Private Capital, Community Colleges

Written by: Doug Lederman, Inside Higher Ed

There is nothing subtle about the home page of a new venture unveiled Thursday. “$1 Trillion U.S. Student Loan Debt” it screams, with the dollar figure in large yellow type. It then displays the average price of four years at public and private colleges ($71,000 and $158,000, respectively), and follows with data showing that more than a quarter of all bachelor’s degree-holders start out at a community college.
The latest bare-knuckled promotional campaign for the nation’s two-year colleges? Not exactly, but not wildly off, either.

A new investor-backed company, Quad Learning, is teaming up with community colleges to build a national network of honors programs with a collaborative curriculum that they envision giving students an affordable, high-quality associate degree and helping them transfer to topnotch colleges and universities.

The network, American Honors, seeks to tap into national concern about the affordability of higher education and interest in lower-priced, high-quality educational alternatives. The venture joins several others announced in recent years — including Altius Education’s Ivy Bridge College and Fidelis Education — that use private capital to team with existing institutions to create new institutions or new programs focused on the first two years of college.

American Honors is being piloted this academic year at Community Colleges of Spokane and at three campuses of Ivy Tech Community College, in Indiana. The institutions plan to admit full cohorts of about 160 students each next fall. Students enrolled in the program — which is delivered in an online, synchronous format, but with extracurricular and other face time — pay more than they would to enroll in the traditional academic programs at their institutions, but significantly less than they would at most public and private four-year alternatives.