The Obama administration recognizes the problem -- but their solution is to invest in nonprofit community colleges while at the same time demonizing for-profit schools that may offer a better alternative for many students. For-profit schools allow students to choose programs that focus on concrete job skills that also fit their lifestyle, offering online or evening courses or those that don't require attendance over a traditional school year to complete.
Students themselves should be the best judge of whether these programs are worth the investment -- not the federal government. But instead of applying market principles to test success or failure, the Obama administration proposes to gauge the programs' value by how quickly students repay their loans to the government.
The effect will be that many students who need federal loans in order to enroll in programs that will boost their skills and employability will now be restricted in the choices available to them. If a student wants to learn how to repair automobiles -- which, with the proliferation of computer-based systems in most new cars, requires far higher skill levels than in the past -- they'll be out of luck unless their local community college offers the course and at a convenient time. The same holds true for acquiring software and networking skills, learning dental hygiene or medical technology, much less becoming a chef. Indeed, few community colleges offer the breadth and scope of training available in for-profit schools.
The administration should be making it easier, not more difficult, for Americans to receive the training they need and want. And they should let Americans decide for themselves which programs best serve their needs. Instead, they're closing doors to opportunity for those students most in need.
Linda Chavez is chairman of the Center for Equal Opportunity and author of Betrayal: How Union Bosses Shake Down Their Members and Corrupt American Politics .
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