By Lauren Camera
Now that Arne Duncan is no longer perched atop the Department of Education, the for-profit higher education sector is hoping his successor will take a different – and perhaps less punishing – tack toward its schools.
The head of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, Steve Gunderson, suggested in a letter this week to new Acting Education Secretary John King that he take a more cooperative approach to the department's interaction with for-profits.
"A New Year, and new leadership at the department, brings opportunities for new beginnings," wrote Gunderson, a former GOP member of Congress from Wisconsin.
He continued: "My hope is that together we can begin an era of constructive collaboration that never forgets our common mission in serving the students enrolled in our sector's schools. Unfortunately, the past six years have been marked by an era of ideological confrontation where nobody wins – especially the students."
Gunderson argued that the policies of the Obama administration over the last six years, which have led to federal regulatory and legal battles, have resulted in less access for students – especially those who have been historically underserved – and fewer workers with occupational skills.
"There is a real perception that the current government is embarked upon a war on our sector and our schools unlike anything ever before directed at any sector of higher education," he wrote. "As much as I am a fan of all sectors of higher education, I believe that no sector could survive the level of investigations and attacks that have been directed to our schools in recent years."
The for-profit college industry indeed has come under fire from the Obama administration and from Democrats in Congress after it boomed from serving just a couple hundred thousand students in 1990 to around 1.7 million in 2010. And those students, while accounting for 10 percent of all undergraduates at most, have accounted for a disproportionate amount of student loan defaults.
Gunderson framed the enrollment explosion as a result of more people seeking degrees during the Great Recession, leaving out any mention of the unscrupulous marketing and recruiting tactics some for-profit schools have been accused of. Many students enrolled at for-profit schools also never completed their programs, or did but found their degrees of little use; in both cases, they were typically saddled with high levels of student loan debt.
Most recently, the government announced a $100 million settlement – the largest ever concerning career colleges – in the wake of accusations that one company illegally compensated its employees based on how many students they recruited and enrolled in programs.
"Looking back," Gunderson wrote of the enrollment surge, "many of those students were neither academically nor personally prepared to complete their studies resulting in dropout rates and default rates unacceptable to anyone."
Gunderson argued the for-profit sector is different today than it was when President Barack Obama took office. For example, it's dramatically smaller, serving 562,000 fewer students in the 2013-2014 school year than in the 2009-2010 year. And it produced 20,000 more academic awards during the 2013-2014 school year than it did at the height of the recession.
"Today, this sector is focused upon providing career skills in areas of growing demand, often projected skill shortages," he wrote. "Unless the sector is supported in this effort, students will miss access and opportunities for real careers while employers will be unable to meet their need for skilled workers."
And as for-profits move forward, Gunderson pleaded that King take a different tack than his predecessor, who throughout his tenure skewered the sector and implemented policies like gainful employment – a regulation that requires schools to meet minimum thresholds with respect to the debt-to-income rates of their graduates.
"Unfortunately, there is a growing history of the department attacking the entire sector rather than individual schools," Gunderson wrote. "There are good and bad performers in every sector of higher education. Do not accuse any group of schools when addressing the department's concerns regarding a specific school."
Gunderson asked that higher education standards and regulations be applied fairly to all schools, "rather than continuing an ideological attack on our entire sector."
He also cited the academic fraud at some Division I athletic programs – arguing that it "far exceeds" any allegation against for-profit schools – and asked to sit down with King "as soon as possible," though he hadn't heard back from anyone at the Education Department as of Friday, an association spokesman says.
Regardless, it's unlikely King or the department will alter course significantly, or at all, as King has said several times his plans for the last year of the Obama administration are to build upon the groundwork that's already been laid.
"To the extent that higher education institutions are focused on making sure that students don't just start but finish their degrees and have degrees that are high-quality and allow them to be successful in the 21st-century economy, we are supportive of that," King said during a press conference Tuesday in response to a question about Gunderson's letter.
"To the extent that there are institutions not fulfilling those responsibilities, we are going to push them to pay attention to those things, and that is true for the entire higher education sector," King added.
Direct link to article: http://www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016/01/08/for-profit-colleges-to-new-education-secretary-john-king-play-nice
Addressing America's Growing Health Care Demand
APSCU's second look at the shortage of skills in the U.S. turns to one of the fastest growing sectors of the American economy: health care. The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects health care and health care support occupations are projected to be the two fastest growing occupational between now and 2024, with a combined increase of 2.3 million in employment, representing about 1 in 4 new jobs.
However, employers are facing difficulties as they seek to fill the rising number of middle-skill health care positions, such as Medical Assistants, Licensed Practical and Licensed Vocational Nurses. As the demand for care increases with America's aging population, this problem will only get worse.The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects a 23% growth in jobs for health care support occupations and a 16.4% growth in health care practitioners and technical occupations between 2014 and 2024.
"The combination of demographics and increased access to health care are defining the growth in demand for allied health professionals.This is not just happening in California but across the nation," said Mitchell Fuerst, President of Success Education Colleges, a growing system of allied health colleges in California and Nevada. "More importantly, we now see a significant increase in the number of graduates who use mid-level skills in health care as the stepping stone through their career to increased education, increased certification and increased professional rewards."
The U.S. must be prepared to meet this growing demand with trained middle-skilled professionals. Private sector institutions play a vital role in preparing America's workforce to rise to the challenge.
In 2015, JP Morgan Chase & Co. published a study that considered the skills gap in nine major U.S. cities. According to the study, “more than 50% of global CEOs are concerned that a key skills gap could limit their growth prospects… Helping people develop the skills they need to compete for today's jobs can transform lives and strengthen economies.”
The study also found that there were nearly 146,000 unfilled middle-skill jobs in the health care sector in seven of the nine cities examined. Because of their emphasis on skills-based education, private sector institutions will be a crucial part of the solution to closing the gap.
About Shortage of Skills
Each month APSCU will profile America’s “Shortage of Skills” (SoS) in one key industry. We will examine industries that are critical to America’s economic advancement and explain how a well-educated and well-trained workforce can address these issues.
About The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU)
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) is a membership organization of accredited institutions of higher education that provide postsecondary education with a career focus. APSCU’s work supports thousands of campuses that educate millions of students.
APSCU Press Release: APSCU's Gunderson Calls For Constructive Collaboration In Letter To Secretary King
Proposes working together to advance interests of students and promoting completion
In the letter Gunderson writes, "A New Year, and new leadership at the Department, brings opportunities for new beginnings. My hope is that together we can begin an era of constructive collaboration that never forgets our common mission in serving the students enrolled in our sector's schools. Unfortunately, the past six years have been marked by an era of ideological confrontation where nobody wins – especially the students."
The letter notes that the sector and the Department are at unique moment in time and that they should work together to advance reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, as well as improved access and completion.
Gunderson continues, "Today, we are dramatically smaller serving 562,000 fewer students in 2013/14 than 2009/10. Yet, we have heard the call for a focus on outcomes being more important than access. Despite our dramatic drop in student enrollment, we produced 20,000 more academic awards in 2013/14 than we did at the height of the recession!"
The letter also notes, "Unless we find ways to work together our students will be the real losers. They will find less access, less opportunity, less academic awards -- and most important, fewer chances at pursuing their bridge to their version of the American Dream."
"We need a new era of mutual, respectful, collaborative and constructive conversations between our government and this sector. Today, there are 3.2 million students enrolled in our schools seeking the career education and skills that enable them to pursue a place in America's Middle Class. Our students deserve no more, no less than any other sector's students. They deserve to attend schools treated with the same operational, transparency, and outcome metrics of every other school."
Direct link to press release: http://www.apscu.org/news-and-media/press-releases/Open_Letter_to_Acting_Secretary_King.cfm