Finger pointing and knee jerk reactions have resulted in misplaced blame and ineffective solutions. The public collapse of Corinthian Colleges started a domino effect within higher education and the federal government. News media reported on the thousands of students who were saddled with millions in debt and without an earned degree as a result of their efforts. Organizations and agencies are left standing with egg on their face. Students and the public want answers. What has followed is nothing short of counterproductive and inefficient actions to guard against the bad behavior of the few.
Regardless of the industry, there are always bad players, those institutions and organizations who are purposeful in their fraudulent practices against students and consumers. Solutions tend toward tightening legislation, onerous compliance requirements, and extensive oversight. Ultimately, these approaches do little to resolve the real issue and unnecessarily punish institutions effectively serving students.
There are several lessons that can be learned from the public collapse of Corinthian Colleges. Everyone involved shares a little bit of the blame. There was a break down in the processes designed to oversee the institution. However, the mistakes along the way do not translate into a broken system. It highlights a series of missed opportunities and a chance to re-evaluate the decisions that allowed the behavior to continue for so long. This is not a case where the blame lies with one entity or sector within the industry. Accreditors are not solely to blame. In fact, placing blame at all serves little to change the culture that fostered the continued operation of Corinthian Colleges.
Now more than ever is the opportunity to highlight those colleges and universities who exemplify the behavior we expect of our higher education institutions. We can’t legislate away bad players. If this were possible, violent crime would be at an all-time low. The financial collapse of 2008 would never happen again. Meaningful change will only result when emphases shifts to holding institutions accountable for fulfilling their mission, serving students by offering quality education. This intrinsic motivation cannot be mandated, but it can be encouraged. The system is not broken. Institutions effectively serving students should be the measure used when setting standards. Bad players should not be allowed to write the rules.