Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Pogemiller offers full-throated support of for-profit colleges

Lately, Governor Dayton's appointees have had a rough time. We've seen one fired and two more placed on a watch list. Former Senator Larry Pogemiller had no such trouble Wednesday, with his confirmation recommended on a voice vote by the Senate Higher Education Committee. But it was what Pogemiller said that caught the eye of the Uptake's Mike McIntee, who posted this video of the hearing.

Watch live streaming video from uptakemnsenate at

I am, quite frankly, shocked that Pogemiller thinks this way about higher education. In his opening statement, he states that higher education is "not sustainable" and we need to "wisely learn from the innovation of the for-profit sector to institute some of that into our public higher education."

Pogemiller continued, "I think this will be illustrative .. I said to [Governor Dayton], well, what do you think of the for-profits? He looked right at me and said 'whatever works.' So I think that should be indicative of his frame of mind, of how he views higher ed."

Later, in response to a question about how he would react to the idea of cutting all support for public higher education and shifting to a voucher system for higher education, Pogemiller extemporized freely about his willingness to consider it. McIntee snipped a copy of his answer from the hearing and posted about it here. A shorter video for this section of his comments can be seen here.

Even the questioner, Sen. Carlson (R - Bemidji) said that he didn't necessarily support the idea, and called the idea "way outside of the box."

Any such "voucher" system would simply be a transfer of public dollars from public institutions of higher education to for-profit colleges. The State of Minnesota already subsidizes the profits and marketing budgets of for-profit colleges through the Minnesota State Grant program. Less than half of the money spent by these chains actually goes toward education, a quarter of goes to marketing. One chain is being sued by the Attorney General for fraud. The student loan default rate for for-profit colleges is very high, much higher than public college students. These colleges are designed to maximize profit, not maximize learning.

There is a public interest in building strong public colleges and universities. This would literally be the coup de grace for Minnesota's system of public higher education that's been hit by round after round of cuts. Specifically, it would close community colleges in Greater Minnesota. Large urban and suburban community colleges would probably do okay, they rely on tuition revenue for more than 60% of their revenue already. But small community colleges depend much more on state funding. Up to two-thirds of their funding would be gone, and no amount of tuition could make up for it.

Advocates for public higher education in Minnesota should be very alarmed.

Follow me on Twitter @aaronklemz
I am an Instructor in the Communication Department at Century College in White Bear Lake, Minnesota. These are my views.

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