Originally published in the Daily Caller October 12, 2020
Every election cycle, liberal politicians amp up the attack on private, for-profit and nonprofit colleges to galvanize their base of voters and appease liberal educators who fear losing their jobs if public colleges compete on a level playing field with career-focused, private schools.
Jarome Bell, a retired Navy officer and spokesman for Veterans for Education Choice, argues efforts to limit private colleges hurt Americans. “This power play comes at the expense of real people who will suffer and lose the opportunity to earn a valuable degree toward a new career. Traditional four-year colleges are far too expensive and inconvenient for the millions of non-traditional students seeking to earn degrees in a specialized field.”
Attacks on private colleges aren’t about protecting students or improving the quality of education; they are about control. Democrats want to ensure students don’t have a diverse array of options and are stuck attending schools controlled by the administrative class, many of which emphasize indoctrination over education.
Criticizing innovative private schools allows education elitists to cling to their failing monopoly. Public schools often force students to undergo repugnant antiracist training and fire professors for expressing conservative views. True diversity is eliminated and replaced with a cookie-cutter progressive orthodoxy, leaving many students with a marginal degree and unable to find employment. Unsurprisingly, enrollment at public colleges is falling significantly.
This movement is supported by the same old voices who feign independence but are puppets of the Left, turning nonprofit advocacy into a lucrative business. Self-styled experts like Robert Shireman and David Halperin assault private colleges by cherry-picking data and ignoring the success of many private schools. These supposed experts are more interested in partisan politics than in helping struggling Americans obtain a high-quality education. Shireman has a particularly sordid past as he left the Department of Education in a scandal involving the short-selling of stocks of for-profit schools as regulations were introduced to hurt them.
Dishonest efforts to demonize private colleges always heat up during election years, as progressives look to get votes and money from those who benefit from the closing of private colleges.
The current craze, started by Sen. Bernie Sanders, is to argue the government should pay for tuition at public colleges, and even Joe Biden is embracing this proposal. Instead of forcing public schools to cut costs and provide a worthwhile education, administrators would be bailed out for decades of bad decisions. Private colleges would be forced to compete with free public schools, and many would fold.
Another political attack is Rep. Donna Shalala’s bill restricting veteran choice. Private colleges can only receive 90% of tuition revenue from federal student aid, but aid from the GI bill is excluded from this calculation because veterans have earned this aid. Democrats want to eliminate this exclusion, forcing the closure of 260 private schools. Under this legislation, many veterans could no longer attend career-oriented private schools that cater to their needs and schedules. Instead, veterans would be stuck in the one-size-fits-none box of public colleges.
Activists are also fighting to eliminate Trump administration changes to the Borrower Defense to Repayment plan. This rule was meant to give financial relief to students defrauded by private schools, but the Obama administration wrote it in such a way as to allow a flood of frivolous lawsuits. Secretary Betsy DeVos changed the rule to include a clear standard of proof and due process for both schools and students.
The Democrat’s policy triad hurts private colleges while bailing out failing public schools. Ironically, before the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a shortage of skilled workers, and millions of jobs were open in January of 2020. Instead of attacking private colleges, policymakers need to encourage the development of career-focused colleges to fill these jobs.
There are dozens of quality private colleges and universities that provide students with the skills needed to get a job instantly. In Texas, ECPI University in San Antonio has excellent credentials as does Western Technical College in El Paso. Grand Canyon University is a private, Christian school in Arizona, also with an excellent track record. In Florida, where I represented the state’s 22nd Congressional district, I saw first-hand the high-quality education offered by Keiser University.
Hopefully, voters see through Democrat’s election year tricks. Progressives are catering to education elitists by promising to eliminate as many private schools as possible and bail out struggling public schools with your tax dollars. If successful, this effort would be a major set-back for many Americans who want a career-focused and affordable education.
Col. Allen West, is Chairman of the Texas GOP, a former member of Congress and a military veteran