Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Stanley H. Kaplan: Pioneer Educational Entrepreneur

Goldie Blumenstyk published on Aug. 25 an obituary in the Chronicle of Higher Education for Stanley H. Kaplan, who founded a pioneering SAT tutoring enterprise. Kaplan had an impact on preparation for the SAT college admissions test, but the beliefs of test-takers on the gains from such preparation are, in my view, all too often exaggerated.

Kaplan's more important impact -- outlined in Blumenstyk's piece -- was on the growth of commerce in the field of delivering education:
Today, the higher-education industry includes not only giant for-profit institutions like DeVry University, the University of Phoenix, and the degree-granting colleges of Kaplan itself, but also course-management companies like Blackboard Inc. and eCollege, distance-learning outsourcers like Higher Ed Holdings, and student-coaching and tutoring companies like Inside Track and Smartthinking.

Before Kaplan, non-profit institutions monopolized higher education. But, Kaplan, Blumenstyk quotes former Columbia Teachers College President Arthur Levine as saying, "proved that there was space for profit-making companies in higher education."

Blumenstyk goes on to comment on current conditions in the higher education industry:
Meanwhile, the cost pressure on colleges is driving some of them to the realization that their economic model is fast becoming unsustainable and that their instructional model is perhaps less than suitable for the needs of the coming populations of adult and other nontraditional students.

So now, as traditional colleges seek new strategies for delivering education in less costly and more appealing ways, perhaps through prepackaged, hybrid courses that mix online and in-class instruction, it's those sorts of educational companies that are likely to play a bigger and bigger role.

These are comments that K-12 watchers should also bear in mind.


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