By Representative LaKeshia N. Myers
This has been a tough week for education in the United States. First, Argosy University closed its doors leaving hundreds of students in academic limbo. Then, news of the college admissions cheating scandal involving celebrities Lori Laughlin and Felicity Huffman have left many wondering what else could possibly go wrong in American higher education.
Argosy University and its sister institutions: The Art Institutes, South University, and Western State College of Law were sold to the Dream Center, a Los Angeles-based Christian missionary organization in 2018. The sale of these institutions from for-profit corporation Educational Management Corporation (EDMC) to the Dream Center, allowed the institutions to no longer be classified as for-profit colleges, a designation that for many in the higher education community connotes a negative image.
For years, for-profit colleges have been accused—and some found guilty—of predatory lending, misleading students, and lack of accreditation. As college enrollments have declined and investigations into malfeasance have increased, many for-profit institutions have closed their doors.
Conversely, I, like every other American was appalled at the notion that well-to-do celebrities would stoop to the level of paying millions of dollars, photoshopping their children into pictures playing sports, or cheat on the ACT and SAT test to gain admission to elite universities.
The fraud case has also shed light on the many issues with admission processes at elite school—from the problems with schools giving preference to athletes, to rich families’ ability to buy their way in, and the hypocrisy of outrage over affirmative action programs.
This is a stark reminder of just how unequal the educational playing field has been. During the era of school desegregation, white southerners created “segregation academies,” all white schools to ensure their children would not have to learn with black students.
In the north, the advent of school vouchers all but decimated public schools, and in the meantime, students—primarily those that are black, brown, and/or poor—are left holding the bag and begging for resources. The same can be seen with for-profit colleges, raking in billions of dollars, only to shutter in the middle of the night leaving thousands with unanswered questions and high student debt.
As an educator, situations like these make it much harder to encourage students to strive for academic success. It is yet another reminder that the bar of achievement is constantly being raised and that the rules only apply to some, but not all.
In times like these, I am reminded of what my grandfather would tell me as a child, “just remember you’ll have to work twice as hard to get half as much…and even then, it may not be enough.”