Home » OPINION: In response to Conway statement, Ky. career colleges say limits on funds use restrict free speech

OPINION: In response to Conway statement, Ky. career colleges say limits on funds use restrict free speech

By Candace Bensel
Kentucky Association
of Career Colleges

FRANKFORT, Ky. (March 22, 2013) — On March 18, The Lane Report website published a release from the office of Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway supporting the federal Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act, sponsored by U.S. Sens. Kay R. Hagan, D-N.C., and Tom Harkin, D-Iowa. The bill limits or restricts institutions of higher education from using revenue derived from federal educational assistance funds for marketing, advertising or recruiting purposes.

Former Congressman Steve Gunderson, the president and chief executive officer of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), recently released the following statement in response to this legislation:

“Legislation prohibiting the use of federal dollars for advertising and promotion of postsecondary education opportunities is detrimental to meeting the challenge of America leading the world in college educated citizens by 2020. It simply fails to recognize the many ways Americans are accessing information about postsecondary education.

“Without guidance counselors in environments like a workplace or battlefield, the vast majority of our students get information from traditional advertising, including newspapers, television and the Internet. Advertising can shine a light on available opportunities for all citizens and should be encouraged rather than restricted. What this legislation does is limit information, and by doing so it limits access. Information and access should be encouraged by the higher education community, not stifled by misguided legislation that blankets what is a very diverse landscape.”

Career colleges serve and graduate a higher percentage of adult students who are underserved in traditional higher education. Recent data shows, in Kentucky alone, 59.5 percent of students at Kentucky’s two-year career colleges and 68.9 percent of students at Kentucky’s four-year career colleges were over 25. This compares to 44.4 percent and 31.2 percent respectively at our public counterparts.

Adult students seeking to advance or change their career by continuing their education often choose career colleges for their flexibility as they are often juggling family and work schedules while enrolled in school. These students gather their information about education options differently than high school students, who typically have access to college guidance counselors.

College affordability is a major concern, and colleges and universities are seeking ways to reduce costs. Adding another regulatory-compliance requirement ultimately results in higher costs for students. Private-sector colleges and universities do not receive state appropriations or tax-deductable donations to endowments funds, etc. The majority of their revenue is tuition, much of which is paid by students with federal grant and loan funds.

While public institutions with large state appropriations can afford to advertise using other revenue sources, restricting the use of these funds for private sector colleges would be detrimental to the non-traditional students’ access to the education of their choice.

Restricting the ways we can communicate with potential students would only deny access and limit opportunities for Kentuckians trying to build a brighter future for themselves and their families.

Candace Bensel is the Executive Director of the Kentucky Association of Career Colleges and Schools (KACCS).