Focus Group Participant
Reader comment on: Senate Hearing on For-Profit Education
Submitted by CHHR (United States), Aug 3, 2010 08:50
I attended a focus group about this hearing – My take away is simple. I have no problem with the "crack down" on predatory enrollment activities, but, for the life of me, why just the for profit institutions? I have three children; all three have attended college and university programs, public and for profit, on-line and on-ground. All options were available to them and I fully supported the mix – I myself am a product of that very same mix.
One attended an Ivy League Public University - absolutely no academic support for her, she was on her own and we were never guided regarding anything other than general and common loan avenues. As an intelligent student, not even scholarship potential. Independent research on our part allowed us to pay for all of her education except the final year which we secured private loans which helped tremendously with the $17k per year actual education costs. Being new to the higher education scene, we were definitely at a disadvantage in our quest. Class size was huge, never even saw or really knew her prof. When she would seek assistance, either with course work or with admissions advice, she got none.
The second, attended 2-year school, was not able to gain any support and dropped out after 2 semesters. She began her program on-line at a for profit, better support, but still no real guidance. The only solace is that the cost is much less in aggregate - no meal and dorm plans which effectively double the actual tuition costs. Best part, her books are not just those that were written by a prof in the program she attends. She has consistent and frequent communication with her prof and her class size is so small that she is actually learning in a strong interactive environment. The good thing is that she is able to focus on her educational experience from home, while attending to her child, and with the full knowledge that she is learning at the same pace as her siblings. Her costs per year only include books and averages about $15k.
The last one, another Ivy League Public, absolutely no support or consideration - she is completing her program at a private, and very expensive, college. The nearly $30k per year does give her some support, but the cost is prohibitive and we will be paying for her education well beyond any of the other two. Besides tuition, dorm, activity, and meals are equally expensive and effectively double the tuition rate.
To say that only all for profits are predatory is crazy and to say that they are the only venues practicing predatory enrollments is mind numbing to me. All of the schools our children have attended focused on one thing, enrollments. If we are to truly crack down, then crack down on all of them and do not single out a wonderful alternative venue. I do question the move though, what are they really focusing on – the crackdown on capitalism? Seems to me that the move is more to shut down, which it will do, the for profit venue. To my mind, millions will be left on the wayside never able to better themselves.
That said who has the right to tell me what a "real" education is? We learn all our lives, through a plethora of experiences and options, and the quest is never completed. For me, higher education only served to prepare me to embark on that quest, not to complete it. I felt fully enabled to embrace my personal desire for knowledge which is largely an independent process. No one educational venue can or will provide the experiences or avenues to absolute education and all options on the table have enabled many to pursue that which was unavailable previously. I myself, a single parent, went to an on-ground for my 4-yr (very stressed when caring for 3 children and working) and on-line for my masters (a much more feasible venue for me with the responsibilities I carried). I graduated both programs with honors, but the second program was more fulfilling for me since it provided me with the opportunity to fully handle all responsibilities while still learning. Over time, I developed my expertise and am now billing out at $200 per hour as an expert in my field. A friend of mine followed the same path as I; she still works as an admin (with an MBA) for less than $50k per year in income. This only highlights personal responsibility for individual outcomes and serves to support that education is what the individual seeks and obtains.
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