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If there is one unifying strand that runs through the character of our nation, it is that America loves an underdog. From the Revolution, to Roosevelt, to Rocky, our country has always embraced the fighting spirit of those who triumph against difficult odds to achieve a worthy cause.
Conversely we hold far less affection for those in authority who wield power with abandon, entrenched elites who write the rules to keep everyone in their place. The story of our nation is an ongoing tale of these opposing forces; the elites who thrive on power and demand allegiance to their dictates, and individual Americans struggling for the right to be free from control. And nowhere today do we see this battle in such stark contrast as in the fight for education choice.
As the digital age is opening up endless possibilities and empowering people with opportunities like never before, it is a stone-age anomaly that education today remains largely a government monopoly for all but the wealthy and privileged. Democrats have firmly planted their flag on the monopoly hill, fiercely opposed to even the smallest empowering gestures such as charter schools or vouchers for public education.
This battle is no less pronounced in higher education, where Democrats have spent the last decade firing torpedoes at a whole industry of innovative career-oriented colleges and universities that are not part of the public university system or the elitist ivory tower establishment. For Democrat lawmakers in Washington and their deep-pocketed allies in the non-profit education racket, nothing would please them more than to regulate or legislate these schools out of business.
Special-interest money flows to fund the left’s assault on career-oriented education even beyond the halls of Capitol Hill. Ivy League “consultants” like Bob Shireman and David Halperin, former advisors to Presidents Obama and Clinton respectively, make a good living doing the dirty work of the education establishment, setting up foundations filled with left-wing journalists, politicians, and former administration officials to tear down for-profit and non-profit private colleges. It is no surprise these activists are silent concerning the many problems at public universities or elite private institutions; admissions scandals, alarming graduation rates, student debt scandals, issues of tenure, or the festering environment of political intolerance. Nor do they scrutinize the multi-billion dollar endowments or outrageous compensation packages of professors and administrators of their alma maters. Their sole purpose is to hurt the working class by targeting the schools attended by the academic underdogs who lack their own elitist credentials.
The people they aim to hurt include students at Monroe College in the Bronx, a family-run for-profit institution with a track record of placing its almost all minority nursing graduates into jobs that would be the envy of any school in the country. Under Shireman and Halperin’s master plan, this school likely closes and its contribution to our nation, our economy, and the disadvantaged students it serves disappears.
Democrat activists threaten the mostly working-adult student body of ECPI University, one of the top technical schools in the country that is playing a significant role in helping America fill our economy’s rapacious need for skilled workers in the computing and IT field. If the entrenched education establishment gets its way, tens of thousands of other adult, minority and military students would be affected at schools such as University of Phoenix, Full Sail University, Grand Canyon University, and hundreds of others.
The elitist left’s tactics are despicable and dishonest, and have included lobbying the IRS to deny schools’ non-profit status, pressuring the Department of Veterans Affairs to disqualify universities for GI Bill funding, and launching a broadside against Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who refused to enforce punishing Obama-era regulations.
Every day that the elites work to eliminate these valued universities, enlisted men and women in active duty military are pursuing degrees to accelerate their graduation dates. Every day that these schools face the threat of closure from an elitist educational CABAL, single mothers and financially disadvantaged women are signing-up for classes that will launch them into new careers for a better future.
The truth is that career-oriented schools fill a critical need for non-traditional adult learners, students with jobs and families, military personnel, and minority students. We know this because thousands are making the choice every day to pursue their dreams by enrolling at career-oriented schools whose innovative programs fast-track them to a better life. Education choice should be every person’s right, not just the wealthy and connected. In this battle against the elites it should be our duty to fight for the underdog.
Gerard Scimeca is an attorney and co-founder of CASE, Consumer Action for a Strong Economy, a free-market oriented consumer advocacy organization.