Airing tonight on PBS at 9 p.m. is Frontline's College, Inc., an hour-long look at for-profit higher education, its investors, and the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to regulate it. For close readers of Inside Higher Ed, the documentary won't bring much new to the table. It tells stories of students plunging deep into debt and unable to get jobs, touches on traditional academe's criticisms, and looks at the negotiated rule-making process aimed at reining in abuses of the Title IV federal financial aid system, with a particular focus on career colleges.
But it is likely to garner lots of attention -- from ordinary Americans, think tankers and Congressional staffers -- and to stir up press releases, editorials and conversations that will skew against the for-profit institutions just as the Education Department ratchets up its criticisms of the sector. The storyline is more balanced than many major-media examinations of for-profit colleges, but it's still a less-than-favorable depiction of the sector.