Friday, July 2, 2010

For Profit Colleges

As someone who daylights at a "genuine" university and teaches online at a for-profit university on the side, this general discussion on Dick Durbin's attack on For-Profit universities really interested me.

The for-profit pays me mad money, yo, and asks very little in return. No thinking, no research, no real teaching. No need for days off when some days require a 10 minute email check and nothing else. All I do is hold their students' hands. I email students if they haven't logged on the website for a few days. I praise their shameful attempts at writing. I am upbeat and use lots of exclamation points and help them pretend that they are playing grown-up and getting a full education that will lead to a crazy good career.

But Online University BLOWS. It uses Wikipedia as a textbook. They are all about "equal access" and spurn the use of a textbook or any peer-reviewed source. Instead of creating assignments about the material that encourage critical thinking, they hold discussion forums about student "feelings" on basket weaving. And they charge $2000 for this Wikipedia-based, feeling-oriented, 6-week course.

I get truly hilarious emails from my students -- hilarious, but also really heart-breaking. These people think they are getting an education. One student recently emailed me about how he plans on taking his BA in Basket Weaving and hopes to become a tenured Basket Weaving Prof at Genuine State University. I tried to tell him about the 12 years of training that goes into getting a usable PhD in Basket Weaving. I tried to explain, without selling Online U short, that he would not be able to use an unaccredited degree to go down that path. But he was cheery and stupid in his response: "Thax for your advise, it's stuf like this that makes me look forward to years of talking [basket weaving]."

Oh, Opie, you poor poor schmuck. What are they doing to you?

And how unethical am I? My 6-hours-per-week online job pays me THREE TIMES what my 3-days-per week, 5-hours-prep meatspace teaching job pays me. I could not do the "real" teaching if I didn't participate in the highly exploitative, for-profit "education."

I'm getting kinda sick of using quotes here.

Studies show that online students retain their information much more effectively than students who listen through lectures. That might be a whole different issue here -- the problem of taking notes / surfing facebook while sitting in class -- but those studies rather ignore the online courses that focus on WikiAnswers and feelings rather than the nuts and bolts of Basket Weaving.

Maybe Opie will get some friends and they will rise up to support Dick Durbin's attempts to regulate this sham of a university system. Or maybe such an attack on freedom will be decried by the Tea Party, and for profit universities will prevail!


  1. I took a secret side job when I was in grad school. If I was caught taking pay, my stipend would have been forfeited, but I was desperate for money. So between 72 hour data collection sprees in a real lab with a real advisor doing real science, I had to work for this dumb-ass who had passed his GED WHILE I WAS WORKING FOR HIM, and listen to his bullshit about getting his PhD on-line. I applaud him for getting a chemical company off the ground without a HS diploma. I applaud him for having the self respect to get his GED. I applaud basically anyone who gets around to taking (and passing) the GED exam to better their lives. But boy oh boy, after what (you and) I went through in grad school, do I resent some half cocked blow hard condescending me for being so "dumb" as to go to (a real) "on campus" university and do (legitemate) "pointless" research when "anyone" (really, anyone) can go on-line and get one while working a "real" job.

    So don't feel too bad. Opie sounds sweet - but it's not all Little Lord Fauntleroys. You're also helping For Profit U rip off a bunch of delusional, spoiled, condescending, ego-maniacal fuck-tards. It's Darwinism - they have it coming to them for ignoring McGruff.

  2. I'm intrigued by your salary comparison. My adjunct-only campus pays half as much as my online school (on a per-week basis) for approximately the same amount of hours of work. But it's not the same *kind* of work: for one, I have to drive an hour each way once a week and dress decently and talk to students in person. For the other, I can teach in PJ's and answer emails any time, although I am required to be doing things several times a week, which can be inconvenient. Still... twice the pay.

  3. A recent Frontline episode on for-profits was very interesting. Watch for free here:

  4. OK ... I think someone needs to speak up and say there is a significant difference between a for-profit diploma mill and an accredited college.

    Yes, there can be a honest discussion about the differences in the business models -- non-profit versus for profit.

    But let's not muddy the water by suggesting a program which would grant a chemistry PhD to someone with only a GED is a LEGITIMATE university.

  5. For the record, I think only the online universities are the ones trying to pretend they are legitimate. Anonymous online reviews of these universities are pretty mean -- but pretty accurate. Certainly no one here would suggest that these well-paying shit courses have any semblance to actual learning or critical thought.

  6. I work at a private non-profit meatspace college. We hand out degrees like its candy and degrees with honors like its Kleenex.

    No one keeps track of graduates because no one wants to know the percentage (40, 50, 60%) that go on to successful and rewarding careers as billing clerks, filling clerks, and administrative assistants.

    We are a diploma mill. Except for the labs, the classroom, the library, etc. how are we not like the virtual version?

  7. "My 6-hours-per-week online job pays me THREE TIMES what my 3-days-per week, 5-hours-prep meatspace teaching job pays me."
    What, what, what! And you don't have to listen to whining in person? Too bad you're anonymous and can't say which online school this is. I'd sign up.

  8. I cooked up a deal for the condensed summer term where they allowed me to take a meatspace course online. What I saved in transportation gave me the illusion of getting a raise. So many students put so little into their learning in face-to-face settings because they're puttering around on Facebook anyway, that we might as well reduce the carbon footprint and run all sorts of things online. Good students will learn and do well regardless of the mode.

  9. "Equal Access" sounds great. I've seen profs at my school buy textbooks for students who'd fallen on hard financial times.

    But... has your school ever heard of anything like EBSCOhost? If my memory serves me correctly, your school buys a subscription, you can put in your search criteria, and then check "Peer Reviewed Sources Only" or something to that effect...

    It might cost the school a little bit for a subscription, but that should be a priority for the school if Equal Access is the goal...


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