Dear Colleagues,

We know the old saying, “don’t believe everything you read.”  It’s one that’s become increasingly relevant as stories about some of New York’s colleges are published.  Even though New York has the strongest proprietary sector in the country because of the high standards to which we all hold ourselves, as well as state regulatory standards, the story that’s been playing out in the public is much different than the one we know to be true.

But in the rush to make “for-profit” a four-letter word, and burden us with new regulations aimed at a few unscrupulous operators, the facts are being pushed aside.  The latest example came last week when the Village Voice admitted that reporter Rob Sgobbo fabricated a story about a former Berkeley College student who the report claimed left school in debt and without a degree.

The story didn’t sit right with our colleagues at Berkeley because their representative never said the things the reporter attributed to her.  So Berkeley did some digging and was able to confirm the student didn’t exist, and that quotes in the story, including those from the U.S. Government Accountability Office and Berkeley representatives, were invented. Berkeley demanded a retraction, and the newspaper quickly and rightly issued one, along with a public apology.                             

This is a win, yes, but hardly a complete victory.  How much other bad information is out there and, as of now, uncorrected?  We’re well aware of how the GAO quietly revised down its inflammatory report on the proprietary college sector, the very report that informed new federal Education Department’s regulations that unfairly target the proprietary sector.  Shame on us if we don’t take Berkeley’s lead and fight back even more vigorously – we can’t allow ourselves to become scapegoats for someone else’s political agenda and outrageous disregard for journalistic principle.

As we meet in Albany this week to discuss priorities for the upcoming year, an item that will now dominate our agenda is to redouble our efforts to set the record straight about the quality of our programs and the imbedded unfairness of proposed federal regulations targeting our colleges.  There are countless alumni and students whose futures are brighter as a result of the education they received – and are receiving – from proprietary colleges. That’s a fact we need to get on the record.


Stephen Jerome