All-Out War

A Case Study in Media Coverage of For-Profit Higher Education

Tim Gramling


About 19 million students attend U.S. higher education institutions. Institutions with a for-profit tax status educate 2 million of these students. Since the election of President Barack Obama in November 2008, media portrayals of for-profits have seen violent swings among neutral, positive, and even intensely negative views. Two sets of forces have been at work behind the scenes. First is the U.S. government, including the U.S. Senate, the U.S. Department of Education, and the U.S. Government Accountability Office. Second are the for-profit institutions themselves. This case study explores how these forces drove dramatic media coverage shifts in the first two years of the Obama administration.

  • higher education
  • for-profit
  • media coverage
  • U.S. Department of Education

Article Notes

  • Tim Gramling (MS, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and BA, Harvard University, tgramling{at} is the president of Colorado Technical University Kansas City, a for-profit university serving more than 900 students in the greater Kansas City area. He has spent 20 years in industry, with the last 7 years at for-profit higher education institutions. He serves as a consultant evaluator with the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. He is also a student in the Doctorate of Law and Policy program at Northeastern University. His current research focuses on the impact of socioeconomic factors on graduation rates at for-profit higher education institutions.

  • The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship, and/or publication of this article.

  • The author(s) received no financial support for the research and/or authorship of this article.

View Full Text