Given the extraordinary regulatory and political challenges facing career education, what improvements/innovations does the sector need to implement to remain a leader in higher education?
All of higher education, traditional and proprietary schools alike, must work together with policymakers to develop comprehensive, analysis-driven policies that will preserve taxpayer funds and address the issues of excessive student debt, access and measurable academic quality across all sectors of higher education. We need to work with, and not against, traditional higher education. We share a common cause with them. The economic future of our country depends upon meeting President Obama’s ambitious goal of leading the world in college graduates by 2020.
Influencing the minds of opinion leaders, policymakers and the general public as to the value of the educational experience our institutions offer must be our top priority. This involves a much more robust, data-driven discussion about the value proposition of proprietary institutions and the role we play in the larger postsecondary equation. It also involves the further development of institutional and sector-wide best practices concerning transparency and accountability. Finally, it involves pursuit of higher education policies that treat at-risk students equitably no matter what institution they choose to attend.
Putting students first – ensuring access and success – and never losing sight of the imperatives of quality, integrity and accountability are nonnegotiable ways we as a sector can demonstrate our role as being an invaluable part of education.
Please explain the innovations you’ve brought to (or observed in) career education. What led you to recognize the need for these innovations? What has been their impact on students and higher education?
Education is an establishment based on trust. And trust begins with transparency in the way we do business, especially in how we communicate with students. I am proud of the compliance initiatives that our company has established and that our employees have embraced. For example, student consumer information pages available on the landing page on all of our schools’ websites include required and voluntary disclosures, such as job placement rates, financial aid facts, tuition and housing data, career services information, and more to help students become informed consumers.
For employees, trust and accountability are maintained through mandatory Code of Conduct training, which certifies faculty and staff in the areas of compliance, business ethics, legal responsibilities and in maintaining a professional work environment.
The reason for the focus on transparency and compliance is that our students have made us their schools of choice, and we, in turn, are obligated to give them the guidance along the way that empowers them to succeed. When it comes to education, there is no other option but to always do things right.
What quality about career colleges or their students motivates you personally?
What motives me is the combination of who we serve and what we deliver. Many of our students come from an underserved population: career changers, working adults, low-income individuals, minorities or being the first in their families to attend college. They are at risk of failing to complete their education, but we are able to adapt quickly to their needs and to help the students be successful.
Regardless of our students’ statuses, we give them all the skills, tools and confidence they need for a lifetime of success – from preparing graduates for their first, exciting foray into the business world to helping busy professionals broaden their career possibilities. We deliver through credentialed faculty, caring staff, financial aid counseling and career services, relevant academic programs, and industry-current facilities.
In fact, because of these attributes, I proudly supported my son’s decision to attend The Art Institute of Tennessee – Nashville to earn a Bachelor’s degree in Audio Production. The school’s professional audio studios were designed by Walters-Storyk Design Group, a global audio/video firm founded by John Storyk, a leading recording studio architect. It is this kind of career-focused environment that will prepare my son well for his future, and I have the same hope and belief for all our students.