For-profit colleges serve student, state well

At issue | June 13 Herald-Leader editorial, "Getting money's worth not partisan; Tax dollars fund for-profit schools"

The Herald-Leader is guilty of not checking facts or looking at the statistics before sharing its editorial opinions, which seem based on misleading information or facts unrelated to Kentucky.

The public colleges that Attorney General Jack Conway and the paper speak of so positively receive nearly all of their income from tax dollars.

The community colleges in Kentucky graduate, on average, less than 20 percent of their students, while the proprietary and taxpaying institutions graduate over 61 percent of their students.

The for-profit schools receive no direct funding from either state or federal agencies. The only federal money they receive comes from students.

So which is a better investment? A college that has a 61 percent success rate or one that has less than a 20 percent success rate? Where is the federal and state funding return on investment best measured?

Absolutely, there are students who are unhappy with their school choice and who could file complaints. That occurs at both for-profit and non-profit public and private colleges.

At least for-profit college students in associate degree or shorter programs have an organization, the State Board for Proprietary Education, where they can file a complaint. Where does a public college or university student file a complaint, and what happens to those complaints?

You might want to ask the Council on Postsecondary Education that question. The answer will shock you, as it did me. But for-profit colleges which have served Kentucky well since the mid-1800's are now somehow less than responsive to Kentuckians. Makes one wonder how they have survived that long. Maybe — just maybe — they have been educating tens of thousands of Kentuckians well.

There are many more proprietary colleges with campuses in Kentucky than the 149 you mention. Those 149 are only those offering training programs and associate degrees. Nearly as many college students attend proprietary colleges granting bachelor's and above degrees as attend those at below that degree level.

In addition, many of the students attending those 149 schools do not receive any federal loans because they are not accredited. Those include schools for real estate, dog grooming and horseshoeing, which the State Board for Proprietary Education also licenses.

Your editorial was cleverly misleading. One could infer that unhappy students testified at the joint committee hearing in Frankfort when, in fact, no students testified at all. I had to read your copy three times to see that you meant students testified at the Washington Senate hearing.

You quote national statistics on default rates when, in fact, those rates might have no relevance in Kentucky. Most Kentucky-based for-profit colleges receive much less than 90 percent of their revenue from students who might get a grant or a loan to attend.

And more importantly, you compare tuition costs of a public tax-supported college to those at for-profit schools — which are not tax-supported or tax-avoiding but, in fact, taxpaying.

A much more fair and reasonable comparison would be tuition costs of private for-profit colleges with private nonprofit colleges. You will find those costs very similar. Amazing how tuition has to rise to the real cost of education when thousands of our tax dollars are not used to support institutions to allow for lower tuition.

When you add in the state and federal dollars flowing to the public colleges, on top of the tuition paid by students (much from student loans and grants), you will find the tuition costs reasonably close.

As to AG Conway's efforts: His subpoenas were a re-election sham. In fact, it could be called a fishing expedition or a solution looking for a problem.

He had few complaints from students before last August, but he made this an issue (as he has done in the past) only to help him get re-elected.

All he did was copy much of the list of subpoena items requested by the U.S. Senate committee last August of a group of national colleges. In fact, he voluntarily went to Washington to meet with the Senate committee staff before basically copying these same requests to seven Kentucky schools.

On top of that, if the SBPE was not doing its job and following the law, there is only one office to blame: the attorney general's. AG staff was the legal counsel for this board for many years until Conway arbitrarily pulled them away last November.

So before you write editorials, please take the time to get your facts in better order. All of your readers would be better served if you did.