Why For-Profit Education Fails

Jonathan A. Knee, The Atlantic, Oct 15, 2016
Commentary by Stephen Downes

This is an interesting discussion but actually very light on the explanation it promises. A close reading reveals it to be this: first, VCs confuse size and scale, preferring to create large institutions in an industry that depends on local impact. Second, scope and scale do not always mix. They try to reform the entire education system rather than focusing on a specific activity or domain. Why do theey do this? Ego plays a role, but ultimately the cause is found in their desire to do good (which runs counter to the need to make money ("one cannot do good for very long if the business does not do well enough to survive")). The consistent failure of private institutions, argues the author, gives ammunition to those who oppose privatization, but "that sphere will always comprise public and private, nonprofit and for-profit institutions, and for-profit businesses play an essential role."

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