Ultimately, much of the change will hinge on for-profit institutions' transparency regarding their students' outcomes after graduation. The Department of Education's long delayed and hotly debated "gainful employment" regulations, meant to force for-profit schools to share how their students have fared post-graduation, is a "tipping point" in the evolution of online education, Garrett says.
Should the regulations demand for-profits to drastically increase educational quality by better preparing students to enter the job market or risk losing access to federal loans, the sector could drive innovation in online eduction that would permeate through the entire higher educational landscape.
"This is healthy intervention for the for-profits. It might be painful now, but will help the sector down the road," Garrett says. "If the [regulations are strict] it could turn for-profits into a more formidable sector, but that's a big 'if.'"
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