By Peter Galuszka
In today’s run up to the decision on the future of University of Virginia President Teresa Sullivan, two printed items are of merit. Reading them sets the stage for the moment when we know if Rector Helen Dragas “gets it” or not, in the words of another blogger.
One is an Associated Press story that notes the troubles that students at for-profit “career” colleges have in paying off their debts. So many have trouble, the U.S. Department of Education might cut off federal support for their loans to such schools.
The second story by the editorial director of the Chronicle of High Education writes of the “lost decade” of from 1999 to 2009 when colleges when on a spending binge for everything from fancy dorms to questionable new courses. In 2003, the story in the New York Times states, only two colleges charge more than $40,000 a year for tuition, room and board but by 2009 some 224 were above that mark. The tuitions were hiked to meet debt while ignoring that other sources of revenue were drying up.
The problem with the former item is that so-called “reformers” such a blogger on this site, advocate for-profit schools as a solution to Virginia’s college cost bloat. The problem seems to be that at 193 programs at “career” colleges at 93 schools, students couldn’t be gainfully employed enough despite their training and fell into massive debt. Such programs include Everett College’s paralegal training, more than 40 programs at Corinthian Colleges, a chef’s school in Austin and a medical assistant program at Sanford-Brown College up in McLean.
Ideally, such schools are a lot better than poring over Goethe or Plato in a useless German or Classics class. But their weak performance raises other serious questions. Many of these “for-profit” schools so favored by the conservatives depend on federal student aid dollars to make them work. At 25 percent oft he schools, some 80 percent get most of their revenue from federally-back loans.
Reality check! Watch another free market genie flash out the window! This is reminiscent of those wonderful new MIT and Harvard online class programs that give you no useful credit for any degree, just a handsome certificate suitable for framing. And this is the future and solution of higher education?
The opinion piece by Jeff Selingo says that this “lost decade” of mindless spending has indeed created a funding crisis on colleges and something has to be done about it. This also is a familiar these on this blog.
One little problem for the folks in Charlottesville. If the “lost decade” ended in 2009 and Teresa Sullivan wasn’t appointed president until 2010, why she be given the bum’s rush out the door for spending and planning that was done by the previous Board of Visitors and the previous president, the highly-regarded John Casteen? For example, I’m not a Hoo but wasn’t the billion dollar plus South Lawn project a Casteen deal?
The situation reminds me of a Tea Party rally I went to in the fall of 2010 in the rural piney woods near Williamsburg. A crowd of paunchy retirees in shorts and comfortable shoes shouted down Barack Obama for his role in the TARP bank bailout program. Only problem was it was George W. Bush’s program. Obama wasn’t president. Oh well. Never mind.
Anyway, today will be historic and I hope the board comes to the right decision and reinstates Sullivan.