In Public-Private Partnership, Community College Allows Students to Bypass Waiting Lists–For a Fee

Months after purchasing the Penn Foster Education Group, a for-profit career training provider, the Princeton Review is entering the distance education market by teaming up with community colleges to offer fast-track allied health-care programs to students who are willing to pay higher tuition to bypass long waiting lists. While the college pioneering the system sees the move as providing an important new option, some faculty members are calling the idea a cash grab that taints the traditional community college commitment to equity.

The Princeton Review will pilot this new public-private initiative at Bristol Community College, in southeastern Massachusetts. By this fall, the partnership will expand the enrollment capacity of the community college’s programs in general health science, medical information and coding, and massage therapy. Eventually, it will expand to offer further space in the college’s nursing and radiologic technology programs.

The programs offered will primarily be online, but the Princeton Review will also provide a new space near the college for students to take lab and in-person supplements to their courses. The program will use Bristol’s accreditation and instructors. Other than the fact that these programs are being offered online, the only difference between these programs and Bristol’s current allied health care programs – which the college will maintain with waiting lists – is that students who wish to take the programs sponsored by the Princeton Review will have to pay more in tuition.

. . . [O]fficials from the Princeton Review make no bones about the fact that they expect to turn a profit from the deal. They believe this public-private model positions the programs between the face-to-face programs at the community college and those at the on-demand and high-tuition proprietary institutions with which they will now compete.

Bristol officials say the expanded capacity in these high-demand programs is essential. John J. Sbrega, president of the community college, noted that the college received about 1,000 applicants for its 72-student nursing program last year.

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