Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Sibling Rivalry - "Why Job-Seekers Pick For-Profit Colleges" (CCS)

There is undoubtedly some sibling rivalry between for-profit colleges and, well, the rest of the education world. It seems that educators - and education as a field - is very protective and territorial. Maybe this is because teachers are accustomed to knowing almost everything and having the answers; maybe this is because teaching as a profession feels 'watered down' when parents, lawmakers, and even students claim to be able to do the job; maybe this is because the teacher's ability is being questioned in light of disappointing test scores and reports about college- and career-readiness. 

So when an educational institution isn't shy about the fact that they are in the business to make money (instead of pretending like money isn't the primary goal, like many post-secondary institutions), educators may get a little reactive to reports like this:

Community College Spotlight | Why job-seekers pick for-profit colleges



From my experience, professional development is the hardest, healthiest, and most vital piece of teaching. Why? Because teachers make the worst students. I include myself in that as well. Teachers too often take a new idea or prompt to change as a challenge to their own ability or skill. The need for professional development could be taken to mean we weren't teaching well in the first place, or worse, we didn't know something. 

This article raises some important points about this attitude. There are some sincere lessons to be learned: 
"'. . . Students are drawn here because, unlike at a community college, they can start classes every five weeks and attend on nights and weekends. Course material is also accelerated, so an associate’s degree can take just a year and a half to complete and a bachelor’s can take two and a half. Students don’t have to load up on courses to meet broad requirements; they only take classes relevant to the credential they want.'"
We get so accustomed to being the expert and thus having the authority to determine what one needs to learn and be learned that any challenge is viewed as a threat. Yes, I also question the rigor and quality of an 'accelerated' format because I'm trained in learning theory; I also feel for those teachers who face a classroom at night and one weekends; it pains me as well to see that these students aren't receiving a broad, overall education. 

But perhaps this teaches us an important lesson on the direction of higher education. What is the purpose of a degree today? Why do people enroll? What is their motivation? More importantly, how do these questions fit in with the traditional approach to higher education? Could there be a relationship between the first set of answers and the second that might give us some insight as to the recent reports about low college completion rates, the disconnect between college and industry, and even college affordability? 

It seems to me that this article provides a hard lesson for those of us in the non-profit education world. What's more, the teaching could be reciprocated; I sincerely hope we figure out a good, effective way to measure academic quality across institutions in the near future. The growth comes in the realization that this is an issue that can no longer be pushed ignored.

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