Private Sector Schools: Educating America’s Workforce

Detractors like Peter Fenn blindly support more regulations on institutions, placing ideology and politics ahead of the needs of students and our economy.

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President Obama has time and again touted the importance of higher education even stating our nation needs two million more college graduates in the next decade.  In fact, last week Obama dedicated significant time toward calling for college to be more affordable and accessible.

While Mr. Obama talks about the availability of higher education, skills development, and degree attainment, private sector colleges and universities are delivering on these items, while employing tens of thousands of Americans. 

For millions of nontraditional students, such as veterans, parents, and experienced workers, the constraints of a regular college schedule can make it difficult—if not impossible—to obtain a degree. Individuals working full time and supporting a family do not have similar needs or schedules to those attending typical four-year institutions who are oftentimes fresh out of high school. 

Private sector colleges and universities provide programs and curriculum tailored to the goals and lifestyles of non-traditional students. Career-oriented institutions offer classes online or at night, even during weekends allowing adults to work toward degrees, while maintaining a steady income and caring for their families.  

Further, private sector schools offer specialized degrees in high-demand industries. For instance, our schools educated nearly 40,000 nurses in 2009-2010, and more than six out of 10 allied-related healthcare professionals. Private sector colleges and universities provide course work and training in areas that are directly relevant to the future careers of its students allowing them to attain their degrees more quickly and prosper. The specialized nature of our schools, also gives students a leg up when competing against others for jobs, who have not received technical training.  

In today's economy, businesses have made it clear there's a shortage of skilled workers ready to fill job openings. This has left America's economy in a much more vulnerable position than it might otherwise find itself in.

Despite all these aforementioned benefits, critics and other naysayers, like Peter Fenn, who recently wrote in U.S. News & World Report on the subject, have been screaming for further burdensome regulations on private sector schools. These pundits demonize career-oriented institutions at every corner, but they almost always forget to mention that private sector colleges are already one of the most highly regulated sectors in all of education.

These regulations come at a great expense. More regulations lead to more bureaucracy. And in order to comply with all the new bureaucratic constraints, private sector colleges and universities incur more costs which make an education more costly and less accessible.

Detractors like Fenn blindly support more regulations on educational institutions and oftentimes place ideology and politics ahead of the needs of students and our economy. They ignore Department of Education statistics showing career colleges produce more than twice the number of graduates than community colleges for two-year degrees.

The facts are simple, career-oriented schools are educating America's next generation and helping secure our nation's economic vitality. It is common knowledge that a higher education degree greatly improves employment opportunities and income. And at a time of extended, high unemployment and economic hardship, we should not be denying anyone access to skills and training that will allow them to better their own future.

Rather than going on a witch hunt and calling for more burdensome regulations on a sector that is already heavily regulated, Fenn should recognize the important role private sector colleges and universities play in educating America's workers.

Steve Gunderson

President and chief executive officer
Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities