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Commentary :: Education
The Rape of Higher Education by Corporate America
11 Jul 2007
Corporate America began developing online courses years back when traditional universities had no idea how to do the same. But the times have changed. Traditional universities are promoting strong academic programs while corporate or For-profit universities create an image of caring about academics but only care about the dollars. Academics are hurting....it is time to say goodbye to For-profit Universities.
Corporate America knows how to make money by selling cornflakes. You create a product, market the product, make money, and continue to produce the same product. But success in higher education is not about selling a “box of cornflakes.”

For-profit Higher Educational Institutions capitalized upon the potential of the Internet in the late 1990’s and created on-line distance education. Oh the potential was there, and proven today by its popularity. The needs of working adults were simply not being met by traditional or “brick and mortar” institutions. Those ‘traditionals’ were so firmly implanted within their ivy walls and stuffiness, they failed to foresee the potential of the Internet in relation to learning. Amazingly ironic …the experts in learning failed to recognize the future of learning.

For-profits Institutions capitalized upon this and initiated on-line learning courses. They searched for academic instructors in all fields of study and built programs with these instructors becoming the catalyst for success. These instructors were the avant-gardes and risk takers, or in some sense, they were not unlike the NASA pioneers in the age of “going to the moon” of the 1960’s. These instructors placed their academic credentials on the line, by experimenting with best practice, and taking advantage of on-line course delivery tools. They laid the foundation for success in on-line education which can only be added to today with Internet 2.0 and an increase in interactivity.

But that very success invited corporate America to do what it knows how to do best….make money. For-profits institutions began to see huge increases in academic enrollment in Master’s degree programs which produced enormous profits. But success bred success. As more students went on-line for their learning, more institutions were cultivated Masters program in every field of study, including ‘brick and mortar’ who finally recognized the potential of on-line learning.

The slice of pie (or students) was beginning to thin. With an increasing amount of institutions offering on-line programs, profits for the For-profits took a serious decline. The For-profits responded to this decline by doing what corporate America knows how to do….they began to cut corners, artificially inflating profits. This was accomplished by increasing class size, reducing infrastructure, failing to revise academic programs, accepting all students regardless of qualifications, training or mentoring on how to teach on-line lacked or was eliminated, course platforms were not updated so they lacked course delivery tools, and for some odd reason almost all students earned A’s. ….Egads, one wouldn’t want the word to spread that this institution actually cares about academics and makes you work for a grade, good heavens, who would enroll in the program?

Yet, now the time is ripe to say a fond adieu to these profit-minded institutions for they, in all of their corporate marketing, cannot figure out why their box of cornflakes cannot sell. Could it possibly be the need to create profits for their shareholders over that of providing strong academic programs actually created their demise? No, really? Ironic isn’t it….. the experts in business failed to recognize the importance of academics over that of profits. I challenge all Higher Institution Governing boards to review and audit the For-profits under your control and determine the academic quality of those institutions under your sphere of influence.

Dr. James Lehmann
Former Full-time and Lead Faculty with a For-profit University

Note: Resigned from Position in effective Jan, 2007 due to reasons of utter disgust with For-profit Higher Education Institutions. This blog pertains to higher-education only which includes Bachelors Degrees and Masters Degrees. The levels of PhD and EdD appear to still be intact in terms of academic rigor.

This work is in the public domain
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