August 9, 2012

Another View: Senate committee report biased against for-profit colleges

A high percentage of graduates are entering the work force, even in a tough economy.

By John R. McKernan

It is unfortunate your editorial on for-profit colleges gave an incomplete and unbalanced description of the report of Sen. Tom Harkin and the Democratic staff of the Senate HELP Committee ("For-profit college aid should be tied to results," Aug 1). You did not mention the Republican minority comments that the Democrats' biased conduct throughout this process raised substantial doubt about the accuracy of the report.

Nor did you mention that the report covered 19 areas of school operations in addition to the student retention data you referenced.

Or that Education Management Corp. scored in the top half of the 15 companies reviewed in more than half of those categories, earning high marks for its investment in instruction and academics.

EDMC institutions graduate more than 18,000 undergraduates per year, 75 percent of whom are employed in the field or a related field of their studies within six months of graduation -- even in this difficult economy.

EDMC isn't satisfied with its student retention rate and continues to work to improve it. However, had committee staff calculated EDMC's drop-out rate using the same methodology it used for the other companies as well as identified all persisting students, EDMC's drop-out rate would have been 10 percentage points lower than the committee staff reported.

For further perspective, according to the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, EDMC's New England Institute of Art, for example, has a higher graduation rate than the University of Southern Maine, Maine College of Art, and Husson University.

All of us in higher education need to find ways for more students to complete their education, and we agree that educational institutions should, indeed, be accountable for student success, but accountability should be demanded across all institutions, whether for-profit or nonprofit, and regardless of tax status.

Former Gov. John R. McKernan Jr. is chairman of Education Management Corp.

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