December 19th, 2013
Earlier this week I read a piece on the Huffington Post about some for-profit colleges making false promises of guaranteeing employment on graduation to lure students. In fact, these colleges created fake jobs to attract the students. How did they pull it off? By paying employers $2000 to hire their students for a month or two and then laying them off. Now why would these colleges do this, you may ask? The answer is that a solid job placement rates allow the for-profit colleges and their parent companies, to satisfy the accrediting bodies that oversee their numerous campuses spread across the U.S., while enabling them to “tap federal student aid coffers — a source of funding that has reached nearly $10 billion over the last decade.” Are you as outraged as I am about this fakery? Best that you read the post for all the gory details; I frankly don’t have the stomach.
Why are people willing to pay top dollar (one student paid $17,000 for a nine-month certificate program in air-conditioning and refrigeration) and fall into long-term debt when they can easily take the same courses at a fraction of the cost at a local community college? Perhaps the community colleges need to advertise and market themselves more, but I guess they need resources to do that which may not be so easy when competing with the for-profits.
I heard a report on KCRW’s To the Point on MOOCs, those Massive Open On-Line Courses which were all the rage a year or so ago, so much so that many were predicting the demise of the traditional brick and mortar institutions of higher learning. Two years ago, Stanford University attracted 160,000 students to take a MOOC. There was a lot of giddy chatter on how MOOCs will shake up the status quo with its promise of making higher education available to millions who otherwise can’t afford it. College professors began to fear losing their jobs. Panic had set in. Yet, despite big investment from Stanford, Harvard, MIT and Silicon Valley, MOOC’s have not lived up to the hype and haven’t revolutionized higher education. It appears that many of those who enroll in a MOOC do not complete the course which means the completion rate of MOOCs is not too promising. But, with millions invested, online education isn’t going away, though as a mass movement it’s not going to replace traditional routes to higher education any time soon.
In her post on October 9, 2013 in CampusTechnology, an online blog, Dian Schaffhauser reports: “A coalition of faculty groups has declared war against online learning, particularly massive open online courses (MOOCs), because it said it believes that the fast expansion of this form of education is being promulgated by corporations — specifically for-profit colleges and universities and education technology companies — at the expense of student education and public interest.” Interesting how the same for-profit colleges are the ones who are also moving in and incorporating the MOOCs into their program structure. Up until now, MOOCs have been cost free to those who enroll in an on-line course, but once these MOOCs are picked up by for-profit colleges, there goes the no-cost benefit to the learner.
If there is a point to my rant, it’s that these extreme attempts made to “revolutionize” higher education, whether through offering accelerated training programs with promises of guaranteed employment at their completion or access to on-line education to anyone and anywhere, are just that: extreme and profit-driven. I’m all for accessible and affordable higher education, not accessible with a high price tag and false promises.
Oh, and Happy Holidays and catch you next year!
The Frustrated Evaluator
One response to “For-Profit Colleges, MOOCs, and the Future of Higher Education”
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