By Richard Vedder
I was talking to John Katzman, the founder and long-time CEO of the Princeton Review, yesterday in Texas. John has done a fine job with Princeton Review, forming a company on the forefront of change in higher education. The Princeton Review rankings of colleges did something others (except CCAP) shunned --asking students what they thought, which I always viewed as a superior approach to asking university presidents what they thought, the US News and World Report approach.
John is taking a break from running the Princeton Review, contemplating entry into the for profit higher education market --but with a huge twist. Most entrepreneurs in this market are trying to get struggling, low to middle income adults who want a degree or certificate to further their career. They want no nonsense, low cost education.
Yet many Americans look at college as a consumption as much as an investment good, and want a high quality experience. Why not open a for profit university that will appeal to the high end of the market --a relatively high priced, high quality educational experience, I presume with some of the socialization dimensions (climbing walls, student unions, etc.) that go with educating yuppies today. Upper income kids are frustrated because their dollars won't always buy entrance to the schools they want to attend, so they go to "second best" options. By offering a good alternative, maybe Mr. Katzman is opening a new frontier and new competition for the elitist private schools. Execution is everything, but Katzman is a Princeton grad (and his brother went to Brown) who knows what quality education is all about, so I think we should look forward to his new venture.
Speaking of Brown, I erred in a blog last week a bit when I said Brown had no professional schools --in fact, it has a medical school. The broader point made was correct --Brown emphasizes undergraduate education more than many well known schools, and that enhances their student satisfaction (and hence earned higher CCAP rankings).