|From the ERIC database
Proprietary Schools: Programs, Policies and Prospects. ERIC Digest.
Proprietary schools or, as they are sometimes called, "private career schools," are not well known or understood for several reasons. First, they have developed outside the traditional education community and are often owned and operated by business people who are more comfortable in the world of commerce than the education community. Second, no data are commonly collected and reported on schools in the sector. As a result, only scattered and inconsistent reports are available on even the simplest census information. Third, academic researchers in the education field have largely ignored the sector.
HOW HAVE PRIVATE CAREER SCHOOLS EVOLVED?
Since World War II, the growth of private career schools has been closely related to changes in federal student aid policy. Starting with the Veterans Education Benefits program after World War II and continuing to today's student aid program, proprietary school students have used government student grants and loans. The watershed 1972 Amendments to the Higher Education Act provided full and equal participation with traditional higher education students. Along with that use have come concerns about the quality of the programs offered, the way they are advertised, and the ethics of school owners. Charges and countercharges about the appropriateness of private career schools' participation in federal student aid programs lie at the heart of today's increasing interest in the sector.
WHAT IS THE ROLE OF PROPRIETARY SCHOOLS AND TRADITIONAL HIGHER
The differences between private career schools and traditional colleges and universities are more easily identified. At the core of the difference is the goal of realizing a profit for private owners. Proprietary schools have placed decision making in the hands of the owner, with no tradition of faculty senate or collegial decision making. Teaching positions are less permanent, because instructors have no tenure. Private career schools tend to be more sensitive to market forces than traditional colleges and, because they lack a time-consuming and limiting system of governance, can shift quickly to meet the needs of employers and the interests of students. Proprietary schools are less likely to have a board of trustees.
This argument cuts both ways. Critics cite private career schools' profit motive and lack of procedures for institutional accountability as potential causes of under-investing in the educational program and enrolling students merely to take advantage of public student aid programs. Supporters argue that proprietary schools have become a cost-effective way to deliver education to a community of students that traditional colleges have not served well, maintaining that private career schools provide diversity and energetic competition for traditional colleges.
WHAT CURRICULA DO PRIVATE CAREER SCHOOLS OFFER?
The curricula in private career schools are more structured and oriented toward job skills than usually found in traditional colleges. All students in a program generally take the same sequence of courses, with a new class starting as quickly as every two or three weeks. Much more hands-on education is available, with less emphasis on theory than in the collegiate sector. Programs whose students are eligible for federal aid range from 300 hours to graduate degrees.
WHAT ARE THE OUTCOMES OF PRIVATE CAREER SCHOOL EDUCATION?
In the short run, earnings of proprietary school graduates are similar to graduates from community college vocational programs, but little information is available about the longer-term effects on income of attending a private career school.
Private career school students report a high degree of satisfaction with their education, but a higher proportion of previously enrolled students report dissatisfaction with their education, compared with traditional college students. They are also more likely to report periods of unemployment than students attending other types of schools.
WHAT POLICY ISSUES AFFECT PRIVATE CAREER SCHOOL EDUCATION?
Charges that proprietary schools violate basic principles of fair advertising and mislead potential students are supported by anecdotal evidence, but no research suggests that these practices are prevalent throughout the sector.
The increasing concern about the quality of education offered by private career schools has led to considering the reform of state licensing and private accreditation requirements, but the appropriate role of these two entities in ensuring program quality is not well understood. State licensing and oversight vary widely among the states, from perfunctory to very specific. Licensing has three purposes: (1) to ensure applicants that a school meets minimum education standards, (2) to protect the state's financial interests in the school, and (3) to constrain unfair business practices.
Private accreditation was originally a voluntary activity designed to help institutions achieve and maintain educational quality; more recently, however, it has performed as a "gatekeeper." To participate in federal student aid programs, a school must be accredited by an organization recognized by the Department of Education. This dual responsibility has put new pressures on accreditation, to help improve education and to extend regulatory constraints on the operation of a school.
WHAT ARE THE IMPLICATIONS?
Friedlander, Marci Cox. 1980. Characteristics of Students Attending Proprietary Schools and Factors Influencing Their Institutional Choice. Cincinnati: South-Western Publishing Co.
Goodwin, David. 1989. Postsecondary Vocational Education: Final Report. Vol. 4. Washington, D.C.: National Assessment of Vocational Education.
Wilms, Wellford W. 1976. Public and Proprietary Vocational Training: A Study of Effectiveness. Lexington, Mass.: Lexington Books.
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This publication was partially prepared with funding from the Office of Educational Research and Improvement, U.S. Department of Education, under contract no. ED RI-88-062014. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily reflect the positions or policies of OERI or the department
Title: Proprietary Schools: Programs, Policies and Prospects. ERIC Digest.
Descriptors: * Accreditation [Institutions]; Certification; Educational Quality; Enrollment; Higher Education; * Intellectual Disciplines; * Outcomes of Education; * Policy; * Proprietary Schools; State Aid; State Standards; Student Characteristics
Identifiers: ERIC Digests
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