Is Buying Respect a Bad Thing?
There is a great article in Business Week from March 15, 2010 about how for-profit education companies like ITT and Corinthian Colleges are buying small schools to acquire regional and national accreditation. The article takes a pretty aggressive tack on the damaging effects these corporate behemoths are having on the education system, not to mention the seizing of government financial aid dollars.
There may be another way, albeit perhaps too optimistic, to look at this. This country was founded on capitalism. If not for the ambitious entrepreneurs and companies like GE, Apple, and Walmart, drive to make money, we might not even have the economy we do have. Of course there are whole books dedicated to that debate, but maybe the for-profit education revolution isn’t such a bad thing. Just because your school is a non-profit doesn’t mean that you run it efficiently, nor does it mean that you provide a quality education. I’d put my money on UOP from a business operations standpoint before UCLA any day. That said, I think the bigger question is about education quality. Can a for-profit school that does 90% of its classes online really make a student smarter?
One thing I’ve always believed is that the student is more important than the school – meaning that a student that wants to learn and applies himself will get a better education at a seemingly lower rate school than another student who didn’t do the work but attended a prestigious school.
That aside, for any business to have longevity, it must have a good product and something people want. Education is no different. The for-profit educators that invest in the quality of their product (teachers and curriculum) will be the ones that last. It would seem to me that the most successful educational institutions in this country will be those that blend good operations and revenue focus with quality product; companies like ITT and University of Phoenix have definitely got the former done, let’s see what they can do on the latter.