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March 19, 2014
Another View: For-profit colleges do a better job than state-funded schools

Heald.JPG(March 19 - By Ada Gerard, Special to The Bee)

In a March 15 editorial, "Tougher to rip-off for-profit students," The Sacramento Bee wrongly accused California career colleges of intentionally shortchanging students. The editorial disregarded clear, independent evidence that career colleges do a better job of helping students graduate and enter rewarding careers than traditional, state-funded schools.

U.S. Department of Education national statistics consistently show that two-year career colleges enroll far more students who are at risk of dropping out than traditional community colleges, and yet the student graduation rates for career colleges are much higher than those of community colleges.

Career college credentials lead directly to economic opportunity. Corinthian Colleges, a national organization of which I am a part, serves 77,000 students on more than 100 North American campuses and online. In 2012, more than 69 percent of Corinthian's 38,700 graduates began careers in their fields of study. Some of our most popular programs, such as medical assisting and criminal justice, have placement rates that are comparable to or even higher than Corinthian's.

The Bee's editorial board can't be faulted for failing to report the corresponding job placement data for the California community college system. It doesn't exist. None of California's state colleges and universities is required to measure or even monitor this crucial outcome.

Heald students understand these advantages, even though the editorial condescendingly presumes that they aren't capable of deciding for themselves what's good for them. Our students make informed educational choices based on their personal experience. In fact, about one out every three Heald students has attended community college before coming to us.

Many of our students didn't thrive in the traditional K-12 school system or community colleges. They don't have the support network of many well-to-do students. At my campus, 78 percent of students seeking career training are minorities and 53 percent are over age 25. At Heald, they get small classes, individual support and practical educational programs that lead directly to workplace opportunity.

Unfortunately, the editorial ignored the root problem facing California's higher education system - too few career training opportunities for California residents.

Over the next decade, about 2.45 million Californians who would like to attend a two-year college will be unable to do so due to lack of capacity. And California is producing far too few college graduates to fill the good jobs our economy is creating.

Californians need more opportunities to pursue higher education, particularly career education. By hurling unfounded and mistaken allegations at colleges like mine, The Bee's editorial board seems to be advocating the opposite.

Ada Gerard is president of Heald College in Rancho Cordova.