Something Corporate: The Case for Treating Proprietary Education Institutions Like Corporations

38 Pages Posted: 16 Dec 2014 Last revised: 13 Dec 2018

See all articles by CJ Ryan

CJ Ryan

Roger Williams University School of Law; American Bar Foundation

Date Written: 2014


Postsecondary education, particularly proprietary postsecondary education, has become a product-driven industry. As such, the law must apply the same accountability standards on these schools that it requires of other proprietary entities. This article examines the history of and distinction between proprietary schools and traditional postsecondary schools, the modern reality of the educational marketplace, and the organizational structure of proprietary schools, positing that the regulation of the proprietary education industry is more akin to regulating a traditional corporation than regulating a traditional postsecondary school. Ultimately, this article concludes that a fiduciary duty, existing between proprietary education institutions and their students, must supplant the academic abstention doctrine, which has long been a fixture in the court system, and finds that historical causes of action against proprietary schools are inadequate in the modern context. This article also contends that the states are better positioned to regulate harmful trade practices of proprietary schools than the federal government and makes a realistic and modern recommendation for the regulation of proprietary educational institutions.

Keywords: Higher Education, Law, Corporate Law, For-Profit Education, Proprietary Education, Corporations

Suggested Citation

Ryan, Christopher, Something Corporate: The Case for Treating Proprietary Education Institutions Like Corporations (2014). Journal of College and University Law, Vol. 40, No. 2, 2014, Available at SSRN:

Christopher Ryan (Contact Author)

Roger Williams University School of Law ( email )

10 Metacom Avenue
Bristol, RI 02809
United States

American Bar Foundation ( email )

750 N. Lake Shore Drive
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