A Huge, Incredible Scam
April 11, 2011 7:41 AM   Subscribe


 
I would call that a "comic" rather than an "infographic," but it's a nice summary of the facts. What is Bridgepoint Education doing with their tiny football stadium?
posted by theodolite at 7:45 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Playing tiny football games?
posted by Ghidorah at 7:49 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


What is Bridgepoint Education doing with their tiny football stadium?

The nice answer: let pee-wee teams play on a "big kid" field and feel special. Unfortunately, what's probably more likely is that they give campus tours and use it to be all "look how legit we are! We have a football field!"
posted by phunniemee at 7:55 AM on April 11, 2011


yes, there is a big problem with for profit educatation. Primarily the lack of focus on the educatation aspect.

We don't need no educatation. Or maybe we do.
posted by nickrussell at 7:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


Let's cut to the chase here: ANY organization that is 'for profit' is explicitly out to ratfuck you, unless you are an owner.
posted by dirtdirt at 7:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [21 favorites]


Metafilter: explicitly out to ratfuck you.
posted by pwnguin at 8:06 AM on April 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


So glad you posted this! I was hoping for a metafilter discussion of this topic (higher ed, not ratfucking).

Here's an interesting counterpoint "Of all the potential merits of for-profit colleges, perhaps the most useful is simply the role they serve in upsetting the status quo."

And an article in the Chronicle of Higher Ed on the rise of for-profits.

And I stumbled across this fantastic blog, Confessions of a Community College Dean, which has sucked away hours of my life.
posted by selfmedicating at 8:08 AM on April 11, 2011 [6 favorites]


I'm a grad of Colorado Tech Online. Do I think it was a particularly rigorous program? Not in the slightest. But the educational system has fundamentally failed people like me that have a job and can teach themselves the content of a typical undergrad course in 2-3 weeks. Traditional education has never worked for me, and has always moved (by my perception) at a glacial pace.

Lest someone argue that I wouldn't have the same experience at a "real" college, I did 3 semesters at Carnegie Mellon majoring in bio while taking grad level math.

CTU offered the opportunity to get a checkbox, which is exactly what I need to progress my career with an excellent work history. No one cares about where you got your degree once you've got that first job out of college. I'm not working in academia -- institution reputation has no value to me.

I don't feel ripped off. I was able to complete a degree _years_ ahead of what I could have done with a different college. I consider that a convenience surcharge and money well spent.
posted by bfranklin at 8:20 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


Confessions of a CC Dean is just fantastic. He used to work at a for profit.
posted by idb at 8:21 AM on April 11, 2011


Having worked at a for-profit university (not one of those mentioned), I can tell you there is an inherent conflict of interest between educating students properly and making money. bfranklin, I understand what you're saying about just needing to check a box, but for every one person like you, I talked to 10 who honestly thought we'd prepare them for a job.
posted by desjardins at 8:32 AM on April 11, 2011 [9 favorites]


I used to work at a community college (CC Dean is awesome, btw), and the outreach person in my office often complained about the really aggressive techniques of the for-profit recruiters. At the same time, she was frustrated that our school didn't have the resources to do some of the hand-holding that some students wanted/needed, esp if they were unfamiliar with the whole college process.

That Frontline episode was fascinating/horrifying.
posted by epersonae at 8:46 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


Years ago I worked in a state university registration office. One of the less fun parts of my job was telling "transfer" students from for-profit schools that none of their credits would be accepted from the for-profit school. And every single time the student would tell us how they had been promised that all their credits would transfer. Made me sick to my stomach to have to tell them that all the money they had spent amounted to less than a hill of beans as far as we were concerned.

For profit schools are fine if you meet the following criteria:

1. You already have a job in the field you want
2. You just want a piece of paper to get over that hurdle in future job/promotion interviews
3. You have no intention of seeking a higher degree at a non-profit school later in life*


*Or you don't mind starting from scratch to do this.
posted by jnrussell at 8:48 AM on April 11, 2011 [8 favorites]


I've worked for one of the for-profit universities mentioned. They were actively recruiting people who barely know how to use a computer for online-only classes—people who'd be better served by free or cheap in-person instruction at their local public library or community college. There were many students with such poor reading skills that I don't think they'd have been able to get through the loan agreements they signed (they sure weren't able to read even the names of their courses.)

The whole experience was sickening. The course content itself wasn't so bad, but the delivery method and the fact that the school was taking advantage of their students' lack of information to a shameful degree? Ugh.
posted by asperity at 8:50 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I like this comic/graphic/whatever it is, but I'm not sure where they get the 75 $ per contact hour figure. Is that supposed to be only for community colleges? I don't think it holds true for state 4-year schools, much less private 4-year colleges. Everything else in the graphic pretty much checks out as far as I can tell.
posted by achmorrison at 8:53 AM on April 11, 2011


desjardins: bfranklin, I understand what you're saying about just needing to check a box, but for every one person like you, I talked to 10 who honestly thought we'd prepare them for a job.

This I can completely understand. Interacting with the college administrative staff was horrendous (seriously, you're up-selling me on a Masters I don't need?). I do think it's a problem that people who don't know better are getting sucked in by these programs. The writing skills of many, many classmates were at an 8th grade level or lower.
posted by bfranklin at 8:58 AM on April 11, 2011


The Post Company is now a for-profit education company, entirely dependent on federal student loan money dolled out by the government they are supposed to be watching.
posted by T.D. Strange at 9:11 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


They were actively recruiting people who barely know how to use a computer for online-only classes

Yep. I was asked "How do I open a Word document?" more than once.
posted by desjardins at 9:12 AM on April 11, 2011


I bet my metal cred would be a lot higher if I changed my last name to Deatherage.
posted by Wolfdog at 9:12 AM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


I won't call this an "info graphic" or even a "comic." I would call it an "editorial cartoon." It is the "reality" from the (stilted) point of view of the artist.
posted by MarshallPoe at 9:15 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


i don't understand this statement: But the educational system has fundamentally failed people like me that have a job and can teach themselves the content of a typical undergrad course in 2-3 weeks.

as i wandered & wended my way to an 8-year undergrad, it was not uncommon for me to have a little chat with my professors at the beginning of each quarter (see how long it's been? my alma mater used the quarter system then.) the conversation essentially went like this: i have a job (sometimes multiple jobs; depended on what stage i was in) that sometimes requires me to work varying hours. i will not always be in class. i *will* always make the scheduled tests & turn in the required projects. please do not ping me for not being in class unless you want to pay my rent & underwrite my bills.

bingo. not everyone liked it, but i can honestly say that every one of them understood. i have an undergrad from a respected state institution where my classmates were well above the 8th grade reading level.

i understand that not everyone can take 8 years to get a lousy 4-year degree. but i also understand that plenty, plenty of folks who are availing themselves of on-line for-profit schools are not any more interested in an education than the institution that will confer the degree. to me, that demeans not for-profit education, but education in general.
posted by msconduct at 9:16 AM on April 11, 2011


the opportunity to get a checkbox

Fair enough, but what about the folks who think or expect or need to get an education?
posted by bumpkin at 9:16 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The real story of for-profit college craud is the failure of the accreditation system. There's supposed to be an independent body of academics who look at schools and pass judgement as to whether they're legitimate, educate students, are eligible for federal grants, etc. In practice that system does not work.
posted by Nelson at 9:21 AM on April 11, 2011 [7 favorites]


I agree, msconduct. It's a race to the bottom. If a degree is just a checkbox, what is it worth? For-profit education devalues all education.
posted by desjardins at 9:26 AM on April 11, 2011


jnrussell: 3. You have no intention of seeking a higher degree at a non-profit school later in life.

False. I completed my undergrad degree at Univ of Phoenix in the 90s, and used that to earn a graduate degree in healthcare administration at Baylor University.

UoP doesn't rate very high with lots of people, but it did what it said on the tin, for me - got me through my undergrad biz degree in straight-forward fashion, helping me achieve my goals both academically and professionally.

Granted, there are plenty of UoP students and grads who "skate" through it and don't pick up the necessary education, skills, or critical thinking that such a program *should* provide - but it served its purpose for me and many others.
posted by davidmsc at 9:27 AM on April 11, 2011


It is the "reality" from the (stilted) point of view of the artist.

She cites her sources, and all of this stuff has been been repeatedly covered over the past few years. I don't think this is the greatest way the artist could have presented the information, but I'd hardly call the point she's making "stilted".
posted by thsmchnekllsfascists at 9:27 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


msconduct, I've had a gripe for pretty much my entire life with having to wait to start new material simply because someone has decreed that Calc 1 must be covered in a semester, or quarter, or whatever. My entire experience of education -- grade school, high school, and college -- has been spent being bored. I realize I'm not in the majority, but it certainly makes 5.5 week classes rather attractive, especially when I'm getting the same thing out of those classes regardless of how long they take.

Education is not being devalued by for-profit schools. First, education is not being devalued -- degrees are. Second, for-profit schools aren't doing it; the job market is. Degrees serve as an artificial barrier to entry that have next to nothing to do with aptitude.
posted by bfranklin at 9:42 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


From the standpoint of the student, full disclosure is vital. For-profit schools should have to prove that their students not only received, but understood, data concerning accreditation, honoring of credits for transfer and degrees for graduate school admission, and job placement. Having it be done by third parties (sort of like the verifiers who used to be engaged when you changed long distance providers) might be good.

From the standpoint of the government interest, I think that it's vital to compare apples to apples. The better for-profit schools won't look so bad compared to the more mediocre public community colleges and state schools when you (a) deduct property and income taxes paid by the for-profits from the government grants and loan guarantee losses and (b) fully load the public school's costs for not only grants and loan guarantee losses, but the federal, state and local appropriations that they receive for expenses that the for-profits private schools bear on their own. If you measure the output of community college by income increases or by the drop-out rate (one minus the percentage of those who matriculate in a community college who have a bachelor's degree within some reasonable number of years), that output will often look pretty poor.
posted by MattD at 9:44 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I cannot for the life of me envision a system under which a for-profit (or even any private) educational institution is provided with economic incentives that encourage them to provide a good education that includes any sort of academic rigor.
posted by schmod at 9:51 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


That isn't an infographic, it's a travesty. It haphazardly mixes random quotations and slanted rhetorical questions with facts, and those facts are presented in a format that makes comprehension more difficult. Percentages are hanging in the air without clear reference. Visual depictions are completely random - the 36% Pell Grants looks to take up about 80% of the medal. The "students" graphic makes it appear that no poor students will drop out, but all students of color will. And on and on.

I'm no fan of for-profit education, and loved the Frontline episode cited in the FPP. But this is just terrible.
posted by googly at 9:59 AM on April 11, 2011 [12 favorites]


bfranklin: That's just because they thought you were a student of the Counter Terrorist Unit, wasn't it?
posted by Apocryphon at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2011


MattD - I've seen that data from some people who wanted to own the shares. It isn't that compelling. There is a path for them to be real education institutions and make money, but the need to massively retrench from an enrollment perspective to make that happen - and the industry has basically decided its easier to fight the government then make the required changes.
posted by JPD at 10:14 AM on April 11, 2011


Every college and university is for profit, some are just more honest about it.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 10:27 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


They left out Kaplan, which owns the Washington Post. It's a huge conflict of interest
posted by delmoi at 10:35 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I'm a grad of Colorado Tech Online. Do I think it was a particularly rigorous program? Not in the slightest. But the educational system has fundamentally failed people like me that have a job and can teach themselves the content of a typical undergrad course in 2-3 weeks. Traditional education has never worked for me, and has always moved (by my perception) at a glacial pace.

Why pay for it, though? You can buy books and do MIT open coursewear on your own, for free or just for the price of books. Are there really that many good jobs out there where it's just "Get any college degree"? If you want a professional certification, why not just get an actual one like an MCSE or something?
posted by delmoi at 10:40 AM on April 11, 2011


That's no sea cow. That's a manatee!

the 36% Pell Grants looks to take up about 80% of the medal

I believe the entire graph would be the medal and the ribbon.

The "students" graphic makes it appear that no poor students will drop out, but all students of color will.

I pretty clearly read that as 2/7 students are "poor," 2/7 are "minorities," and 5/7 will "probably drop out," as confusing as each of those terms might be ...

Every college and university is for profit, some are just more honest about it.

Nonsense. Or explain yourself.
posted by mrgrimm at 10:48 AM on April 11, 2011


Are there really that many good jobs out there where it's just "Get any college degree"?

Yup. My husband has 15+ years of IT experience, but never finished his college degree, so he was ineligible to apply for many, many jobs when he was unemployed. At his last job, he'd have to finish his degree to be able to move up. His unfinished degree is in religion and philosophy, but no one cares what it is. It makes no sense to require him to pay for another year of school to get a degree that doesn't relate at all to his current work. So I completely understand bfranklin's talk of a check box. The presence or absence of a degree, no matter the quality, is absolutely used to screen people in the hiring and promotion processes.
posted by desjardins at 10:54 AM on April 11, 2011 [11 favorites]


The biggest scandal is the number taking their first courses and dropping out. University of Phoenix has an 84% drop out rate according to the infographic. So for every 1 that gets a diploma, 4 just end up with debts.
posted by humanfont at 10:55 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


If you want a professional certification, why not just get an actual one like an MCSE or something?

Oh, and my husband has a MCSE and several other professional certs. Didn't matter, needed a degree for a promotion.
posted by desjardins at 10:56 AM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


I agree with googly. I found this "infographic" very hard to read, understand, follow, even look at for very long.
posted by jillithd at 10:57 AM on April 11, 2011


Are there really that many good jobs out there where it's just "Get any college degree"? If you want a professional certification, why not just get an actual one like an MCSE or something?

Yes, and I already have one, amongst multiple others. My experience is very similar to desjardins' husband's.
posted by bfranklin at 11:18 AM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I do think it's a problem that people who don't know better are getting sucked in by these programs. The writing skills of many, many classmates were at an 8th grade level or lower.

I think this is the real key here: you shouldn't be able to call something a "college" or "university" unless it is actually providing tertiary education. I'm all for people wanting to learn to read and write better and think we need to do a lot more to help adults who are motivated to learn, but the university model, and especially the college funding model of Pell Grants and federal loans, is simply not suited to remedial adult education. These people should have been taught to write in middle and high schools, but because they weren't, we'll just make them take out loans to try again now and call it college?

In 2004, 43% of students at public two-year colleges and 29% at public four-year colleges enrolled in remedial classes. Nearly four out of five of these students had a high school GPA of at least 3.0, and nearly six in ten described their high school classes as "easy." If this is what's going on at public community colleges, what do you think is happening at for-profit universities, where there's real pressure to decree as many potential customers as college-ready as possible?

Many "well-respected" colleges (whatever that means) simply say that, for example, Calculus I is the lowest level math course offered (some do statistics for social science majors too). If you lack the algebra and trig skills to take calculus, they have remedial classes, but those don't count as college classes and you can't earn college credit for them. It's absolutely fantastic if an adult wants to take Algebra I, and we should encourage him as much as possible, but we shouldn't call that course a part of a college education.

Personally, it seems that people are entitled to a free education up to the secondary level, and they should be able to receive that education regardless of age. If an adult is writing at an 8th grade level and wants to improve, he should be freely helped by the local school district, not indebted to a for-profit "college."
posted by zachlipton at 11:19 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


Personally, it seems that people are entitled to a free education up to the secondary level, and they should be able to receive that education regardless of age. If an adult is writing at an 8th grade level and wants to improve, he should be freely helped by the local school district, not indebted to a for-profit "college."

These local school districts are the same ones that gave many of my classmates the diplomas necessary to enter a for-profit school. My unscientific sample showed that most of my classmates did not go the GED route.
posted by bfranklin at 11:23 AM on April 11, 2011


I have an engineering degree from a public university and a culinary degree from a for-profit college. If I hadn't been told point blank that I needed a culinary degree because hiring me in a kitchen was too much of a risk that I would wash out of the industry, I wouldn't have gone to culinary school, and instead gone into more of an apprenticeship in a kitchen.

I paid twice as much as my four year public degree than for my one year for-profit degree. With my public degree I landed a job paying decent wages. With my for-profit degree I landed a job paying half those wages and with fewer benefits.

I paid for my public education in one year as an engineer. I don't really have much to say on it, other than - I lived in decent places, ate well, and bought a car with a 3-year payment schedule at the same time.

I will pay off my for-profit degree later this year or early next year. At that point, I will be the only student of the 24 culinary students I graduated with that will have paid it off. Many extended their loans from the 10 year payoff period and rolled those into 30-year loans to decrease their payments. I ate peanut-butter, lived in the slums, cycled everywhere, and worked 60-80 hours for the time that I stayed a cook. When I left cooking, I had paid out one of the high interest loans early to minimize my monthly payments. When I realized that I was going to be unable to have any sembalance of a family life and make forward progress, I bailed on culinary. Luckily, my fall-back career skills meant I went from blue collar back to white collar.

I've kept in touch with a few classmates (and those guys have stayed slightly more clued into our other classmates). Only a handful have been able to continue cooking for financial reasons. Most have given up because spending $28K for a job that pays only slightly better than minimum wage is arguably crazy. Most of them have had to default on portions of their debt. At least one went bankrupt but still has to pay the 22 more years of his student loans.

As far as the education goes: because of the program I was in, and the fact that it was a hands-on campus driven degree instead of a online clickfest I do think that there was a fair amount of rigor required by the instructors comparative to my engineering undergraduate. Granted, it wasn't rocket science and I could spot certain intellectually dishonest portions of the book instruction. Moreover, because the classes involved a necessary practial portion, if you were a poor book learner you would not be penalized as heavily as one would normally be in a public university setting.

TLDR: The job oportunties presented by the for-profit institutions are laughable designed to extract both the maximum amount of money from the federal government as well as force the student into higher-interest debt. People emerge with a degree which - while useful - does not afford the student a better quality of life.
posted by Nanukthedog at 11:26 AM on April 11, 2011 [5 favorites]


A bunch of game schools have popped up within these "For profit" schools, with dubious quality. I overheard someone say it would be a "tough sell" trying to apply anywhere with Devry on a resume.
posted by hellojed at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2011


These local school districts are the same ones that gave many of my classmates the diplomas necessary to enter a for-profit school. My unscientific sample showed that most of my classmates did not go the GED route.

Oh I'm not denying they have diplomas. They shouldn't have high school diplomas if they can only write at an 8th grade level, but that's not a problem the tertiary education system can solve. My point is that if someone actually lacks the knowledge and skills that make up a reasonable secondary school curriculum, it's setting almost everyone up for failure to throw them into "college." The only one who benefits is the for-profit college when the federal government picks up the bill.

On a related note, Confessions of a Community College Dean has some counter-intuitive findings on remedial classes.
posted by zachlipton at 11:29 AM on April 11, 2011


delmoi: "Are there really that many good jobs out there where it's just "Get any college degree"?"

Yes, there are. To give an example, in 2009 Garmin was recruiting for software engineers, with the qualifications that they have a degree in anything, and sufficient experience. That experience could be a degree in CS, but if you had a degree in Psych or something else, as long as you can program embedded systems they don't care. As I understand it, they're looking for non-discriminatory ways to narrow the applicant pool. The excess labor from the dotcom collapse wasn't completely soaked up before the great recession hit. I guess this isn't "just get any college degree" though.

This worked out against a friend of mine who worked on the Neuros OSD, but had dropped out of school to work for them. His degree program wasn't CSAB accredited and the CS dept is now closed. He was in a bit of a financial pickle, having bought a huge truck and bought a house at nearly the top of the market, while work on OSD was basically canceled. I think he took a job with some educational technology firm as a datacenter manager / sysadmin.

For promotions, I can see the degree thing. You want management to be upwardly mobile within the company, which may include a night school MBA. You also want them to be able to write and communicate, and while degrees are clearly not foolproof at imparting this, it's a pretty good filter.
posted by pwnguin at 11:46 AM on April 11, 2011


Education is not being devalued by for-profit schools. First, education is not being devalued -- degrees are. Second, for-profit schools aren't doing it; the job market is. Degrees serve as an artificial barrier to entry that have next to nothing to do with aptitude.

It's true that many people (like desjardins's husband) already have marketable skills, and just get a degree to satisfy an arbitrary HR requirement.

But there are also a lot of people out there who don't have marketable skills yet, want to learn some, and go to school in order to do so. People in this second category — who are underrepresented on Metafilter, but quite well-represented on college campuses — are the ones who get screwed by the for-profits. They end up paying more, learning less, and getting less support than they would have at a good community college or four-year state school.
posted by nebulawindphone at 11:49 AM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


I got my teaching credential at a for-profit, and went into big debt to get it. However, it was the only option I had at the time (was working full time as a sub), and it was at a time when school districts were actively recruiting teachers, even paying signing bonuses and moving expenses. I fell into a job almost immediately and never even had to interview... the principal called me and asked me to show up the next day based on the recommendation of a teacher I knew who worked there.

With the job market for teachers the way it is, I wouldn't recommend the same course to anyone. I know people who have been long-term subbing for years, and will likely continue to do so. Sub pay isn't hardly enough to live on, much less pay down debt.

As for the quality of the education, I learned almost nothing in the time I was there. In one class the instructor literally piled children's books around the room and told us to read for two hours.
posted by Huck500 at 12:29 PM on April 11, 2011


MetaFilter: It haphazardly mixes random quotations and slanted rhetorical questions with facts.
posted by kirkaracha at 12:51 PM on April 11, 2011 [2 favorites]


I am probably not phrasing this as well as possible, so bear with me:

I worry that a college education is now just a signal of persistence or privilege. At one time, it seemed that the purpose of a college education was to teach critical thinking skills, but nowadays, with legislatures wanting colleges to justify every program and every course (would you believe that Florida makes me sign a statement every semester telling them that I will actually have students use the textbook that I am requiring them to buy?), I don't think higher level thinking skills are important anymore. (Or, they are no longer valued.)

If a degree is just a signal, then maybe that's why the for profits can survive. I am amazed to hear of people getting jobs based on just having a degree period, forget what it is in. If there is no correlation between what your degree is in and what you are going to actually do, then what is the point? Why not just "pay to play?"
posted by wittgenstein at 1:10 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


It seems like for-profit "colleges" are essentially designed to extract money from the poor as well as siphon government grant money into their coffers - and it's a business model that seems to be working.

Given the high dropout rate, this is essentially targeting the "subprime" market for education instead of housing. Target susceptible but cash-strapped individuals, lure them with promises of gov't aid and overblown guarantees on what their degree will get them, and whether they drop out or not...you still have a debt slave / uncle sam making payments.

The cases where for-profit education meets the needs of the consumer are a smoke-screen drawing flak away from the fact that the overall idea is unsound.
posted by jnnla at 1:20 PM on April 11, 2011




I wonder where those people complaining that for-profit colleges shuttle people through without giving them a meaningful education, and are only useful for checking the box and getting your piece of paper diploma etc., went to college. At my well-respected private liberal arts college, you had to be braindead and/or never turn anything in to get a C. As long as you paid up ($50k a year!) and didn't get arrested, you graduated, pretty much.

It seems to me that most of the complaints raised about for-profit colleges are just aggravated versions of the issues plaguing higher education in general.
posted by dixiecupdrinking at 1:25 PM on April 11, 2011 [4 favorites]


My sense is that when employers have 400 applicants for one job, they have to pick some way to weed people out. It's much easier and less time-consuming to set the bar at "must have degree" than to sift through each individual resume.

I don't think higher level thinking skills are important anymore. (Or, they are no longer valued.)

I disagree; I think they are very important in many jobs and the companies I've worked for definitely valued them. Unfortunately, they're often not taught well.
posted by desjardins at 1:26 PM on April 11, 2011


I have gone to two for-profit schools (both online) and I have been satisfied with the quality of education at both. I actually went to school to learn more. I did not just go so I could check off a box on a job application, although the majority of my classmates were there for that reason and their needs matter in this conversation. My credits from both schools are transferable to other regionally accredited schools, same as most any other degree, and I can go to a brick and mortar, non-profit graduate school if I choose. I don't intend to offer justifications for the schools, particularly if they are involved in any fraudulent practices. But I feel that the voice of students who go to the schools and are satisfied with the experience has been very quiet in all of these discussions (and completely absent from the infographic).

Non-profit vs. For-profit - If I were starting today I'd still get an online degree, but I'd probably choose a non-profit. When I started there weren't nearly as many options for what I wanted to study and no one was reaching out to me the way the first school (University of Phoenix) did. Were they just trying to make a buck? Yeah, and I knew that at the time. I read every piece of negative press and all the negative experiences I could find before classes even started, so I knew. But I needed help at every step due to disability and complete lack of experience (none of my family went to college, not even any first cousins aunts or uncles). The UoP coordinator helped me with everything and was a constant presence and supportive individual up to the time I graduated with my associate's degree.

Would I recommend UoP? I have mixed feelings. The day that I graduated I wore my gown out to dinner and I kept running into people who had a friend or a relative who graduated from UoP, or they had done so themselves. Talking to real people - I never felt any shame over the degree. But on the internet and in the press I hear about it all the time. I could have stayed there for a bachelor's but I chose not to for three reasons: reputation (not completely fair); I did not want to have to do group work in every class; cost. The high cost and debt load are absolutely fair criticisms, especially since so many of my fellow students were working class or low-income. On the other hand, I do feel the school has given many people that first experience with college or that degree they need to get the job. In addition, I was definitely satisfied with the education I received. The assignments, the instructors (some of them were a little harsh imo but maybe they have to deal with a lot of remedial students), the textbooks, the syllabi, and the projects were varied, interesting, and left me with a lot more knowledge than when I started.

The school I attend currently for my bachelor's has made a tremendous difference in my life and I am happy I chose to attend. Yes it is for-profit and more expensive than a community college. To alleviate my concerns over receiving an "inferior education", I have rather compulsively checked my syllabi against the syllabi and requirements I find online for the same classes in more traditional schools at the same level. In some classes (for example, a race/ethnicity course), I have done graduate-level work. Online classes are short, intense, and involve a lot of reading, writing and corresponding with classmates. They are not easy and earning a degree this way is not like buying one from a diploma mill. If I could make any one point in this mass of text that is the point I would like to make. For the (small, lol) percentage of us who get through the programs and graduate, as I will with my bachelor's in two months, it took a lot of work to get this far and I'd hold up the quality of my education against anyone, although I know the same really cannot be said for all for-profit and/or online programs.

As I said, I make no excuses for them and any of their unsavory practices (gaming financial aid, low pay for adjuncts, fraudulent sales tactics, etc.). I think they fill a significant void and any plan to target them, restrict them, or phase them out has to account for a way to fill that void. I also have made the choice to no longer be ashamed about my education, since that shame was not coming from my actual experiences but from the perceptions of others.
posted by Danila at 1:27 PM on April 11, 2011 [3 favorites]


My experience with for profit education ended with a worthless degree and a cautionary tale about buying into school when it sounds too good to be true.

Computer Learning Center Suspends Classes

The warning we should have seen was when the CEO arrived at school and told us that in spite of the investigation, everything was fine and operations would go on as planned.

They did eventually file for bankruptcy, which left many thousands of students across the country without the education they paid for while leaving them on the hook for their student loans. When the school did eventually pay out creditors, there wasn't much left over to help offset the costs accrued by students who had taken their overpriced classes.

In the end, I was left with a degree that became property of the state. And it had been filed without an official embossed seal, and no one at this point can be certified to affix the necessary seal on it. So it's a worthless (Nothing to show for it.) but at the same time extremely expensive (Recurring costs the state has to pay.) piece of paper sitting in a filing cabinet in a bureaucrat's drawer.
posted by hgswell at 1:35 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


My wife attended a for-profit college, and while I admit it was expensive, and we will be paying for it for some time, we also feel that she got a great value for the expense. The gen-ed classes were kind of lightweight, but the major-focused classes were intense, led by instructors with extensive experience and knowledge, and she had no problem working with the career services department to get part time jobs/internships during school and a full-time position with fantastic pay and benefits after graduation.

The school she attended was not one of the ones bashed in the linked comic, so I can't speak directly to experience with those schools.
posted by owtytrof at 1:40 PM on April 11, 2011


Huh, talk about synchronicity here's another info-graphic about student loans I just saw on reddit.
posted by delmoi at 2:32 PM on April 11, 2011 [1 favorite]


The goal, employees say, is getting “starts”: students who fill out the paperwork for student loans and make it through at least four weeks of their first five-week course. That is the point at which the university is able to keep the student’s federal aid money, regardless of whether they continue their studies. After that, according to the Ashford employees, any form of counseling drastically drops off.

Ha! Sad to know my pet theory was more or less on the mark.
posted by jnnla at 3:08 PM on April 11, 2011


From kliuless' Felix Salmon link, the Khan Academy is really cool. I'd never heard of it!

Also, a 500-seat football stadium makes no sense to me, i.e. how can the seating be so small? (Perhaps they mean 5,000? 50,000?) 500 seats around a 120-yard (plus the borders) field is 1-2 rows.

Actually, from the Ashford Athletics site, it looks like there are no seats.
posted by mrgrimm at 3:37 PM on April 11, 2011


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