Private-sector colleges and universities have become an easy target for people like U.S. Sen. Kay Hagan and others who blame them for overspending and for the nation’s lack of an educated job force. The reality is that critics have chosen a few bad apples from a large group of well-run private-sector colleges. A closer look reveals that these schools make a positive impact on their students and add jobs to the economy. The key contribution is the way they prepare their students for employment and facilitate opportunities for them to meet their educational goals.
A common complaint is that private-sector colleges spend more on marketing their schools than on facilitating high-quality education. I cannot speak for all for-profit colleges, but I can say that at The Chef’s Academy in Morrisville, a culinary division of Harrison College, our focus, and the focus of many other privately held schools, is on student outcomes and support.
Our students come from demographics typically forgotten in higher education: single parents, young families, military veterans and other non-traditional students. Our priority has consistently remained on a singular focus of supporting our students. We provide resources including tutoring, a student advisory board and third-party counseling if needed, paid for, in part, by Harrison College.
At the same time, we offer support through our existing community relationships. For instance, when students cannot put food on the table for their families, our relationships with local food banks help them obtain their basics needs.
We are involved in our students’ lives and interested in their success. We tell our students that we will do everything in our power to make their dreams come true, as long as they are willing to contribute the hard work required for their degree, and that is a promise that we stand behind.
Another criticism of many of the private-sector colleges is that credits often do not transfer to other institutions. The reality is that non-transferring credits are an educational obstacle faced by all institutions of higher education, private or public. This information is disclosed to all students, but we expect that the students who enroll at our institution will stay until they obtain their degrees.
This is due, in large part, to the high level of student support and the emphasis placed on positioning our students for career opportunities in the post-graduate job market. Harrison has a lifelong guarantee that graduates can use our career services for as long and often as they would like, regardless of when they graduate.
Assertions that private-sector schools prey on military veterans could not be further from the truth. For the last three years, Harrison College has been ranked by G.I. Jobs magazine as one of the top “military-friendly” schools in the country for transitioning veterans and their families into careers. Veterans are strong candidates because we can help them customize their educational goals to accommodate their schedule, we offer online options and we provide support to assist veterans overcome obstacles that would prevent them from meet their career objectives.
Any industry can have a few people or organizations that give the entire business a bad name. We must not give into the temptation of pitting private-sector colleges against public-sector colleges and universities. We are going to need everyone to focus on outcomes and solutions for training the 21st century workforce and bringing back our economy.
Jayson Boyers is the National Division president of The Chef’s Academy at Harrison College, located in Morrisville.