Diploma Mills


Here’s an excerpt from an interesting interview with Barmak Nassarian, associate executive director for external relations and a lobbyist with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), from Frontline’s “College, Inc.” program.  The section on loan defaults –also discussed in the Barron’s article I posted yesterday–is particularly revealing, I think.  In what follows, Nassarian is discussing quality and regulation.

Q: So we’re in the middle of a recession. Record demand for postsecondary education, am I right? And just the massive growth of for-profits. I mean, those would be the sort of saving features of what we’re seeing now.

Well, there’s one important additional dimension that makes all of that toxic, which I have a hard time communicating to people without being a little sort of colorful.

We live in a society that most transactions for goods and services involve the profit motive, and we’re used to that. There’s nothing wrong with it. But we’re also living in an advanced post-industrialist society where there are fundamental assumptions about consumer protection that we all walk around with. I walked into this room without examining the building, without any engineering drawings, on the assumptions that surely it was somebody’s job to make sure it’s not going to collapse on my head, despite the fact that it might have been built by a for-profit builder who might have had profit maximization as their primary incentive. Continue reading

The Repo-Man Comes to Campus


I finally caught the latest Frontline program, “College Inc,” on PBS late last night (no need to troll your local PBS station though–you can watch it online here).  It certainly makes for some interesting viewing.  Here’s the summary from Frontline:

Even in lean times, the $400 billion business of higher education is booming. Nowhere is this more true than in one of the fastest-growing — and most controversial — sectors of the industry: for-profit colleges and universities that cater to non-traditional students, often confer degrees over the Internet, and, along the way, successfully capture billions of federal financial aid dollars.

In the meantime, have a look at this rather dispiriting article I found in Barron’s, “Leveraging Up to Learn” (below the fold).  Some of the links below are pdfs of charts/tables. The most important, in my view, is the one labeled “Giving It the Old College Try.”

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