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Why I’m Thankful For “For Profit Education”

August 11, 2010 4 comments

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A decade ago I started my first job. While I cannot recall all of the two week training, I vividly remember the President and Chief Operating Officer coming in and making a speech. Andrew Rosen, now CEO of Kaplan Inc. said, “Congratulations on working in a company that changes lives. Neither myself nor anyone else in this organization will ever ask you to do anything that you cannot go home and brag to your grandparents about. You will go home everyday proud of the job that you do – because what you are doing is changing people’s lives”.

Over my six years with the Kaplan Inc. conglomerate – he was right. My initial training was engrained in me and still is; “Enroll the right student, in the right program, at the right time.” Those of us in the for profit education industry that live and work by that Kaplan motto go home everyday and say to ourselves, “I changed a life today.”

With all of the negative light shining on the for profit education industry, recently I’ve been feeling angry and a bit jaded. Certainly, there are one or two ‘bad apples’ and everyone makes mistakes; but what was not shown are the thousands of lives that have been changed for the better because of for profit education. The government chooses to neglect to mention that for profit education came about based on a need. There were (and still are) thousands of people who were unable to get into a community college or state universities because the classes were too small, not offered at the right time, and sometimes – too expensive. The pioneers in the for profit education industry have helped better hundreds of lives and supplied thousands of degrees to those who would have otherwise not had an option.

Certainly, I am against any fraudulent behavior, and I don’t think setting regulations is a negative. However, the public slamming of an industry is not just hurting the businessmen; more importantly, it degrades the names of the institutions and devalues its education; this affects the students. Graduates of these programs not only took courses that met the same academic standards as any other regionally accredited institution, but they were also extremely disciplined and determined. They should be applauded for their degree; not meant to feel bad about it.

I go back to the statement Andrew Rosen made eight years ago and look at what he, as well as some of the other leaders in the for profit industry have said and done; and I’m proud to be a part of bettering people’s lives. I’m thankful that educators were innovative enough to allow for the growth in the for profit and non profit education world; and I hope that we remember, as we are reviewing and revising the regulations, that these men are brilliant businessmen. The CEOs in these companies could have gone anywhere and done anything; but they chose to help people. They did not choose to short stocks or to bet against the mortgage industry; they chose to better people’s lives. The government needs to remember that before defaming these schools and their names.

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