Church and education

A story in today’s New York Times exemplifies the reasons that (1) churches should not be publicly subsidized via a privileged tax status, and (2) the country ought to be run by bona fide professionals rather than big donors.

Dream Center Education Holdings, a subsidiary of a Los Angeles-based megachurch, had no experience in higher education when it petitioned the federal Education Department to let it take over a troubled chain of for-profit trade schools.

But the organization’s chairman, Randall K. Barton, told the education secretary, Betsy DeVos, that the foundation wanted to “help people live better lives.”

The purchase was blessed despite Dream Center’s lack of experience and questionable finances by an administration favorable to for-profit education. But barely a year later, the company tumbled into insolvency, dozens of its colleges closed abruptly and thousands of students were left with no degree after paying tens of thousands of dollars in tuition.

Making matters worse, the college is accused of enrolling new students and taking their taxpayer-supported financial aid dollars even after some of its campuses had lost their accreditation, which rendered their credits worthless.

I have no particular problem with for-profit education per se, though my impression is that few of those schools offer any more than a good public university, and I doubt that any of them offer the vibrant environment of a good public university. Even so, there probably are students who benefit from the more narrow-gauge environment of a highly specialized for-profit school; it occurs to me this might be the case with trade schools, though I’m really just thinking aloud.

I have a serious problem with a publicly subsidized church owning a chain of for-profit schools, however, and a problem with that market sector being overseen by a Pious dilettante who has never in her life organized a bake sale.

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