Huffington Post ran a very good investigative piece on how colleges and OPMs, the entities that help colleges run their online courses, rip off students. It’s quite long, but I guarantee that if you are interested in education in America, have a read.
Education should be free
It is no surprise at all that Americans are not satisfied with the education system and increasingly prefer acquiring skills in some other ways than going to college. The student debt in America reaches $1.5 trillion, only behind mortgage in America. It’s an insane phenomenon. Why are students saddled with debt by the thing that is supposed to help them get a better life? According to the article, when colleges had a chance to solve the issue by offering online courses and degrees, they chose their pockets over students.
How is it even possible that a university at #8 offers a similar online degree at almost a tenth of what universities at lower ranks offer? If Georgia Tech can break even at $7,000, what could justify the outrageous difference other than too much greed from the universities and OPMs?
I believe wholeheartedly that education, along with healthcare, should be free for citizens. It would lead to a lot of significant ramifications in policies, laws, and the society. Yet, if other developed countries can do so, why can’t America?
Is the reputation of the university worth the debt?
When I was a kid, my dream was to go to Harvard or an Ivy League school. I don’t know if I can, but if admission to a school like that means that I will be drown in debt, given that I know I won’t be good enough for a 100% scholarship, I won’t go there. I believe that education isn’t equal to schooling. If you study when others party, work when others slack off on the weekends, you can still have success and a good life. I am sure anyone of us met a person or have a friend who succeeds with hard work and no Ivy League degree.
We need regulations
Here is what the article mentioned about regulations over online education in the US:
Kaplan Higher Education never really recovered from the combination of business missteps and the intense public scrutiny of the for-profit industry in the late 2000s. In April 2017, Donald Graham announced that Kaplan University was being sold for $1 to Purdue University, Indiana’s public land grant college. It sounded like Purdue had picked up a distressed asset and turned it into a public concern. But that’s not exactly what happened.
What Purdue really did was create a separate organization, eventually named Purdue University Global. It was granted a highly unusual legal status by the Indiana legislature, in which it is simultaneously considered a nonprofit institution immune from Bob Shireman’s for-profit regulations and a private institution immune to public records requests.
It sounds impossibly convoluted, but it’s actually quite simple. Grand Canyon put all of its academic operations into a nonprofit that serves as a conduit for federal financial aid. (Last year, Grand Canyon received over $760 million from federal student loans, the most of any college or university nationwide.) The nonprofit university is also able to avoid local property taxes and for-profit regulations, not to mention the industry’s toxic reputation. But most of the profits eventually end up in the same place—with LOPE, a $5 billion corporation. Grand Canyon University is “not non-profit in any meaningful legal sense,” wrote Brian Galle, a former attorney in the tax enforcement policy section of the Justice Department, in a letter to the Department of Education
The person in charge of higher education at the department is Diane Auer Jones, a onetime official in George W. Bush’s Department of Education who worked for some of the most powerful operators in the previous for-profit scandals.  Before entering the administration, Jones operated a company associated with the private student loan industry and the main trade organization of for-profit colleges. Previously, she was the chief external affairs officer for the Career Education Corporation, which dealt with multiple lawsuits and government investigations during her tenure.Soon after starting at the department, Jones promptly threw out all of the regulatory work that her predecessors and career staff had been developing and began rushing through new versions that she wrote all on her own, according to a staffer currently working for Jones. “The political staff are writing the regulations in secret and the policy staff are kept in the dark,” the staffer says. (The Department of Education didn’t respond to a request for comment.)
Jones’ proposed rules, released in January, amount to a sweeping deregulation of higher education. They include abolishing a rule that prevents colleges from outsourcing more than half of a program to outside companies—for example, OPMs—and a rule that bans federal aid to programs where students don’t interact with an instructor. “We’re talking about basic questions here, like the amount of student learning we should expect and what the faculty role is,” says James Kvaal, an Obama White House official who is now president of the Institute for College Access and Success. “The prospect of removing any federal guardrails at all is really scary.”
What else can protect citizens from profiteers and crooked organizations besides regulations? Sadly, this doesn’t seem to be the case here.
No, it’s not capitalism
The article’s title is “the creeping capitalist takeover of higher education”. I have to clarify before ending this post that in my opinion, this is crony capitalism, not pure capitalism. Greed is good, but toxic and excessive greed isn’t. If you participate in a free market, follow the laws and succeed with your talent and effort, there is nothing with that. But if you skirt the laws, bend the rules and make money on others’ backs and lives, it is no longer capitalism.