If there is one thing Americans agree upon today is that public higher education in the U.S. is a mess. A is the most popular grade today and the C is considered an “endangered species.”
The good news is that the Trump administration is working to make things better.
U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos has been tireless in implementing President Donald Trump’s deregulation agenda by promoting school choice and making fairer federal rules for responses to charges of discrimination and school racial disciplinary procedures.
Last week she took a momentous step to open monopolist college accreditation procedures to more for-profit schools. A very few university accreditors decide which colleges can be created and what they have to do to survive. These are staffed by progressive establishment pro-government administrators who assure college education is a public and non-profit sector product, enforced by denying access to federal student aid programs.
Secretary DeVos reinstated the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) as one of a few U.S. accreditors open to approving for-profit colleges — especially smaller ones.
In 2016 the Obama administration had effectively closed it down by ordering the 300 for-profit schools recognized by ACICS to find another accreditor — which did not exist.
For-profit colleges enroll 2.3 million students, from small trade schools to the mammoth University of Phoenix, providing inexpensive courses mostly on line. President Barack Obama’s war on profit education began with Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute and the pressure helped place them in bankruptcy, which the government then used as justification for the attack on ACICS.
ACICS was founded in 1912, but since the Obama persecution it has been able to retain only 50 schools today. For-profit education had few influential friends until a DeVos speech supported profit colleges by saying they may be different from mainstream institutions but “If it’s the right fit for the student, then it is the right education.”
But the bias continued, with the liberal Center for American Progress’ expert calling profit colleges “special interests” opposed to students’ interests, suggesting it is unlikely that the DeVos reforms could survive President Trump.
Her efforts to help these colleges were opposed even by her own career staff.
That is why real education reformers skip accreditation altogether, innovators such as a private entrepreneur in North Carolina by the name of Robert Luddy.
CaptiveAire CEO Luddy has an enviable record in local non-profit elementary and secondary education with four public charter school campuses from kindergarten to high school, eight Thales Academy private classical-education primary and secondary schools, and one private religious high school.
Luddy’s success can be measured by a story sent to him by a statewide book salesman.
“I was at a private school in Charlotte yesterday and got quite an earful from the principal about the Thales Schools! The Waxhaw campus is making many principals in Charlotte very nervous. It made me laugh to see them on their heels! The guy swore up and down that ya’ll have to be getting subsidized in some way. Look at the tuition and look at the quality of teachers.
“There is no way someone can make that work without extra money from somewhere.”
Luddy does not take government funds for his private schools, or subject them to accreditors who want to force conventional (failed) practices, bureaucracy and costs on them.
Robert Luddy has now announced a non-profit Thales College in Wake Forest also without school or student government funds and with private management.
Students will pay merely $4,000 per trimester in tuition and earn a degree in three years, saving costs by emphasizing a “flipped classroom” where most of the learning is by the students themselves on a busy reading, work and on-line regimes, with regular faculty interaction year-round, only moving to the classroom well-read and ready for serious discussion.
The mission is a liberal arts and sciences education for students settled in their communities to develop “the wisdom — intellectual ability, moral courage, subject knowledge and professional competence — needed to thrive in life and work.”
Faculty will have doctorates, teaching and mentoring abilities, and be able to connect students to deep educational themes. There will be a single bachelor degree but specializations in business and entrepreneurship; politics, philosophy, and economics; and humanities and literature, history and education.
Courses include grammar, logic, rhetoric, finance, mathematics, ethics, and American political thought — all organized around the great books. These are works comprising a necessary foundation of Western literature.
The college plans to open next year.
Public higher education is badly broken, with its accreditation monopoly enforcing its uniformly liberal-progressive, anti-private education model of political correctness.
In the short run courageous political reformers like Secretary DeVos can open up some badly-needed opportunities but the more critical need is more bold private entrepreneurs like Luddy to create actual profit or non-profit private competition for the long run.