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ERIC Number: ED521780
Record Type: Non-Journal
Publication Date: 2011-Jul
Pages: 18
Abstractor: ERIC
Reference Count: N/A
More than Meets the Eye: The Politics of For-Profits in Education. Private Enterprise in American Education. Special Report 2
Kelly, Andrew P.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
For decades, for-profit educational provision has been tolerated, often grudgingly. In the world of charter schooling, for-profit providers are lambasted and sometimes prohibited. In higher education, for-profit institutions have grown rapidly, enrolling millions of nontraditional students and earning enmity, suspicion, and now investigative and regulatory actions in Washington. When it comes to student lending, teacher quality, and school turnarounds, there is a profound preference for nonprofit or public alternatives. All of this is too familiar to be remarkable. The problem is that K-12 and higher education desperately need the innovative thinking and nimble adaptation that for-profits can provide in the presence of healthy markets and well-designed incentives. Alongside nonprofit and public providers, for-profits have a crucial role to play in meeting America's twenty-first-century educational challenges cost-effectively and at scale. This paper is designed to pivot away from the tendency to reflexively demonize or celebrate for-profits and instead understand what it takes for for-profits to promote quality and cost-effectiveness at scale. The author evaluates the political landscape surrounding for-profits in education--and why the traditional divides between Republicans and Democrats fail to capture both the public's and Washington's stance on the issue. Through voting data, public opinion polling, and politicians' own words, the author demonstrates that the politics of for-profit involvement in K-12 and higher education are more nuanced than they seem at first glance. The author writes, "The traditional Left-Right ideological continuum fails to capture the ways policymakers and the public confront questions about for-profit involvement in education. Instead, government policy and public opinion are built on an underlying set of distinctions that we might miss if we focus only on the high-profile partisan battles that occupy the headlines." In particular, the author points out that the Democratic position on for-profit involvement in K-12 and higher education is far from monolithic and argues that both policymakers and the public are quite comfortable with for-profit companies providing "peripheral" or supplemental education services. The paper concludes with a new framework or thinking about the politics of for-profit education. (Contains 5 tables, 2 figures and 46 notes.
American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research. 1150 Seventeenth Street NW, Washington, DC 20036. Tel: 202-862-5800; Fax: 202-862-7177; Web site:
Publication Type: Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research
Identifiers - Location: District of Columbia