These are also groups disproportionately affected by unemployment. While the overall jobless rate is 7.9 percent, for black women it is 12.3 percent; for African Americans and Hispanics overall, it is 15 percent and 11 percent, respectively. Obama administration officials continually point to the role higher education plays in closing the “skills gap” through enhanced training and career development. The goal, according to the White House, is to increase the American workforce by 22 million by 2020, with post-secondary institutions leading the charge.
Interestingly enough, they’re describing exactly what private-sector colleges and universities do on a daily basis.
Increasingly, conventional institutions are unable to meet the demands of a diversifying and globalized American workforce. Career colleges, providing alternative means of education access for returning veterans and working families, are filling this void. In 2011, for-profit schools awarded 16 percent more degrees to their students than the previous year, compared with a 6 percent increase for all traditional higher-education institutions. And often our graduates are finding more employment opportunities than students from traditional colleges.
It is our hope that a re-elected and reinvigorated president includes our institutions in his higher-education agenda as we work to help our economy recover and prepare America’s workforce. Many of the voters who demonstrated their confidence in the incumbent are also students attending our institutions. We hope to work with his administration to build a plan that restores our competitiveness and collectively embraces our desire for an expanded, durable middle class.
Former Rep. Steve Gunderson, R-Wis., is president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.