The new variation on the old "a chicken in every pot" phrase seems to be a college degree for all. While this is a fantastic goal, it is not without challenges and risks. For example, if I asked you to name the top 2 Universities in the US by enrollment how would you do? I think I know a little about higher education and I never would have guessed the two largest institutions.
The University of Phoenix with roughly 308,000 students and
Ashford University with roughly 75,000 students?!?!?
In 7 years Ashford transformed from a sleepy 300 student college to an online behemoth with 75,000 students. Both Ashford and Univ of Phoenix are "FOR PROFIT" institutions and they have been very good at the profit part of the education experience. Univ of Phoenix's revenues exceed $3 billion last year and the bulk of that money (some 80% +) was from Federal Student Aid programs. The default rate of students attending Univ of Phoenix is a staggering 26% (vs. roughly 10% for traditional institutions). Both of these schools have recently come under scrutiny by accrediting bodies which is a good thing, but the fact remains that 5 of the 20 largest schools in the US are FOR PROFIT colleges and that probably isn't an accident.
To be fair though it's not just for profits that seem to be taking advantage of the system. Included in the top ten schools be enrollment are:
# 6 Miami Dade Community College (2 yr school)
#7 Lone Star College System (2 yr school)
and #8 Houston Community College (2 yr school)
There is too much money in education to trust the market forces to work without regulation. Since this is taxpayer money we should demand a better product for our students. I have a idea on this front that I'll share soon :)