USA Today, May 13, 2012
by Steve Gunderson
Private-sector colleges and universities have grown dramatically in recent years. Today, they serve more than 3 million postsecondary students — almost 13% of the total college enrollment. But this growth comes with a similar increase in scrutiny. That's fair and appropriate. What is not fair is when a criticism against one school is used to denigrate an entire sector.
Those who run afoul of rules and regulations governing the actions of institutions of higher learning should be held to account, as all colleges are regulated by state licensure and national or regional accreditation.
Traditional and career-oriented sectors of higher education have important roles to play in meeting President Obama's goal of leading the world in college graduates by 2020. With state budget cuts, traditional institutions alone can't meet our goal of 8 million to 23 million additional workers with postsecondary skills by 2020.
We play a central role in preparing America's workers by offering flexible schedules, tailored curriculum and a personalized approach that reflects the needs of people with responsibilities outside their education. We educate non-traditional students — adults, parents and veterans — who will fill the jobs employers currently say are vacant due to a lack of qualified individuals.
All schools should be measured by the same standards — no more, no less. When the administration and Congress apply such standards to all postsecondary institutions — such as the recently released executive order addressing veteran students — we applaud their hard work. But we will not sit idly by and allow hardworking employers who operate private-sector schools to be targeted with burdensome, unfair regulations that will result in higher unemployment and fewer educational opportunities.
America's private-sector colleges and universities take great pride in educating America's workers, particularly the nation's military personnel. About 175,000 veterans, spouses and dependents have chosen to continue their education at our institutions. They and so many others have voluntarily decided to do so because they obtain and develop the skills needed to compete and succeed in the 21st century workforce.