As I child I remember listening to Paul Harvey’s newscasts. They always concluded with “the rest of the story,” when the real news was explained, sometimes in fascinating ways. As I read the stories in Wisconsin of the announced closure of eight campuses in Minnesota, Wisconsin and South Dakota, I knew someone needed to share the rest of this sad story.
When I assumed the leadership of the nation’s postsecondary career colleges, one of my first visits was to the Terry and Kaye Myhre family in Minnesota. Like me, they are Scandinavian Lutherans. They are as fine a family as one could ever call friends and colleagues.
But over the past eight years, President Obama’s Department of Education has sought to eliminate any proprietary school because they believe all education should be exclusively provided by the government. They have targeted our sector, because some big, publicly traded schools offering online liberal arts degrees had big enrollments and bad outcomes during the recession. But in the process they have sought to destroy families with multi-generations of occupational education leadership. The Myhre family is such an example.
In 2014, as part of an organized assault on the sector, the Democrat attorney general in Minnesota filed multiple charges against the Globe schools in Minnesota hoping one of the charges might stick. Two years later, a Democrat judge threw out every charge except one. He wrote that a criminal justice program (which the school had already shut down) might have misrepresented its advertising in Minnesota because the state has a protectionist law that says law enforcement degrees can only come from regionally accredited schools; Globe is a nationally accredited school. It is important for Wisconsin residents to understand our state has no such regulation. And the Globe campus in Minnesota is actually closer to Wisconsin’s border than it is to north Minneapolis or north St. Paul.
While the judge has yet to make a final ruling on this case, it has not stopped the Department of Education from taking steps to close the schools simply based on allegations — not even legal judgments. They notified the school early in December they were denying all of their campuses access to federal financial aid — even those in states where no allegations of misconduct had occurred. When you are a sector serving low-income students where 90 percent of all students are eligible for financial aid, the cut-off of such funds effectively closes the school.
To put this in perspective, between 2012 and October of 2016, the department had closed 859 campuses of postsecondary career schools. After the election, they began a new assault, wanting to close as many schools as possible so they can give the students loan forgiveness before they leave office on Jan. 20. For Globe University, this means 1,671 students will be on the street with debt but no degree, and 542 faculty and staff will be without jobs.
There are good and bad schools in every sector of higher education. But one should not seek to destroy an entire sector simply for ideological reasons. Yet that is what is happening. The sad reality is that between the 2009-10 academic year and today, we have seen a 70 percent reduction in students given the access to a career education that fits their needs. What the department is doing to Globe University, and other schools across the nation, before they leave office is a tragedy built upon ideology. The losers are students, faculty and staff, communities needing skilled workers, and the taxpayers.
Gunderson is president and CEO of Career Education Colleges & Universities and a former 3rd District congressman.