayers are protected from fraud, waste, and abuse,” (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2012-02-28/u-s-house-votes-to-ease-restrictions-on-for-profit-colleges.htm).
Prospects for the legislation’s advancement remain small in the Senate, where Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin, chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, has also sponsored a measure to reduce the amount of aid designated for active military personnel and veterans that for-profit schools can receive.
Regulations that define what a ‘credit hour’ is for college and University purposes
If you have ever gone to college or have known someone who has, then you no doubt have heard of the college ‘credit’. Yet you may be surprised to learn that although most colleges define their degrees by the number of credits earned, incredibly there’s no common definition for what a credit is.
A New York Times article recently quoted an immigrant from Ecuador who was amazed at how little she knew of the community college system: “I didn’t know what a credit was.” Turns out, she’s not the only one. It may be surprising to learn that although most college graduates earn around 120 credits to get a bachelor’s degree, there is no way to know whether a credit earned at one college signals the same amount of learning as a credit earned at another (http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/08/college_credit.html).
The result of the ambiguity and vagueness of the term ‘credit hour’ is what one would expect when studying the for-profit college industry: some for-profit colleges have exploited the ambiguity over what a ‘credit’ actually is by inflating their credits to the point where one school offered nine college credits for a five-week course.
One of the new Department of Education regulations puts a stop to such practices by instituting a common understanding of what the term “credit” means. The reason offered for regulations regarding the credit issue is simple: the Department of Education wants to ensure that the for-profit colleges are not inflating credits to get their hands on more student financial aid in the form of taxpayer monies. For example, the American InterContinental University was singled out by the Education Inspector General for its inflationary credit policy. They are hardly alone.
The proposed Department of Education regulation is proposing to define a credit in three ways:
- One hour of classroom or direct faculty instruction and a minimum of two hours of out-of-class student work for 15 weeks in a semester or trimester program
- An equivalent amount of work to one hour of classroom time and two hours of out-of-class work for other academic activities such as laboratory work, internships, practica, or studio work
- Reasonable equivalencies to the amount of work required in one hour of classroom time and two hours of out of class work, represented in intended learning outcomes and verified by evidence of student achievement (ibid).
Unfortunately, a ‘common definition’ is bad for the for-profit college and university business and this is why they are using their political supplicants and surrogates to change the law.
H.R. 2117 seeks to repeal the Education Department’s newly coined definition for the term “credit hour” so that they can continue to offer as many credits as they can for sale. This allows them to then claim that a BA can be secured in one year or a two year degree can be achieved in less than one year. The fact is that the for-profit colleges and universities offer little in the way of education and ‘credits’ are simply something to be sold on the open market, over the counter at the educational retail chain. For the recruiters who are told by the corporate management of these rackets to get “assess in the classes” and for the for-profit teachers who are told to “keep the meat in the seat”, credits translate into high rates of profits for the privatized educational industry. Defining the term ‘credit’ in the interest of profit is what Apollo, Kaplan, Strayer, ITT and the other little shop of horrors want.
Under capitalism getting an education, especially a higher education, is an expression of ones monetary worth for only money can assure that one gains access to the corridors of education. For those that do not have money education or are not a member of the lucky sperm club, education or better said degrees, are purchased with debt. It is this debt that is gobbled up by the for-profit colleges and universities as profits and bonuses for CEOs. The entire for-profit college enterprise is based on and fueled by student debt, for few if any students attend these colleges for ‘cash’.
No, the majority of students who attend the for-profit predatory colleges and universities are minority communities and women who are barred from attending higher educational institutions due to both racism, sexism and classism – the latter an expression of their lack of money. It is ordinary people’s need to work to support themselves and their families that is driving the for-profit educational industry. Without a college education a US citizen makes 77% less than a citizen who has a college degree. Thus the necessity to go into debt just to rise on the salary chart of an organization or to even get one’s foot in the door for hiring purposes becomes a scramble to get a diploma, not a passion to be educated.
The for-profit colleges and universities can never deliver an education that promotes critical thinking or citizenship education. They are simply not set up as businesses to do this; nor is this their function in a capitalist society where education has been cast as a means to an end and reduced to little more than a commodity that is bought and sold in the form of ‘credits’ and ‘degree’s both of which have little meaning in emotional and cognitive life. Until we as Americans stand up to protect and expand public education and universal access to both college and vocational education we will see the continuous rise of the for-profit educational sector and the diminishment of the critical capacities of our citizens. We will be left with corporatized health care that cannot promote health and corporatized schooling that can hardly advance education.