Laureate Education to Become Publicly Traded

Laureate Education on Friday announced plans to once again become a publicly traded company. Laureate is the largest U.S.-based for-profit college chain, with over one million students at 88 institutions in 28 countries. The privately held company was publicly traded before 2007, when a group of investors led by its CEO, Douglas L. Becker, bought Laureate in a deal valued at $3.8 billion.

The company also announced Friday that it has become a public benefit corporation. That switch means the company remains for-profit but legally is allowed to focus more on activities that aren’t related to boosting its profit margin. The process requires companies to alter their governance structures. Another for-profit chain, Rasmussen College, made the same change last year.

Becker explained the decision in a written statement:

“Most of our operations are outside of the United States, where there are many barriers that inhibit participation in higher education. We committed ourselves to overcoming these barriers in order to expand access. For a long time, we didn't have an easy way to explain the idea of a for-profit company with such a deep commitment to benefiting society. In 2010, we took notice when the first state in the U.S. passed legislation creating the concept of a public benefit corporation, a new type of for-profit corporation with an expressed commitment to creating a material, positive impact on society. Our public benefit is firmly rooted in our belief that when our students succeed, countries prosper and societies benefit.”

The Value of IDEA for Colleges and Their Students

Over the past summer, much fanfare greeted the 25th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), including a reception at the White House and parades, speeches and gatherings across the country. By comparison, the anniversary of the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) -- which came into being the same year -- came and went without public recognition.

The IDEA might seem tangential to those of us involved with higher education because its legislative reach extends only through secondary school. But as my classes get underway this fall, I’m reminded of its powerful impact on the current generation of college students, disabled and able-bodied alike.

The IDEA, which replaced 1975 legislation called the Education for All Handicapped Children Act (EAHCA), mandates a “free appropriate public education” to all students from pre-K through high school. Before the passage of the EAHCA, many states had laws barring children with disabilities such as deafness, blindness, emotional disturbance and other cognitive delays from public education.

According to a research study completed in 1970, only one in five children with disabilities had received an education in school.

The 1975 law changed that by requiring schools to place them in the “least restrictive environment,” meaning, to the greatest extent possible, they would be included alongside nondisabled peers. The IDEA of 1990 expanded the age range of protected children, added measures to support families and included new provisions for adaptive equipment and services. Its new name also signaled an important shift away from “handicapped children” (which implied children were defined by their disabilities) to the people-first language of “individuals with disabilities” (which implied that disability was just one aspect of a child’s identity).

The life writing of people with disabilities tells harrowing stories of what it was like to go to school before the passage of the EAHCA. Animal scientist Temple Grandin, whose autism made it hard for her to converse socially, was teased and ostracized by her peers. The parents of Stephen Kuusisto, director of the honors program at Syracuse University, refused to enroll him in a school for the blind and sent him to a school where he received no accommodations for his low vision. Deaf scholar Brenda Brueggemann describes the awkwardness of going with classmates to movies where she was unable to hear or understand the dialogue.

Reading these accounts, I’m reminded that the students with disabilities I find in my classes are the beneficiaries of a very different system. The IDEA ensured that most of them received an inclusive education, and it required the schools they attended to provide adaptive technologies, assistants and support services that would allow them to succeed in classes with their nondisabled peers.

Less often acknowledged is the impact of the IDEA on nondisabled college students. By including larger numbers of students with disabilities in elementary and secondary schools, the IDEA changed how nondisabled kids understood the meaning of disability. It is far less common for today’s students to have attended a school where the “special” kids arrived on the stigmatized “short bus” and marched off to a separate classroom. Having those kids in class -- along with their wheelchairs, canes, adaptive communication devices and assistants -- naturalized disability in a way that would not have been possible in more segregated environments.

Many of today’s students grew up with the assumption that children with disabilities belong in the same classroom and have the same right to an education that they do. Research shows that having kids with disabilities in class teaches valuable lessons about acceptance, patience and diversity. As people with disabilities increasingly participate in the workforce, inclusive education also prepares the current generation of students for a diversity they will likely encounter in their professional lives.

In case I sound overly cheery, let me be clear that the IDEA is no panacea. I’m well aware that many schools still have special classrooms for children deemed too disabled for inclusion. New York City, where I live, is home to District 75, reserved for segregating those "special" kids from their typical peers. On the other end of the spectrum, some of my students attended exclusive private schools that are exempt from the requirements of the IDEA. Their experience of kids with disabilities is limited to the service learning projects that round out their stellar college applications. And despite the law, the families of students with disabilities are often exhausted by fighting for services they are entitled to.

That said, I’m still convinced the law provides a valuable foundation that is worth building on and that should be celebrated.

I’m never more aware of the impact of the IDEA than when I tell my students that I’m the parent of a child with Down syndrome. Because of the IDEA, my son attends second grade at an inclusive elementary school. More than one of my students has responded to this disclosure by saying, “My best friend has Down syndrome!”

In the generation before the IDEA, this scenario would have been virtually unthinkable. If they went to school at all, children with Down syndrome were tucked away in special classes where they learned life skills because nobody thought they were capable of reading and writing. Seeing them banished in this way, their typical peers learned that people with Down syndrome were not worthy of inclusion.

Certainly the world is a better place for my son: ample research shows that people with Down syndrome learn better in inclusive settings. But it is also a better place for his peers, who, thanks to the IDEA, learn to recognize him as a person deserving of respect and friendship. That recognition is high on the list of lessons I’d like my students to learn before entering college.

Rachel Adams is a professor of English and director of the Center for the Study of Social Difference at Columbia University.

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Fraternity Faces Arrests and Suspension at U of Alabama

The arrests of five University of Alabama students on hazing charges late Wednesday was quickly followed by the university's announcement that the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity had been suspended, The Tuscaloosa News reported. Neither the news release from the university announcing the suspension nor the police offered any details on the hazing charges. But the university statement included this comment from Dean Hebson, the dean of students: “The University of Alabama will not tolerate hazing and takes allegations and incidents of hazing very seriously. Students who are the victims of, or who become aware of, hazing incidents are strongly encouraged to bring these incidents to our attention.”

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Appeals court ruling on O'Bannon case a mixed bag for NCAA, athletes

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A federal appeals court backs ruling that NCAA violates antitrust laws with limits on athlete compensation, but rejects allowing athletes to receive up to $5,000 a year in pay.

U of Chicago Gets $100 Million to Study Global Conflicts

The University of Chicago announced Wednesday that it would receive $100 million to create a research institute to study global conflicts. The gift from the Thomas L. Pearson and the Pearson Family Members Foundation is the second largest in the university's history.

The donation is "transformative," said Robert Zimmer, the university's president. "Importantly, the study of global conflicts is a field ripe for groundbreaking research approaches, and the Pearson Institute will seek to inform more effective policy solutions for resolving violent conflicts to make a lasting impact around the world," he said in a written statement.

Senate Proposal for Alternative Accreditation Path

Senator Michael Bennet, a Colorado Democrat, and Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, this week introduced a bill that would create a new "outcomes-based" accreditation system. The proposed legislation, which builds on previous ideas from the two senators, would allow alternative education providers -- as well as traditional colleges and universities -- to access federal financial aid programs if they can meet a bar for high student outcomes. Those measures would include student learning, completion and return on investment.

"We need a new system that encourages, rather than hinders, innovation, promotes higher quality and shifts the focus to student success," Bennet said in a written statement. "The alternative outcomes-based process in this bill will help colleges, new models like competency-based education and innovative providers, and is an important step in shifting the current incentives and creating the 21st-century system of higher education we need."

Rubio, who is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, has hammered on the current higher education accreditation system while speaking on the campaign trail, calling it a "cartel." The alternative system he and Bennet proposed, Rubio said, would be based on higher quality standards.

The bill would allow colleges and providers to bypass a wait to receive federal-aid eligibility while they seek accreditation, instead enabling them to enter into contracts with the U.S. Department of Education, but only if the institutions "are generating positive student outcomes."

Colleges consider revoking Cosby's honorary degrees

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After three universities rescind honorary degrees they awarded to Bill Cosby, 23 other institutions mull whether to follow suit.

U.S. Appeals Court: NCAA Violated Antitrust Law

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on Wednesday upheld a lower court's decision that National Collegiate Athletic Association rules that limit what college athletes can be paid violate antitrust laws. But the appeals court tossed out the original judge's recommendation that athletes receive deferred compensation of up to $5,000 per year.

“The NCAA is not above the antitrust laws, and courts cannot and must not shy away from requiring the NCAA to play by the Sherman [Antitrust] Act's rules,” the three-judge panel wrote in its decision. “In this case, the NCAA's rules have been more restrictive than necessary to maintain its tradition of amateurism in support of the college sports market. The Rule of Reason requires that the NCAA permit its schools to provide up to the cost of attendance to their student athletes. It does not require more.”

In January, using a new governance structure that granted them greater autonomy to create their own rules, the five wealthiest athletic conferences passed a measure allowing -- but not requiring -- colleges to offer scholarships that cover the full cost of attendance.

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Calvin Makes Cuts to Humanities Programs

Calvin College, which has been fighting to stabilize its budget, is cutting a number of humanities programs, saying that they are not attracting enough students, MLive reported. Among the programs being ended: theater, art history and the languages of German, Greek and Latin.

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AAU Taps Mary Sue Coleman as Next President

One of higher education’s most influential organizations has tapped veteran public university president Mary Sue Coleman as its next leader.

Coleman will begin leading the Association of American Universities -- a group of 60 U.S. and two Canadian selective public and private research universities -- in June. She was previously president of the University of Michigan for 12 years, retiring in 2014, and president of the University of Iowa.

Coleman will replace Hunter R. Rawlings III, who has led the AAU since 2011. While president at Michigan, Coleman served as chair of the AAU for the 2011 academic year.

She co-chairs the Lincoln Project, an initiative of the American Academy of Arts & Sciences to support public research universities, and serves on the board of trustees of the Society for Science & the Public. She’s also a member of the Johnson & Johnson Board of Directors.

“Hunter Rawlings has done an exceptional job as AAU president in advancing our collective impact as research institutions,” Coleman said in a written statement. “I am eager to continue the work of elevating the American research university as essential to our nation’s prosperity, security and well-being.”

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