Fifty years ago, most Americans understood that education was a public responsibility. It was the community's job to operate good public elementary and high schools. It was the state's job to support high-quality public colleges and universities.
All in all, this notion of publicly supported education worked well. Some public schools were better than others, but most were pretty good.
Some public universities were also better than others. The University of Michigan, University of Wisconsin, the University of Virginia, and the University of Texas were universally regarded as some of the finest universities in the world. Still, even the states of Idaho, Oklahoma, and other flyover states operated pretty good public colleges.
Of course, there was always a place in American education for non-profit schools and colleges. Harvard, Dartmouth, and dozens of lesser-known private colleges were well respected as public-spirited organizations, and the Catholic Church operated flourishing parochial schools.
Until recently, it hardly occurred to anyone that schooling should be turned over to investors who could make a fast buck in the education racket.
How times have changed. We now have for-profit K-12 charter schools and almost a thousand for-profit colleges.
And anyone can get in on the action. Equity funds own some for-profit colleges, and others trade on the stock market.
Adtalam Global Education (ATGE), which owns Walden University and two medical schools in the Caribbean, traded for $39 a share last week--down a few bucks from its 52-week high.
Grand Canyon Education (LOPE) operates Grand Canyon University, a Christian school that makes money for investors. You can buy into that outfit for $84 bucks a share.
You can't buy shares in the University of Phoenix (UP) anymore. In 2017, a private equity fund out of Chicago took over the company that operates UP.
We all know that complaints have barraged the for-profit industry for many years. Critics have argued that for-profit college tuition is too high at most schools and that many for-profits deliver a shoddy product. Some commentators have pointed out that the for-profit industry preys on minority and low-income students.
But, hey--this is America, and we're all entitled to make a buck off the rubes. So, if you want a piece of the American Dream, you can purchase some for-profit stock or buy a piece of an equity fund that owns a college.
As for me, if I am going to invest in a dodgy industry, I would prefer to buy stock in the casinos.