All-Out War: A Case Study in Media Coverage of For-Profit Higher Education
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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.