I’ve spent my last two posts providing an overview of the for-profit higher-education industry, and looking at some of the financial numbers. I’m also well aware that my first post on this topic evoked a ferocious backlash. As I implied at the end of my last post, I expect an even more virulent response to this post and the next, which will offer more evidence that for-profit universities are a sham, a multi-billion dollar boondoggle that threatens to cause irreparable damage to American higher education. For the most part, I see myself as doing no more than augmenting the recent GAO undercover investigation of for-profits, which yielded shocking revelations about the industry’s recruiting practices in particular.
I want to go even farther: I want to provide a concrete sense of how bogus these institutions really are. I’m sure I’ll take a lot of flak for doing so, as well as how I’ve decided to go about it. I didn’t want to trigger a legalistic fact-checking marathon, so
I asked what strikes me as an obvious question: What are the credentials and affiliations of the faculty at for-profit colleges? I then checked the homepages of an assortment of for-profit colleges, some national, publicly traded and well known (Strayer, Kaplan, ITT), some local, privately owned, with campuses in my area—Central Ohio and Kentucky. What I found was incredibly disappointing. I admit I limited my search to programs in the humanities, the field I know best, but found that only the University of Phoenix makes that kind of information fairly easily available, and in all fairness their humanities faculty there actually seemed well trained.
Except for the University of Phoenix, I found nothing: an avalanche of marketing propaganda, but nothing about who was doing the actual teaching, or how qualified they were, or where they received their training. Of course it made me wonder: Who is doing the teaching at for-profits, and how qualified are they to teach at the postsecondary level? My suspicion is the faculty at many of these institutions is largely poorly trained and likely incompetent. I may be wrong, but I challenge the for-profit companies I’ve named to publicize the credentials and graduate affiliations of its faculty. They won’t, because it would almost certainly compromise their marketing efforts, but there’s no harm in asking the question.
Next up, the students at these institutions. The post will be titled “The Wonder of the Wonderlic Test,” and if you’re a fan of for-profits, as so many of my detractors seem to be, you’ll hate it even more than what I’ve had to say today.