The Fear and Frustration of Faculty at For-Profit Colleges by Anonymous; Posted: July 10, 2011.
Over 250,000 people work for private sector colleges and universities. Is it reasonable to suppose that the view of one individual, anonymously expressed, represents the views of all, or even a significant percentage of this total? Yet that is the leap of faith the Chronicle implicitly requests from its readers in publishing a column titled, "The Fear and Frustration of Faculty at For-Profit Colleges." Anonymous makes outrageous assertions in a manner that suggests his (or her) experience as an instructor is the rule within our sector and not the exception.
Peering at the universe of career education through the wrong end of the telescope, Anonymous finds no academics who willingly work at for-profit colleges but only those driven by want to accept their positions. The claim is nonsensical on its face, given that most instructors at PSCUs are professionals who love to teach rather than teaching professionals. By doing so, they meet accreditor credentialing requirements, often extend their work days to serve others, and bring real world expertise on a host of topics to the classroom. Legitimate learning has no place in our institutions, Anonymous claims, yet 3.8 million students attend our classes annually and pay the bulk of the tuition themselves in order to do so. They often tell their friends and family about the caliber of the education, bringing still more students into the career education orbit.
Anonymous makes charges such as falsifying student grades and attendance which, if true, constitute fraud. If the author has evidence to substantiate these claims, at a minimum it should be shared with the Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General or the state Attorney General. Institutions engaging in "corrupt policies," handed down by the corporate office to undermine academic standards or to condone cheating would quickly find themselves under investigation not only by the Department of Education, but also state higher education commissions and accrediting bodies.
Ranting on, Anonymous discusses the open admissions environment at private sector colleges and universities as though only PSCUs conduct admissions on this basis and as if non-traditional postsecondary students are rarely (if barely) worth the bother. Illiteracy, learning disabilities, low intelligence, or untreated psychological problems are just some of the reasons that students, Anonymous says, find themselves at a PSCU. Consider the nation's largest postsecondary open admissions environment: Almost two of three students at community colleges require remedial work, and only one in five students at community college actually graduate. PSCU students sometimes do receive the help they need to overcome learning, emotional and social handicaps. We view helping non-traditional student to succeed as nothing for which an apology is needed.
In essence, Anonymous charges PSCUs with being diploma mills: handing out degrees to unprepared students in return for tuition payments. Graduates leave these schools without employable skills, according to the author, and wind up as cashiers and custodians. Left unexplained is the 70 percent in field placement rate of those graduating from nationally accredited schools, or the high pass rates on nurse licensing examinations and other types of certifications.
Having spent four years teaching in an environment marked by intimidation, threats and even physical abuse from all quarters, Anonymous has finally broken free of the PSCU realm, ethical values intact. This individual obviously did not have a positive teaching experience (if the author is an instructor at all) and that is regrettable. But what are the ethics of substituting one's limited first-hand experience with the experience of the world at large? And what are the journalistic values of the Chronicle for publishing such a piece?
Interim CEO and President
Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities