Durbin Right on Challenge, Wrong to Target Private Sector Schools: Private Sector Colleges are Helping Americans Get Ahead

February 1, 2011 — Washington, DC — Assistant Senate Majority Leader Richard Durbin (D-IL) spoke today at the annual meeting of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities about the critical need for all sectors of higher education that receive taxpayer funding to be held to high quality and outcome standards. The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) shares Durbin’s belief that there must be clearer measures of outcomes in higher education, including traditional higher education, especially for programs funded by taxpayers, whether that funding be through direct subsidies to the institutions themselves, such as those received by state colleges, universities, and community colleges and not-for-profit private institutions that receive federal and state grants and earmarks, or through financial assistance to students who can choose which institution to attend.

“We want a level playing field that measures institutional quality primarily on student outcomes, taking into account the educational and economic backgrounds of students,” said Harris N. Miller, APSCU President. “What I hear Senator Durbin and many other Members of Congress saying in these times of scarce resources is they want to get the most bang for the higher education buck, especially as this country expands its efforts to include non-traditional students in the postsecondary system. The tax status of the institution should be irrelevant, as long as the results are there. Because our sector is a leader in educating non-traditional students who are primarily in school to improve their lots in life, our schools are very focused on student outcomes.”

Miller continued, “At a time of persistent high unemployment, private sector colleges and universities are training workers for jobs in growth areas. Without a vibrant and growing set of private sector colleges and universities, our nation’s unemployment will increase, federal and state deficits will grow, skilled worker shortages in key areas such as healthcare will continue, and the gap between the rich and poor will widen.”

Miller urged higher education policy leaders to reject proposals, such as the Department of Education “gainful employment” rule, that singles out private sector colleges and universities, would not eliminate bad programs, but would produce unintended consequences that are contrary to Senator Durbin’s stated goals, and undermine President Obama’s call for the United States by 2020 to lead the world again in the percentage of adults with a college credential. The regulations would cut necessary jobs and deny the opportunity for 2 million students by the end of this decade to obtain a postsecondary credential. “We share the President’s 2020 objective, but it is simply not possible to achieve without vibrant private sector colleges and universities,” added Miller.

In a recent editorial, Durbin’s hometown newspaper, The Chicago Sun-Times agreed with this sentiment and stressed that the United States must harness the capabilities of all schools and understand that career colleges are providing paths towards jobs for thousands of students who otherwise wouldn’t have the opportunity to obtain degrees.

“Standards are necessary, and common ground between Senator Durbin and APSCU exists. We look forward to working with the Senator to craft policies–based on agreed-upon facts rather than embellished anecdotes—and see that they are effectively enforced that incentivize all colleges and universities to produce positive results for student, taxpayers, and the country,” Miller concluded. “Proposals that target students in only one sector of higher education, such as ‘gainful employment,’ run directly contrary to that objective, as well as against President Obama’s recently announced regulatory reform approach.”

About APSCU: The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities is a voluntary membership organization of accredited, private postsecondary schools, institutes, colleges and universities that provide career-specific educational programs. APSCU has more than 1,800 members that educate and support over one million students each year for employment in over 200 occupational fields. APSCU member institutions provide the full range of higher education programs: masters and doctoral degree programs, two- and four-year associate and baccalaureate degree programs, and short-term certificate and diploma programs. Visit APSCU at www.apscu.org or follow us on Twitter: apscunow. On September 22, 2010, APSCU changed its name from the Career College Association.

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