Lost in the uproar over our new Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is another education-related appointment that needs no Senate confirmation. Trump plans to make Jerry Falwell Jr. head of his task force
to deregulate higher education.
The Obama administration made some significant advances in draining the for-profit university swamp. Think Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech, both of which went into bankruptcy when the Feds exposed them for the educational scams they were. Think University of Phoenix, which lost students and profitability when it was forced to mend its predatory recruiting practices. Trump and Falwell hope to fill the swamp back up, using federal dollars to fatten the alligators who profit by putting students into debt while giving them little in the way of education in return. "The goal," Falwell said, "is to pare [Obama-administration initiatives] back and give colleges and their accrediting agencies more leeway in governing their affairs."
Falwell is president of Liberty University. It's a nonprofit educational institution with a 14,000 student enrollment, so the brick-and-mortar university wasn't affected by Obama's crackdown on for-profits. But Liberty U. also has 65,000 online students, making it the second largest online college after University of Phoenix. Its online education is very profitable.
Most colleges now have a mix of residential and online students, but it’s almost unheard-of to have four times as many online students as residential students.
Because internet courses are cheap to deliver at scale, the online division is a big revenue driver for Liberty, which brought in $591 million in tuition in 2013, against $470 million in expenses. Liberty is essentially a medium-size nonprofit college that owns a huge for-profit college.
Putting Falwell in charge of deregulating the for-profit college sector is kind of like, oh, say, putting Goldman Sachs executives in charge of deregulating the financial sector. Meaning Trump deserves some credit, for being consistent. Henhouse, meet fox.