College graduates, Corporate, Education Quality, Ethics, For-Profit, International, Investors, Legislation, Mergers & Acquisitions, Opinion, Regulatory, Required, University & College - Written by Wired Academic on Friday, December 9, 2011 9:11 - 0 Comments
UK Academics Oppose For-Profit Colleges Expanding in Britain
Nearly 500 academics in the UK signed a letter published in London’s Daily Telegraph, objecting to the idea of letting for-profit colleges take greater root in the UK. They warn against giving such schools access to taxpayer-subsidized loans. They also oppose letting private equity firms acquire troubled academic institutions as they have in the U.S. The letter says:
The record of private equity firms in delivering public services is exemplified by the recent debacle at Southern Cross. In the United States (the higher education system the Government is now trying to emulate), the private sector is well established, with students and taxpayers suffering the consequences.
For-profit companies offer derisory graduation rates, crushing levels of debts and degrees of dubious value. According to the US Education Trust, only 20 per cent of students at for-profit colleges complete a four-year course and the same proportion of those who do finish default on their loans within three years.
American companies recruit just 10 per cent of students, but consume 25 per cent of government-backed loans. To allow institutions driven by the pursuit of short-term shareholder value to get a foothold in higher education will be to condemn generations of students to a similar future, while the taxpayer will pick up the cost.
Link to the letter in the Telegraph
Sally Hunt, one of the signatories, expounds on the arguments here:
One of the companies currently being investigated in America for deceiving students is Apollo, the parent company of the UK’s largest for-profit provider BPP University College, who are reported to have lobbied universities minister, David Willetts, to water down regulations and give them greater access to public funding.
They have already secured major concessions. The government has increased the maximum loan available for students at private universities from just over £3,000 to £6,000, in a move the David Willetts described as a step towards bringing in more private providers.
In the US, the Education Trust has calculated that only one in five students graduate from four-year degree courses at for-profit institutions, compared with 55 per cent at public community colleges. For those who do finish, almost 20 per cent will default on their loan repayments within three years. That is around double the rate seen at public community colleges.
Perhaps one of the reasons for this is that the for-profits spend less on their students and their staff. A recent US Senate report revealed that the eight largest for-profit companies devoted an average of 50 per cent of their expenditure to education and 32 per cent on marketing. One company spent more on marketing than education.
The experience of for-profit universities in the US has been a disaster for the taxpayer with public subsidies soaring while completion rates have fallen. Ministers need to listen to those who say protecting the interests of students and securing academic standards are more important than acting as the laboratory for an experiment which risks harming our country’s reputation at home and abroad.
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