Last week we spent some time on the phone with a well-known industry short fund. We discussed the industry as a whole, as well as specific issues facing the industry which were behind their premise that shorting the industry was a good play for the next few years. Topics such as gainful employment, new compensation rules, default rates and the power of non-profit brands extending into the online education were the main points. Gainful employment in conjunction with 90/10 is in our opinion a biased illogical political move to hinder the growth of one industry segment for profit schools to the benefit of another nonprofit schools. If the rule is sound & logical, why wouldn’t it
be industry wide, the answer is clear, it’s not a well thought out rule. If the traditional colleges had to live within gainful employment you would see far fewer lawyers, doctors, economists, political scientists (maybe that’s a good thing) philosophers, literary scholars, teachers, artists, theorists etc. Who’s going to fill the entry level positions? Aren’t they stepping stones? We guess they will be filled by graduates of traditional colleges with English, Liberal Arts & Art history degrees whose $200,000+ education clearly provided them with such a solid and relevant foundation. Default rates, well they need to be managed, schools need to ensure that the engagement & value their student receive from the education provided them is compelling. We need to utilize assessment to make sure students enter program they have real interest and a likelihood of success in. And we need to screen for and provide the remedial assistance necessary for students to be able to be successful in their education. Will the industry be able to manage them successfully, YES. As for the value of brands, this is a topic which has been discussed for many years.
We all know a brand is valuable. We all know having a brand is a huge advantage and can significantly reduce the marketing costs of student recruitment. But the big caveat is “can”. Most traditional colleges significantly lack the admissions infrastructure and wiliness to adapt as necessary to be competitive to succeed in the fast paced world of online education. The partnerships between traditional colleges and for profit enterprises have proven that they can work and achieve fast growth, but those are still few in number. The real questions is when will we see an influx of these partnerships, and how much of an effect will they have on the for-profit EDU industry>