Some of the early for-profit founders were thinking in an altruistic way. Ben Franklin, for instance, said “We need to be done with traditional colleges and universities, because I want to be able to learn basket-weaving if I want to”…I’m paraphrasing, but the basic idea was “I want to be able to study anything that’s practical.”
And so there was definitely some of that motivation in the early practical studies-oriented institutions, which provided an alternative to the non-profit colleges that weren’t teaching trades. And there’s a line of that that continues to the present. And I have met with and have talked with people who work in technology, people that I know who work atBuzzFeed, who talk about the need to develop some programming skills and some technology skills that just aren’t available in traditional institutions of higher education. And they have discussions about, “Should we start a for-profit, so we can train people to do these sorts of things?”
My concern is that the very structure of a for-profit, whatever the noble intentions might be to begin with, really erode that initial motivation and that initial drive to provide that service. Because at some point, either through growth or through the demands of the owners or shareholders, the motivations turn from providing that instruction that’s missing elsewhere, to providing the revenue that’s desired and demanded by the people who are the top of that organization.