American Higher Education and Low-Income Students

A recent Atlantic article by Jordan Weissman, "American Colleges are Failing Low-Income Students," paints a clear portrait of the state of the U.S. system of higher education. We agree with Mr. Weissmann’s assertion that America “lacks the public education infrastructure to serve [low-income students’] needs.” We also believe “that higher education is becoming more and more of a pre-requisite for any kind of economic security in this country, and many of the people who attend these default-mills would still be looking for a degree even if they’d never heard of [for-profit colleges].” In other words, America’s higher education system presents a wall where many seek a thoroughfare. Naturally, people want to improve their economic security and in the words of our company manifesto, we believe that quality higher education should be accessible to all. Period.

Mr. Weissmann’s solution to this problem—government investment in low-tuition community colleges and high school vocational training programs— constitutes large-scale, top-down efforts to fix the current disservice of low-income students in America’s higher-education system. In a perfect world of smooth policy and even smoother bureaucracy, these reforms would cure this crunch and fast.

We would like to suggest another solution. For-profit schools will probably not disappear any time soon. Their political and institutional infrastructures are firm. That said, we think that there are ways for people to implement immediate change from the ground up. A student at any sort of college is essentially a customer, trading money for every advantage that goes along with an education. Therefore, shouldn’t this student be allowed to influence how her college operates through the power she has to take her dollar elsewhere? The for-profit system lends itself to this model.

In this country, the individual can influence the systems in which he or she operates. Through the ability to speak up and choose, non-traditional students can change our flawed higher-education system for the better.