Unnamed author and University of Phoenix ‘educator’ hosts blog on for-profit drive-by colleges
The picture is of the mansion of the University of Phoenix co-founder. It’s for sale now and you can read more below.
This unnamed author, a for-profit higher education teacher, has kept this blog for two years. The author is articulate. He presents the evidence against for-profit educators, along with his on-the-ground experience. It’s important to know that he also gives readers alternatives to for-profit educators.
The author can be reached at the following email address:
This unnamed educator at University of Phoenix gives us a rare inside view of for-profit education. This article is particularly interesting (and funny at times) because s/he states that the best students are often the ones gaming the system. I wonder if there is any truth to this for community colleges and other public higher education institutions that are going to more online classes.
This blog is also worth reading.
Posted by twofoothurdles on December 29, 2011
There’s a lot of anecdotal information floating around that indicates adult learners are somehow more motivated and ready to study than their traditionally-aged counterparts. There are even more anecdotal accounts that those undergoing online learning demonstrate a greater willingness and drive to learn. In the end, everything published by FPUs points to their students all being some sort of super-motivated autodidact who are better than traditional bricks and mortar university students. While a parcel of truth certainly exists in these anecdotal accounts, I’d like to offer my own observations while disagreeing strenuously.
I’m going to limit this discussion in this post to my experiences in online instruction, and most of what I will write here relates to my experiences at one of the most popular online For-Profit Universities (it may not represent not all of them, however).
When I began my online adjunct journey, I already had a great deal of experience with distance education, particularly as a correspondence student. As a correspondence student, there’s no doubt that I had to be particularly driven and organized; it didn’t take very long for a one-year course deadline to approach. I assumed from Apollo literature and others supporting their model of online education that I could expect a similar class of student: a mature, self-directed and driven autodidact who relished the opportunity to expand his or her mind to the fullest possible extent. What I found was quite the opposite–the vast majority of online students were either ignorant of what rigorous college work is while the rest simply want a piece of paper (these were usually those looking for a promotion at their current company or wanted to one up their contemporaries). No matter which group we’re talking about, most: didn’t want to work terribly hard, wanted things handed to them, would complain at the drop of a hat to anyone (and their cousin) who would listen, were excellent at gaming the system (especially dropping and re-taking the same course with an easier instructor), and would quit when the going got the slightest bit tough.
Just going off the cuff and from my own experiences, I would rate my online, for-profit students in this manner: about eighty percent of the students who come through my virtual door into my virtual classroom are highly systematized (I’ll talk about this later); about ten percent are newbies who are fewer than five classes in; about nine percent are only there to supplement on-ground instruction at another campus in the same system or they’re getting a requirement out of the way at a totally different institution (given the prices, I can’t for the life of me understand this); and, perhaps a very narrow one percent of the students I’ve come across even approach the ideal of the mythical self-directed autodidact. This is nowhere near as close as for-profit literature would like you to believe. The mythical autodidact is a rare bird, indeed. Like from within some sort of scholastically-inspired volume of Where’s Wally?, the few autodidacts that were forced to undertake a degree from one of the major online schools are there to be found, but once you do, you’re not even sure why the search was a worthy endeavour in the first place.
I mentioned the systematized nature of the students in the last paragraph and now I’ll clarify. It’s important to remember that almost all for-profit universities prepackage their courses. It wouldn’t be fair in any way to say that instructors can’t modify these to some extent, but from what I can tell, most don’t. All courses are designed by corporate subject matter experts (or at least they’re approved by them) so that they all have a somewhat uniform look and feel. The discussion questions (I’ll discuss the abhorrent worthlessness of online discussions in another post) are preselected, the assignments ready-made, and the lessons presented are included in a global materials list. The problem with having these types of prepackaged courses is that it’s incredibly easy for students to cheat (but that’s another discussion for another day) and students are systematized because they can go on a type of autopilot and go through each of the classes the same way: post a bio; start with the discussion questions; grab the assignment from the materials list, etc. From this group, most of an online class’ students are broken down into four distinct groups: the “hoppers,” the “criers,” the “sloggers,” and the “gamers.” In reality, three of these four are trying to game the system in one way or another, but the “gamer” is particularly blatant about it.
It’s impossible to tell which student is which type when beginning the class since all of their self-introductions allude to their willingness to learn, their excitement to be a for-profit student gettin’ bent over for the sake of the shareholders, the amount of work remaining until they accomplish their dream of having a piece of paper printed with their name of it and the name of a school no one in their right mind respects, and how their children are better than anyone else’s in the whole, entire world. Since the system at for-profits is well entrenched, the vast majority of students will begin to work on their assignments and reply to discussion posts without bothering to read any of the directions. After a few Us (which are apparently something akin to killing a student’s most-wonderful first born) and after the first set of assignments come back (which are graded much more strictly than most instructors will grade) the four distinct groups will begin to appear.
The gamers and the hoppers are generally the brightest of the bunch (save the mythical, true autodidact). They understand how to keep up their GPA (which they think is the most important part of any college experience) and understand how to use the system, its bureaucracy, and the institution’s willingness to treat them like consumers (lest they spend hard-earned U.S. taxpayer’s dollars [in loan form] somewhere else) to accomplish this. Hoppers, who constitute anywhere from thirty to fifty percent of my classes) know that they’ll eventually find an easier instructor. They might turn into criers for a short while (I’ll cover this in a moment), but eventually, they simply drop the course and find one (perhaps the same course) with an easier instructor. Sometimes they write you before they drop to tell the instructor how it’s their fault they’re not “down with the program” and that all of their other grades have been As up to that point. Usually, however, the only notice the instructor is given is an e-mailed withdrawal notice. (Interestingly, I had a hopper drop one of my classes, only to show up on my rolls for my next two classes, which he/she promptly dropped before the classes began.) Some gamers also understand how to structure their workload so that they can sluff of a large portion of their work onto others. This usually happens in the team forums where gamers leave most of the work to the other members while they work to improve their performance in the individual assignments. Sometimes, near the end of the school week, they will go back in and clean up the bulk work already done by their team members, but only enough to fluff up the assignment for their benefit. Interestingly, this means that hoppers and gamers are actually getting the least of the their college experience because they’re smart enough not to learn much except how to be the same people they probably always have been. In the end, hoppers and gamers usually have the highest GPAs since they put extraordinary efforts into keeping them up without doing any serious work (other than the effort they put into gaming the system), indicating that those with high GPAs from one of these institutions might often the least of those who has demonstrated any real attempt to improve themselves.
Unlike the previous two students, the slogger has some of my respect. They’re not prepared for college and probably never will be, but they’re stubborn, if anything, and that’s at least worth something in the real world. Sloggers are in trouble from the beginning. They don’t understand the instructions, their writing is terrible, and they never seem to understand any type of corrections given to them so they continue to make the same mistakes over and over again no matter how easy they are to correct. To their credit, they put their heads down and try. Occasionally the instructor will receive a message from them asking for sympathy since they never did well in school or are trying to learn despite a pernicious, sapient tornado that rampages through their house at the exact moment they sit down to answer a discussion question or work on their homework; however, most of them never write anything nor do they respond when the instructor writes to them asking if they need help. The same mistakes are made, the same Us are given, but they keep slogging along. Luckily most of the coursework at one of these universities is designed to be taught to a middle schooler, thus allowing the slogger to eek out a grade somewhere between D and C+ (higher if they’ve gotten one of the “ah, fuck it, I’m gettin’ paid” instructors [of whom there are many]). If they only would have corresponded with the instructor instead of blindly punching the throttle like a pedo-stached, about-to-be-caught, plaid outfit-wearing drug runner in an old episode of Miami Vice, they may have learned something other than how to be an remain stubborn. Still, at least they didn’t try to game th system and received the grade they earned (granted, it would have been an F at any half-way decent university).
The criers are the worst of the bunch for sure and also consist of somewhere around thirty percent of a class’ makeup. They’re the students that expend tons and tons of time and energy trying to change how the instructor runs the class, grades their papers, marks their posts, you name it… Energy they could have used to improve themselves. Criers are an unholy juggernaut of pain and anguish who lack the clarity or courage to look within themselves to find the solutions to their problem. I’ve had and heard of many different types of criers. One type of crier gripes about how he/she can’t understand the instructors or whines about how the directions aren’t clear enough (mind you, plenty of others didn’t have any problems understanding them). Another type of crier complains that none of their other instructors have expected so much from them and that there’s something wrong with an instructor who “wants things done a different way” than how much plug-and-play instructors want them done (those difference are minor, let me assure you). Another type of crier disagrees with your definition of “fact” when you ask them to state facts rather than their own opinion (obviously, anyone who’s undertaking an undergraduate degree at FPU must be more of an expert than the facilitator). This type of crier will look up the definition of “fact” from an online dictionary and replace their student signature with it so that every post is some sort of backhanded, passive-aggressive gambit that attempts to change the instructor’s definition of “fact” so that it’s in-line with the superior intellect of the crier’s. The worse crier, however, is the one that e-mails everyone and their mother about how they’re being mistreated, abused, and scandalized, or they’ll claim that they’re not being understood, taken serious, or taught in a way their narrow minds need to be taught. I assume the first person they write is their enrollment counselor (salesman) or their academic counselor who probably tell them they’re not the problem (you’re never the problem when you’re the customer ) and that the crier is doing everything right. After that, I’m sure there’s a bevy of people who will tell the crier that they’re in the right and that they’ll “look into matters right away.” In the end, the cryer will (thankfully) drop the course (they’ll have paid tuition for a couple of weeks while crying, so FPU doesn’t really care) and then morph into a hopper who’s left a trail of destruction, detritus, and burned bridges behind them–a bit like the monster on Cloverfield…at least the monster had an excuse since it was looking for its mother. Seriously, crier, go away..
To summarize: if you’re hiring someone who’s using a degree from For Profit University as a credential, just be warned: those with the highest GPAs are usually the best at getting out of work and gaming systems. Those with the lowest GPAs probably would have had a lower GPA somewhere else. The remaining few, the one percenters, are who you’re hoping for. Would you do anything for fiscal gain with a one percent chance of success if real money, time, and effort was at stake? Maybe you would, but I’d rather bet on something with better odds than that.
Here are two recent entries by employees and former employees of two for-profits (University of Phoenix and Corinthian Colleges). I have highlighted what I believe are essential points about the history and strategies of these predatory operations, and reasons why we could see a larger crash in for-profit education.
Note the changes that have happened at University of Phoenix over several years. What may have been a legitimate enterprise years ago has become “today’s Enron.” The author also notes that potential students are ignorant of the alternatives. This indicates (to me anyway) that unions and other organizations have not done a sufficient job in educating working class people (particularly the growing number of non-traditional students) about their educational and vocational alternatives.
Notes from a former UoP worker
Not UoP, Friday 12/06/13 13:56:00 UTC
To Help Me Understand,
I did work for UoP and yes, we had a driven marketing and enrollment team. We were taught how to manipulate people, how to make people “feel the pain” of not having their degree, how to pose questions in such a way that the student’s mind automatically came to the conclusion we wanted. All of this is true. You’d be surprised how easy it is to manipulate people; however, there is a flip side to this story. Although UoP’s tuition was higher, students would be foolish to make a decision on returning to school or which school to attend based on their current salary or tuition rates. Earning a degree is an investment so one has to weigh the future payoffs against today’s cost. In addition, the longer one is in school the more money he or she will pay because tuition usually increases every year so for many, UoP’s concentrated program was cheaper over the course of time than community or state schools. UoP also had a fantastic program for working adults. Remember working adults have jobs, children, and other responsibilities so going back to school full-time was a pipe-dream for most. UoP offered a program that worked well with their schedule. It had a strong support team of Enrollment Advisors, Academic Advisors, and Finance Advisors who help the student through the maze of enrollment and financing their education. You’d be even more surprised to know how many intelligent working adults don’t return to school because they simply don’t know how. They don’t understand the enrollment process, financing, grants, scholarships, or what’s expected. Some don’t know the difference between an associate, bachelor, or master degree so UoP’s enrollment and academic advisors were a godsend by guiding the student, coaching them, and helping them get off to a good start. Many of those who earned their degree went on to bigger and better opportunities so the idea behind UoP was and is exceptional. It could have been one of the greatest university in the world but enter the Mormons and Apollo Group with their ties to the Carlyle Group. Greed along with corruption spread through the organization like a virus. Before we knew it, UoP was under investigation by the feds, students were dropping out like dead flies, a mass exodus of employees swept through the organization, the executives became overnight millionaires while the employees had to work two jobs or receive public assistance and bam, UoP is today’s Enron. Yes, UoP is finished. We all know it’s only a matter of time before it closes its doors for good. Its legacy is tarnish and it will be forgotten over the course of time, remembered only by those of us who were within the organization and the students we helped and hurt along the way.
Note that in one of these these anonymous entries that Corinthian Colleges “profiles” both students and employees to hook potential students. Potential students are seen as ignorant people. Another entry sounds like the tapes we heard from Enron employees joking about their unwary customers:”We go after the mentally ill, the ones who can’t read, don’t ask questions, and are use to going through social services to get something other than its intended purpose. “
Anonymous1227 (Admissions), Friday 12/06/13 15:11:39 UTC
True about how CCI goes out of their way to “represent” this illusion of helpers, advisors all around to assist the students and the type of people they hire to mirror prospects as close as possible. A bunch of con artists highly paid to legitimized the systems. Some few good people, mostly teachers, but the rest are unprofessional. Can’t understand why some social services agencies like unemployment associate themselves with these high-generated cost programs that are not helpful to many in the outside world.
Anonymous1216, Friday 12/06/13 05:23:40 UTC
We also try to convince prospects that it is a “personalized” program for them- one on one/hands on for those who have learning disabilities. We also promote the placement and being there from start to finish. We try to keep them and close on one visit unless of course there are some docs they might need for finance. On a hiring note, CCI profiles their employees to closely represent the prospect, so trust can be easily built and identified. The Directors of Admissions and Finance are the slimmest, and try to befriend visitors to give impression of superb service. It’s all an act- every single movement, word has an agenda that has nothing to do with helping students to get a real, affordable, substantial education.53
Anonymous1215 (admissions), Friday 12/06/13 05:16:51 UTC
It’s easy to convince someone who is uneducated, does not totally understand the language of English, comes through, is a known criminal, just got out of jail and is desperate for his GED, and concerned only in the stipend checks. We go after the mentally ill, the ones who can’t read, don’t ask questions, and are use to going through social services to get something other than its intended purpose. It’s crazy but reps can make from $55-95,000 so got to do what you got to do to make a living.
Here’s one inside look at the subsidized lives of for-profit predators and the value they have extracted from the US government and working class folks
University of Phoenix co-founder, John Murphy told the Wall Street Journal last week that: “It’s just time, at this point in our lives, to make a move to a simpler life,”.
Murphy and his wife Paula Key have put their massive 13,000-square-foot, nine bedroom Pacific Heights, San Francisco abode home located at at 2520 Pacific Ave. on the market for $27M. The couple purchased the home in 1997 for $6.3M, after Key saw the home while house hunting.
They were especially attracted to the property because of the prohibition room (speakeasy inside the home), which is hidden behind a paneled wall.
The home was built in 1905 for a member of the Spreckels family (another set of criminals who exploited workers and the public), and was owned by Joseph Alioto, Jr. (son of onetime Mayor Joseph Alioto) when Murphy and Key purchased it. Property highlights include a 1,200-square-foot Art Deco ballroom and an elevator to all five levels.
Readers, the home was bought and paid for with your tax monies from either Title IV, Veteran funds or other public programs. The home was also financed by huge debt peonage we see now among students. For the UoP is little more than a crime scene, a naked racket. Students are fleeced out of their money and pushed into ‘call centers’ posing as colleges while taxpayers pay the costs and CEO’s reap huge salaries and offshore their loot and buy opulent mansions.
If we really had a movement for socialism and justice in this country this mansion would be seized. It was bought and paid for with Title IV monies and student debt.
The photos you see capture the opulence of a new age of robber barons. Yet instead of pacing the floors of a for-profit prison, the Murphy’s are considered respectable and are allowed to walk the halls of their obscene mansion.
If you are interested in purchasing the home, feel free to call Caldwell Banker for they are handling the sale. Perhaps someone can actually pose as a purchaser and get inside the wretched mansion to take more pictures of the subsidized opulence of the one-percent.
To staunch the agony below you will find some culture jamming of the University of Phoenix. This type of action on the part of resistance just might be the key to exposing the criminal syndicates.
More on Corinthian College
CCI upper management privately looking at liquidation.
More in Sallie Mae News: Shylock organization gets contract renewal
Readers might have read the article I penned entitled: “Studenet Loans: The financialization of debt servitude” (http://www.dailycensored.com/student-loans-the-financialized-economy-of-indentured-servitude/). In this article I expose, as many others have, the criminal behavisor of racketeer Sallie Mae. Recently, the Huffington Post had an excellent article on the coay relationship between the financial mafia that is Sallie Mae and the Department of education (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/11/29/education-department-sallie-mae_n_4351509.html).
The Department of Education will continue to enable the for-profit Sallie Mae in light of the crimes indicated in the Hufington Post article.
As Dahn Shaulis, researcher, organizer and teacher states well:
“Sallie Mae has acted like a criminal enterprise for years, and it’s good that you and a few others have reported on this mess. It’s layers upon layers of predation, with the working class at the bottom of the food chain.
US student debt looks like one of the many financial schemes that cannot be maintained. In the short-term, it’s hurting a smaller number than than housing and banking meltdown, but it’s lasting for a lifetime for those who get caught up in the net of student loan debt peonage.”
Correct Dahn. And as you note, it also looks like Sallie Mae bailed out of the for-profit education racket a few years ago (at least the most risky parts). I know they have been burned by Corinthian Colleges and other for-profit predators.
And now more in teacher pension fund news
Anyone who has done even a little bit of research knows that teacher pension funds have become a financial racket and one that poses a future of dread for current and future retirees.
The pension funds are now hedge funds and they are being funneled into Wall St. at dramatic speed. The pension fund managers are really Wall St. hedge fund managers and they are investing in for-profit colleges with the consequent result they will undermine their own public commons.
It’s treasonous and with an overpaid union executive and a passive dues paying membership much is going under the wire.
Investing in criminal enterprises that should be prosecuted under RICO, namely for-profit drive by colleges is not only unethical and criminal, but puts pension funds at risk.
If teachers do not begin to hold their pension fund managers’ feet to the fire and call for massive disinvestment in for-profit colleges then they will pay a huge price.
Take a look at the amount of teacher pension funds and the amount of shares they are holding in syndicates like the University of Phoenix or any of the other for-profit shop of horrors.
Is this now the norm for teacher unions? To invest in crime?
The picture of Strayer College was taken by Dahn Shaulis while in Philadelphia recently. It says it all for a homeless man is sleeping in the cold under the Strayer sign. You cannot make this up. Teacher unions should be ashamed. Especially in face of the fact they are supporting the opulence of socio-paths like the Murphys and other beneficiaries of the public largess and student debt.