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ERIC Number: EJ1202876
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2019
Pages: 8
Abstractor: As Provided
ISSN: ISSN-0009-1383
Dangerous Metaphors: The Consequences of Treating Higher Education Like a Consumer Good
BaƱuelos, Nidia
Change: The Magazine of Higher Learning, v51 n1 p14-21 2019
In a 2017 speech at the Brookings Institute, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos drew a striking comparison between K-12 schools and ride share services. This idea--that education, like other consumer goods, improves through competition between providers--has been around a long time. Whenever existing schools fail to deliver what students, parents, or employers need, at least some regulators recommend that new suppliers should be allowed to enter the market. While the metaphor of education-as-consumer-good has enormous rhetorical power, it is deeply flawed, and education reformers must be thoughtful about its limits. Unfortunately, comparing schools to transportation and lodging obscures major differences between education and other consumer goods. These are differences that federal regulators ignore at students' peril. Unlike cars, for example--which buyers can evaluate over the course of a ten minute test drive--it is difficult to determine the quality of a college education. Education is one of the most expensive consumer goods on the market, which makes the risk students take in purchasing it an enormous one. For-profit college and university (FPCU) officials argue that over-regulation of for-profit education discriminates against non-traditional students, stifles innovation, and relieves students of their responsibility for investing wisely in education. Secretary DeVos uses these same arguments to roll back Obama-era reforms designed to protect students from fraudulent schools. Predatory practices thrive under the school-as-product metaphor. This report asserts that as we work toward innovation, equity, and quality in higher education, we can no longer operate under the misguided notion that paying for college is analogous to buying a car. So long as DeVos and others use this metaphor to slowly dismantle protections for students, higher education leaders must speak out against it.
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Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Evaluative
Education Level: Higher Education; Postsecondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A