Who Stands for the Students?

What will happen to the 70,000+ students who will be left in the lurch by Corinthian’s closing? This is a great time to do an independent evaluation and case study to see where they go and what they do, real time.

Much has been written about the DoE’s decision to close Corinthian Colleges. Some misguided observers have praised the decision as long-overdue and evidence that no college is “too big to fail.” No for-profit accredited college, that is.

In this blog and the next, I will examine Corinthian’s closing from two perspectives: the students who are left in the lurch with their dreams denied or deferred through no fault of their own; and the extraordinary double standard operating within the DoE that has been revealed by this decision.

You can compare and contrast the different colleges within Corinthian as Larry Barton (former president of Heald College) did in his article “Heald College closure is an education in tragedy”. The article supports a common sense implication that a more surgical approach might have spared some colleges and thereby spared some students. Root out the “bad actors” within Corinthian, if any exist.

But the DoE has not done that. Why? Because they operate with a fallacious assumption that has been touted as fact in their defense of gainful employment and other regulatory attacks on the private sector. The fallacious assumption is this: these students can, should, and will be absorbed by preferable non-profit institutions, community and state colleges among them.

This assumption is seriously flawed for several reasons:


  1. Geography/Technology: Some of these students were attending Corinthian College because it was more convenient.
  2. Course of Study: Some students found the right course of study at a price they could afford.
  3. Choice: Some students chose Corinthian because their local community college was full, or wait-listed, or they had had bad experiences there.


The California example of 2002 when the tech bubble burst is instructive. As appropriations were reduced and the applicant pool grew, community colleges and the state universities could not and did not absorb the burgeoning demand. Time to graduation grew longer and longer. Wait lists for popular or required courses grew longer and longer. And in the end, students suffered the consequences of the legislative decisions to reduce funding and restrict access.

Where is the evidence that state legislatures and Governors will behave any differently to save Corinthian students cut adrift by this DoE decision? The truth is they are on their own.

Inadvertently, the DoE has created an ideal opportunity for a research and case study of what happens when institutions are closed by governmental action. Who will do the research? The Lumina Foundation? The Gates Foundation?  I hope I am wrong, but with learners’ futures at stake, we need the data.

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