Chamber Backing For-Profit Colleges

The education-as-business folks over at the Chamber of Commerce have moved beyond their controversial foray into pre-k -12 education politics.

Now the group has jumped feet first into the debate over for-profit colleges, saying they are a good thing.

The Chamber here in Florida raised the ire of teachers and other union types when it came out in favor of the teacher merit pay bill adopted by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Rick Scott in March. The Chamber favors a business model of assessments and rewards for teachers, as well as backing alternatives to traditional public schools such as charters and vouchers to private schools.

Today there’s word from the U.S. Chamber that it is hot on for-profit colleges, too, seeing them as "new business models."

There has been a good deal of debate recently about for-profit colleges because they often enroll many students who rack up huge government and private loans, don’t finish course work and then either default on the loans or struggle to repay them. Florida’s new Attorney General Pam Bondi, a devote Republican, is among those looking into consumer fraud concerns in for-profit colleges’ marketing techniques, as are federal officials.

But the Chamber Monday came out in defense of the for-profit colleges.

“Congressional hearings and reports that have been critical of for-profits have sparked a flurry of regulatory activity, which could be crippling to a sector that now enrolls about 12% of college students nationwide,” the Chamber says in a post on its website announcing the new report

“College 2: Transforming Higher Education through Greater Innovation and Smarter Regulations.”

The Chamber says the for-profits can be useful alternatives to traditional colleges, where tuition has risen due to decreased state and federal funding.

Critics of the for-profits point out, however, that many charge considerably more than the public institutions. They point out that a community college still is an especially good bargain.

A footnote on an earlier claim by local Central Florida Chambers that the state and national Chambers don’t speak for them, so teachers should not be angry with them over the merit pay law. The tag on the bottom of today’s news release says “The U.S. Chamber of Commerce is the World’s largest business federation representing the interests of more than 3 million businesses of all sizes, sectors, and regions, as well as state and local chambers and industry associations.”

While local Chamber members may say the state and national Chambers don’t speak for them, the national Chamber says it does.


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