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Obama’s war on higher education innovation

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Beltway Confidential,Education,Conn Carroll,Barack Obama,Government,Analysis,Higher Education

BuzzFeed‘s Matthew Zeitlin and Ben Smith have a great deep dive on the Obama administration’s crusade against the for-profit education industry, specifically its fight to force a successful online community college out of business. From their report:

Last Friday, President Barack Obama was speaking to students in Scranton.

“We’re going to encourage more colleges to innovate, try new things, do things that can provide a great education without breaking the bank,” he told the cheering kids, and the nation’s nervous college administrators. “For example, a number of colleges across the country are using online education to save time and money for their students.”

Across the country in San Francisco that same day, Paul Freedman, the founder of a company that had won a grant funded by the Gates Foundation to do roughly what the president described, got a FedEx package from the federal government.

This was not a letter of commendation. It was a notice from President Obama’s Department of Justice that his company, Altius Education, is under federal investigation. The notice was the culmination of a more than two year battle between Altius and the Higher Learning Commission, one of two members of the 118-year-old North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, which controls accreditation — the vital credential that gives college degrees value — for over 1,000 colleges and universities in 19 states. The HLC’s university backers have an obvious interest in avoiding the sort of low-cost competition reformers, and now the president, seek. And commission documents that have not been released publicly, but were provided by Altius to BuzzFeed paint a picture of a regulator that punished the company specifically for doing something — trying to reinvent a low cost new college education — that are core goals of federal policy. And so even as Obama trumpeted innovation from the stage in Scranton, Freedman’s attempt to put it into practice seemed to have hit a wall.

“It struck me as highly ironic and deeply frustrating that we were trying to do exactly what Obama describes what the market needs and yet we’re getting resistance from his administration,” said Freedman, an earnest, bald 34-year-old who started Altius after selling a college recruitment technology company in 2004.

You can read the Washington Examiner’s earlier coverage of Altius here, here, and here.

And here is an analysis of how Obama’s higher ed plan will only make innovation in the higher education sector harder.

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