Blog: Real Estate Notices, Gabe Kaplan and Faltering Traditional Schools

This might be an amateurish way to demonstrate how career schools and traditional colleges are going opposite directions, but for a quick blog post, I don’t think we have to be all scientific: in the last month, our staff has received an abundance of notices about career college real estate purchases and campus expansions while getting nada from traditional colleges.

As administrators to the news added to top stories on www.CareerCollegeCentral.org, our staff receives daily Google Alerts based on certain key words. For the search term “Kaplan,” for example, it’s not uncommon to receive press releases about Kaplan University extracted from the day's news that are perfectly suitable for our web site. The downside, though, is we get any reference in the media to the word Kaplan, including infrequent updates on Gabe Kaplan. (You remember Mr. Kotter don’t you? Well, it turns out the comedian has a hall of fame-worthy gambling resume and is competing in the 2009 World Series of Poker. This fact is among the more trivial we’ve learned in gathering career education news five days a week.)

Google Alerts are taken from news sources around the globe, from small newspapers with funky names (The Daily Gleaner in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada) to The Wall Street Journal, from wedding announcements (congratulations Kendra Anders Hopkins and Universal Technical Institute's Anthony Wier!) and obituaries to major national feature stories. Peppered in with the engagements are notices about career colleges breaking ground on new campuses or expanding old ones.

They come across about 2-3 times a week, which is an astounding rate in the present economy. We seldom use expansion notices because they are usually only a line or two in the real estate pages of local newspapers and hardly worth billing as top stories, but they come over just the same. The same can’t be said for traditional colleges and universities. Big budget investments and expansions in the traditional education realm seemed to have slowed. Scratch that, they are virtually dead.

Yes, it could be that some deals have been struck without formal announcements. Or it is possible we missed one or two. But I’m guessing that administrators aren’t going to use public money for significant expansions projects with the economy the way it is, even if they felt the college could withstand the hard economic times. Why risk the scrutiny from taxpayers? Maybe the biggest reason to hold off is the uncertain future of traditional colleges. Slow to pick up on the trend to make education more conducive and accessible to people’s lives – especially minorities – they are severely lagging behind the lead of career colleges.

For evidence, look no further than the fact quoted in the top story posted to our site yesterday:

“With the graduating class of 2008, the University of Phoenix's online campus overtook Florida A&M and Howard universities as the top producer of bachelor's degrees awarded to African-Americans.”

It’s hard to see how traditional colleges are going to catch up with struggles in both the online realm and on ground campuses. Those real estate notices aren’t going to pick up until the approach to academics turns around, and that doesn’t seem to be any time soon. Gabe Kaplan’s odds at wining the World Series of Poker might be better.

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