- - Tuesday, January 28, 2020

As in every segment of the American economy, there are good and bad actors. This is especially true when it comes to vocational and career education colleges and universities. As is often the case in Washington, a few bad actors are held up as a political example of what some argue should not exist. In this case, it is career training from so-called for profit institutions of higher education.  While a great political target from some in Washington, it ignores the fact that in many communities, employers have come to rely on career education when hiring skilled employees. Take the case of one Midwestern school in Minnesota to illustrate the point.

Since its inception more than a century ago, the Globe University/Minnesota School of Business was founded by traditional educators who recognized the need for vocational-specific training, which remained its focus until its forced shut-down in 2017.

Since 1972, the Myhre family, which owned the Globe, committed to providing industry-relevant programs taught by educators with the appropriate academic background, but even more importantly, with current industry experience. These professionals dedicated their lives to providing education that delivers a pathway to future career success to students who otherwise may have struggled to find success in mainstream education.

Globe served non-traditional students with multiple risk factors recognized by the Department of Education, including first-generation, single parents who attempted on average two other postsecondary options before finding success in a school like the Globe.

The Globe’s quality was recognized through it own graduates who in many cases exceeded industry-designed certification in fields like nursing and licensing pass rates that exceeded those of the University of Minnesota and other colleges serving top-tier high school graduates.

The Globe and other for-profit institutions suffered relentless attacks under the Obama administration along with undeterred attacks by state attorneys general, and some misguided members of Congress. Requests to have the Minnesota attorney general or anyone from her office visit the Globe to meet with the owner or employees of the schools to discuss the underlying facts have been refused. Instead, the office filed litigation to close the school.

Despite the litigation, the schools did everything in their power to close down in an orderly fashion. This process included a yearlong teach-out without access to federal funding for students for three full quarters. While other for-profit schools that were also being sued pre-emptively closed their doors on students, the Globe sought and received the approval of external regulators, to administer a teach-out through a commonly owned institution — all at significant cost to ownership.

Former Wisconsin Rep. Steve Gunderson knows the Globe and its owners well and cites this as the best example of the Obama administration’s ideological vendetta against career schools. The Globe, according to him, was one of the good guys, the proverbial baby that got thrown out with the bath water.

Ironically, when some of the Globe’s campuses sought approval to continue to operate in neighboring Wisconsin, that state’s Educational Approval Board — long considered one of the most tenacious state regulators of “for-profit” schools — described what happened to the Globe in Minnesota as a limited set of circumstances which it remediated by dropping a program, and further described the school as long having played a vital role in educating students in Wisconsin.

For example, roughly half of the students enrolled at the Globe before the Minnesota sanctions hit were studying to become veterinary technicians. The Globe had been a primary trainer of vet techs for clinics located north of Madison, particularly in rural areas. The university also trained medical assistants, who are in high demand in the state and in most places around the country. In short, the attack on the Globe by the Obama administration has had devastating consequences. 

Today, the continued commitment to doing the right thing, after protracted litigation with the state, forced the necessity of bankruptcy. The Globe is now moving through an orderly liquidation of assets, necessary to ensure those students with claims of direct impact identified in the lawsuit will receive restitution. The intent is to have the necessary resources to get money to students who demonstrate actual harm.

The case of the Globe shows that the net result of these national and state-level attacks is fewer choices and more limited access to career-focused education for those needing it most. The experience of attending a local institution to retool or seek professional career skills for the first time is no longer available in 20+ communities for this Midwestern school group. This drought of career-specific training experienced here and across the country will be felt in local communities and the national workforce for decades to come. Getting the rules right at the Department of Education will ensure against the unjust treatment of other valued career education schools across the nation.

• Sean Spicer has served as White House press secretary and chief strategist of the Republican National Committee, and is a senior adviser to America First Action.

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