Prospective American chefs received distasteful news in December of last year when Le Cordon Bleu, a series of premiere culinary arts schools, announced it will be shutting the doors of its 16 U.S. locations in 2017. The alma mater of esteemed chef and TV personality Julia Child, as well as many famed and celebrated chefs across Europe, Asia and Oceania, Le Cordon Bleu has been a cornerstone of culinary and gastronomic education since 1895. Its parent company, Career Education Corporation, previously announced it was looking for a company to buy the schools, but when the deal fell through, they were forced to close.
While up and coming culinary students still have a selection of schools from which to choose, the closing of Le Cordon Bleu is still alarming. Media outlets seem to conclude that the schools simply could not make enough money to continue operations. However, Le Cordon Bleu charged tens of thousands in tuition, and collected more from interest on the student debt of the graduates who did not achieve fame and fortune in the world of fine dining. Todd Nelson, C.E.O. of Career Education, stated, “New federal regulations make it difficult to project the future for career schools that have higher operating costs…” in a news release.
Like in many other career paths — especially fields in the fine arts — a small percentage of students will get jobs, and fewer will become renowned in the field. Students who graduated from Le Cordon Bleu have lobbied grievances against the school, bitter about a high tuition with little return. A former student even sued Career Ed for falsified job placement information in its advertising to recruit students. It is no shock the company is suffering: they settled with the student for $40 million, indicating Career Ed knew how large the fallout would have been had the case been argued in court.
This case should have been met with more outrage. If Le Cordon Bleu nearly got away with false advertising, one must wonder how many other schools — vocational or four-year — fudge the numbers to attract talented students. When colleges are run like corporations, or run by them, students suffer every time. In an institution where learners should be prioritized, their money comes before their needs. On a national level, education politics, often adulterated with bureaucracy by men and women long graduated, can neglect student interests in the pursuit of economic relief. However, students and schools need the money. If we are in the business of educating and rearing young adults to be citizens and members of a society, we should meet their needs with fervor and the understanding that they will one day return the investment.
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A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Feb. 16 print edition. Email Connor Borden at [email protected]