And the winner of today’s award for “best omission” is…

Today, Arizona Business & Money reported that Grand Canyon Education Inc. is doing better than other for-profit school corporations.  It quoted Grand Canyon’s CEO Brian Mueller as saying that the company is moving towards brick-and-mortar programs because “a Phoenix-based student is worth up to three times more than an online student because Phoenix students are cheaper to recruit, have higher retention rates and have longer degree programs.”

I think that’s very interesting.  In one sentence, Mr. Mueller has captured much of what is wrong with for-profit schools today.  He is making this move for three reasons that have nothing to do with the best interests of the student:  1) lower recruiting costs means bigger profits for his company; 2) higher retention rates mean students pay tuition longer before dropping out, thereby increasing profits to his company; and 3) longer degree programs means his company gets to charge them tuition longer, increasing its profits.  He sounds like a good CEO, but a bad educator.  He doesn’t say anything about higher graduation rates, which improve student’s chances of getting what the school promised, or better jobs for graduates, which increase students’ chances of repaying their loans.  What he doesn’t say gets my attention a lot more than what he does say.

If you are considering a trade school, try to make a frank assessment of its commitment to the best interests of the students.  If the school isn’t answering your questions, re-phrase them and try and figure out if there is something they don’t’ want to say.  Stick with it.  Stay away when the education is more about school profits instead of student outcomes.  That change of focus over the past 10 years is suffocating students in debt and killing us as a country.

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