For-profit schools don’t belong in education

Although the focus today is on for-profit schools that have defrauded students, I submit that they have no place whatsoever in education (“What Betsy DeVos Thinks She Can Get Away With,” The New York Times, Sep. 24).  That’s because producing a profit is fundamentally incompatible with education’s basic mission.

Let me explain.  In an ideal world, schools and students would equally benefit. But I don’t think that’s possible in for-profit schools.  Finding themselves caught between the interests of students and those of financial stakeholders, for-profit schools will invariably choose the latter or soon find themselves out of business.  For example, studies show that students learn more effectively when classes are small.  But hiring more teachers will always cut into profits.

Worse, for-profit schools have engaged in a pattern of lying about career opportunities.  That’s not surprising because they are always under pressure to boost profits.  In order to keep their financial backers happy, they must always produce ever greater returns.  What better way to achieve that objective than by misrepresenting facts about gainful employment.

Education is by its very nature extremely labor-intensive.  The steps that companies in the private sector have taken to please financial backers will shortchange students.  That’s why I maintain that education should remain non-profit at all levels.

(To post a comment, click on the title of this blog.)


2 Replies to “For-profit schools don’t belong in education”

  1. Agree — but with the caveat that “non-profit” cannot include a non-profit entity that subcontracts the operation of the school to a for-profit entity.


  2. Labor Lawyer: That’s right. Non-profit entities should not be allowed to subcontract to for-profit entities. Profits and education are intrinsically incompatible. We should have learned that lesson years ago with the Edison Schools Inc. In the early 1990s, Chris Whittle claimed he could improve school performance and make a profit in the process. But by 2002, the stock had plummeted from $37 a share to 14 cents. Discredited and broke, Edison found a savior in the Florida Retirement System, which bought the company for $182 million.


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