The Government’s Assault on Private-Sector Colleges and Universities

This article is from The Objective Standard, Vol. 6, No. 2.


Private-sector colleges and universities, also known as career colleges or for-profit colleges, educate more than three million people annually in the United States. These colleges—which include the University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institutes, Kaplan University, Strayer University, Capella University, and Monroe College—provide vital services to Americans seeking to improve their lives. Programs in career colleges range from information technology and business administration, to commercial art and interior design, to allied health care and nursing, to accounting and finance, to criminal justice and law. These highly focused, career-specific programs enable people to achieve their occupational goals and to become productive, self-supporting, prosperous, and happy. These colleges are, for many people, pathways to the American dream.

Unfortunately, certain individuals and agencies in the U.S. government are seeking to cripple and destroy these schools via an assault that includes fraud, collusion, and defamation. Before turning to the details of this assault, however, let us take a closer look at the enormous life-serving value provided by career colleges.

The Nature and Value of For-Profit Colleges

Career colleges are businesses that provide career-specific educational programs. They cater to “nontraditional” students—those who do not attend traditional postsecondary schools such as state universities (e.g., UCLA) or private nonprofit colleges (e.g., Williams College).

Career-college students have demographics similar to community-college students, but are on average a few years older. They are predominantly working adults seeking to improve their lives through educational programs that are directly related to their career goals. Many are employed full-time while enrolled; most have rent or mortgages to pay; many have families and dependent children to care for; and many have served in the military. These students choose career colleges because these institutions meet their needs better than the alternatives—whether traditional postsecondary schools or community colleges.

Among other factors, whereas state universities and nonprofit colleges offer courses, programs, and degrees that have little or no value in the marketplace (e.g., “Tree Climbing,” “The Joy of Garbage,” “Queer Musicology,” “Feminist Studies”), career colleges provide streamlined, career-focused training that is specifically designed to be of value to employers in the marketplace. Career colleges have no sports teams, fraternities or sororities, or the like, just market-oriented educational programs for people seeking to start, enhance, or change their careers.

In contrast to community colleges, which are not profit driven and rely heavily on direct subsidies from government, career colleges are profit driven and receive no direct subsidies. Thus, whereas budget deficiencies are requiring community colleges to turn away would-be students or place them on waiting lists for as long as three years,1 the profit motive incentivizes career colleges constantly to innovate and expand to meet market demand. Thus, career colleges usually have no waiting lists and can start new students within a month of enrollment. And whereas both traditional schools and community colleges offer what is, for many people, insufficiently flexible scheduling, career colleges provide highly flexible scheduling—days, evenings, and weekends—that enables students to integrate career-enhancing education with their busy adult lives. . . .

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