Prisons are privatized, schools are privatized, welfare services are privatized . . . They want to privatize Social Security. They are also going after our colleges . . .
There has been an interesting spate of “news” recently regarding the nation’s public community colleges. The timing of articles appearing in March and April seem suspicious as they all follow on the heels of the defeat of California Assembly Bill 515, which would have partially privatized the California community college system.
The bill would have allowed for the creation of an internal governing board within community college districts that could then be authorized to sell college courses based on a students’ ability to pay. This proposed pay-to-play system would have semi-privatized the 112 community colleges. The fact that it did not pass has infuriated the corporate press, eager to see all education privatized.
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America’s community colleges are in a near-death cycle after decades of budget cuts designed to weaken the public commons. Underfunded, lacking the ability to offer access or classes to students seeking an education and continuously hiking fees and tuition, public community colleges cannot handle the millions of students who wish to receive a reasonably priced education.
Rather than acknowledge the years of economic neglect and the new austerity that have left the public community colleges in a most precarious fiscal position, the recent swarm of corporate news articles instead seems aimed at demonizing public colleges, their faculty, students and staff. This is troubling and also fishy, for at the same time that the public colleges and universities are experiencing an inability to serve students due to years of economic starvation and slash-and-burn budget priorities, the for-profit colleges are ginned up to take over the educational “market” at costs over six to seven times the tuition costs at public institutions. So, while the neglect of the public sphere is devastating to students, the private for-profit subprime colleges can hardly contain themselves now that they have helped foster and create the material conditions for future profits.
Like a beast that smells blood, for-profit colleges such as Kaplan, Corinthian, Educational Management Corporation, the Apollo Group (University of Phoenix), to name just a few, see a hemorrhaging public sector as a business opportunity – a grand crisis just waiting to be exploited. Like private pike in a public lake, the for-profits are poised to take over even more of the $40 billion higher educational “industry.”