That’s what my partner said last night when I asked him why he was taking all of this news about Heald so personally. He’s worked for Heald for the past four years, and most of that time has been spent as an adjunct professor. During his years there, he has watched Heald’s fall from grace as its parent company, Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (CCI), has dragged Heald down so far that within the next few weeks they may be forced to close their doors forever.
There are many political reasons fueling Heald’s plight as well as Attorney General Kamala Harris’ pointless war on CCI, of which I will discuss later on in this article. But what has really urged me to write this post has been the realization of how differently educators think compared to most other people.
Survivalist vs. Bleeding Heart
I’ve always been proud of my ability to take stock of a situation quickly in order to come up with multiple solutions for how to move forward. It is highly methodical and somewhat detached to do so, I know, but it is a survivalist’s mentality. Therefore, as Heald has been down-spiraling since 2013, my mind has gone into survivalist mode of what my household will do, should my partner lose his job.
There’ve been many household discussions about finding another job, filing for unemployment, and the like. We’ve gone over the options, though they may not all be ideal, and we have figured out what we will do should the worst happen.
For me, I know that the politicians are doing what they’re doing for their own personal agendas – it’s what they do. But for our house, we have a plan and we will find a way to survive with this plan, so I’ve accepted what will happen.
My partner has agreed with the plan that our household has set, but yet he doesn’t seem relieved.
I understand that he’s on the verge of losing his job, and all the stress that comes with that, but for the life of me I couldn’t understand why he was taking everything that was happening to Heald as a personal attack on him. Last night I finally asked what was going on. I didn’t mean to demean his reasons for being angry at the situation – he has every reason to be upset – I just didn’t understand why it was hitting him so hard when he knew we had a plan for how to move forward.
Here is how he responded:
It’s personal because they’re hurting my kids, and they don’t even care. I’ve had students go on to become registered nurses, lawyers, high-level law enforcement agents, and these are students who were in my developmental writing classes! Students who couldn’t write a complete sentence to save their lives! These kids would not have survived in a regular college. Regular colleges don’t have the time or money to care about the students who fall through the cracks. The teachers at Heald care! But the administrators and the politicians– most of them have never taught a class in their lives, so they don’t see the students as people. They only see the students as dollar signs or as a means to push their political agendas. That’s why I’m taking it personally. Because they don’t care who they hurt.
At that moment I realized that the practical logistics that I had been worrying about weren’t even on my partner’s radar. He’s confident that our household will survive, because it always has before. His students, on the other hand, don’t have that sense of hope, and most of them don’t have the knowledge or self-confidence to move forward. That’s why my partner has been so emotional. He spends semester after semester building these kids up so that they have a chance, and for some of them it’s their last chance, and now because of AG Harris’ mission to catapult her own career, my partner feels that these kids will once again fall to the wayside.
The Politics of Greed and Positioning
Although the politics of the situation have received plenty of press, including articles like this one, you may not be aware of what’s going on. Allow me to elaborate.
Heald College has been a nonprofit institution for over 150 years. They were one of the most respected vocational institutions in the country. In 2010, CCI purchased Heald. It’s difficult to find exact information as to why the owners of Heald sold their company, but CCI owned a lot of other colleges, they had been in the education game for a while, and they had the finances to improve Heald . . . or so it seemed.
In reality, CCI was already suspected of dirty dealing. Many people have surmised that CCI only bought Heald as a way to look more legitimate and dedicated to education.
Anyhow, during the four years CCI owned Heald, they supposedly put their predatory practices to use by making promises to students that they could never keep, and they allegedly were falsifying loan and grant documents. You can only keep this sort of stuff under wraps for so long, which is about when AG Harris and her team of lawyers got involved.
AG Harris filed suit against CCI in 2013, and her political position on the matter is that she refuses to let an organization, such as CCI, take advantage of California students and mislead them concerning their education and their vocational goals.
Okay – you might be thinking that her position makes her seem like a crusader for education and for consumers. Then why is she trying to punish any corporation that wants to buy and fix what CCI did to Heald?
That’s right! AG Harris has made it her mission to not only punish CCI, but also to punish any company who would purchase Heald from CCI. In an article published on Business Wire yesterday, April 8, it states that AG Harris demands that any buyer who tries to purchase Heald from CCI must “enter into an injunction that effectively requires the buyer to assume blame and possible liability for the actions of” CCI. But why on earth would she do that? Why should a company be punished for something it didn’t do, especially if it just wants to buy Heald in hopes of improving it?
These are the types of question that the president and CEO of Heald, Eeva K Deshon, is asking. According to the same article in Business Wire posted yesterday, Deshon has submitted an open letter to AG Harris, begging her to stop thwarting the sale of Heald. After all, Heald campuses in other states have been sold. Only California campuses are on the verge of closing. There is even a petition to save Heald, and currently there are two “Save Heald” rallies scheduled for this coming Friday, April 10, at the AG’s offices in Sacramento and in San Francisco.
It is difficult to say whether or not Deshon’s pleas will be heard, though. You have to remember that it’s all about political positioning for people like AG Harris. After all, she is running for state senate this year.
While it is a noble mission to stop corporations like CCI, why punish other organizations who simply want to buy Heald? They didn’t do the dirty dealing. CCI did. Punish them – oh wait, you really can’t, because they are a corporation. The leaders of CCI, the people who approved all of the bad business practices, they started selling everything that wasn’t nailed down the moment things went public. So why isn’t AG Harris setting her sights on those individuals?
Without a real scape goat for her political campaign, it seems that AG Harris has decided that it is better to punish the would-be saviors of Heald schools, along with Heald’s students and employees.
The Real Purpose of Places like Heald
For years my partner and I have debated about the differences between vocational schools and traditional colleges and universities. He and I both got our master’s degrees from traditional state schools, and to some degree we are a bit snobby about the benefits of these types of institutions. However, we also know how traditional schools have failed so many Americans.
Whether you want to blame the aftermath of “No Child Left Behind,” lack of a work ethic, the entitlement era – whatever – the fact is that the majority of adults struggle to make it through traditional college programs. Most don’t have the skills to do well in these programs. Others don’t have the money or credit to pay for school. But the majority simply lack the confidence to go through college. Either way, it all ends with the same result – hundreds of thousands of Americans without post-secondary training.
According to a 2012 report by the Lumina Foundation, out of all Americans in the age range of 25-64, just under 40% held at the very least the equivalent of an associate’s degree. That means that more than half of working adults don’t complete traditional college.
Heald and other vocational institutions don’t run their colleges like traditional schools, because that paradigm and methodology simply won’t work for most Americans. These institutions recognize that people need careers NOW to support themselves and get themselves out of poverty and to stop the cycle. Therefore, instead of focusing on the breadth and depth of knowledge with way too many general education courses, as is done in traditional colleges, vocational institutions like Heald focus on real-world skills training, direct internships, and getting their students hired and in the workplace ASAP.
When it comes to potential students, Heald and similar institutions often direct their attention on the socially disenfranchised. These are the people who fall through the cracks, who work two or three crappy part-time jobs just to support their families. These are people who don’t have hope. They have been told they can’t do better. In some cases, poverty has become such a lifestyle that members of their own communities will punish them if they even try to do better by going to traditional colleges.
My partner has seen how these students start out at Heald. Many of them are ready to sabotage themselves from the moment they walk through the door. He and most of his colleagues spend a large percentage of their time talking these students off the ledge on practically a weekly basis.
The level of care at a vocational school is vastly different from more traditional schools. I often say that Heald does a lot of hand-holding, as I call it. The teachers call each individual student if they miss class or if they are falling behind. They spend one-on-one time with practically every student. The teachers send all of their students daily and weekly emails, texts — heck, they’d probably send carrier pigeons if they thought that would get the message across! Why do Heald teachers do all this hand-holding? Because, the only way to get these students to succeed and do better is to build up their confidence and to get them to believe that they can do better.
Heald and places like it really are for the bleeding heart academic activists. These institutions are more fluid and react better to change compared to the more traditional universities. Fluidity lets them adapt to the needs of the students instead of getting hung up on the traditional views of scholarly studies. The types of students that Heald caters to need a strong support system, they need access to training, and they need better careers.
Yes – it seems that CCI didn’t have any respect for those needs, and what CCI has been accused of doing is deplorable, so punish them, AG Harris, don’t punish the school, the employees who make that school possible, or the students.
I may be a cold and detached survivalist, but even I can recognize that there really is no point in surviving today if our hopes for the future are ruined, as my bleeding heart partner would argue. Vocational institutions like Heald can help people get out of poverty and into a better future. I’m not saying that vocational institutions are the solution to poverty. I’m simply saying that you cannot have a strong country without a well-educated and well-trained populace.