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Kaplan University: The Washington Post’s Golden Goose

John on February 3, 2011 at 1:48 pm

Apparently this has been an issue since December when the story appeared on the Huffington Post. This helpful video summarizes the controversy:

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There’s actually another clip in which a liberal professor says Kaplan is a “criminal enterprise” but listening to him you get the sense that he might see any profit making venture as a criminal enterprise.

Kaplan’s CEO has responded to some of the charges against the University at Huff Post. Meanwhile Donald Graham, owner of the Post, has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to lobby on behalf of his golden goose:

Your tuitions are too high. There is a price-fixer in private education—it’s called the U.S. government. Long-existing regulations all but eliminate price competition. We are willing to cut prices on some programs and keep them low for years in return for relief from regulations that mandate our tuitions.

Who is this defender of free markets against the scourge of government regulation? Has he spoken to the Post’s editorial board lately?

There is a point about government involvement that’s worth making here. If, as critics claim, there is too much money going to these institutions too fast, its at least partly because the government is making so much cheap capital available to attend them. If there’s one thing we should have learned from the housing bubble it’s that the lure of cheap credit is hard to resist. And what happens when lots of dollars chase limited goods or services? Prices go up of course. Take the government money off the table (or reduce the amount) and the market will settle. Eventually, institutions like Kaplan will be forced to lower prices and improve offerings to bring in students.

But as usual the left wants guaranteed outcomes. I know lots of people who got a good education from fine a fine four year university and still struggled to find a job upon graduation. Talk to any History, English or, ahem, Liberal Arts major. But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

There may need to be some attention paid to the practices of for profit universities like Kaplan, but removing opportunity for self-improvement offered to lower income individuals is not helping them in the long run. Generally speaking, we want a thriving market for people to improve their skills and education. And maybe we can hope that the experience of running, and indeed being sustained by, a large business will have a positive influence on the Post’s outlook over time.

[Cross posted at Hot Air where I am a guest blogger today.]

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