Plan to outsource online classes to for-profit schools meets opposition

Some Nevada college officials oppose the creation of a new virtual school.

Members of a Nevada higher-education task force are pushing for a virtual college that would farm out community college courses to for-profit institutions, drawing criticism from educators who say the proposal constitutes privatization of public education and a lowering of academic standards.

In a report released in August by a task force created by the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE), officials introduced a range of reforms for Nevada’s four community colleges, with one suggestion grabbing national attention: establishing a new institution, the Nevada Virtual College (NVC), and hiring a for-profit school to “develop and deliver curriculum” to students.

The statewide proposal comes after several years of negative headlines and government reports showing how for-profit college students leave school with far more loan debt than their counterparts at traditional colleges, along with questionable recruiting tactics by some of the best-known for-profit schools, all with vast online programs.

The task force’s report, launched by NSHE Chancellor Daniel Klaich, advocates for the new virtual college in part because Nevada’s community colleges “have been slow to embrace technology coupled with a focus on competency based outcomes, as have nonprofits such as Western Governors University and for-profits such as Phoenix, Kaplan, and DeVry Universities.”

The for-profit school would be paid according to course completion rates, according to the task force report, with bonuses included “for timely degree completion.”

Making the dramatic shift from state-funded and -operated community colleges to outsourcing online classes to a for-profit college is a blatant attempt to privatize higher education in Nevada, said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).