To see pigs feeding at the public trough, look no further than for-profit schools, which, like “private” prisons and Blackwell, aren’t the market solutions to failed Big Government that our conservative, pro-business friends tout them as. These entities aren’t market-based at all. They’re dependent on taxpayers. Call them socialist pigs instead of capitalist ones, because what they’re doing is redistributing your wealth to their owners. And these owners are rich enough to bankroll big fights against any attempt to regulate the flow of federal dollars coming their way. That’s because they charge higher tuition than self-identified state schools like the one where I teach.
Meanwhile, the mission of educating students at for-profit colleges is an afterthought, as is made clear by their websites. I challenge you to go to Phoenix University’s and find out anything useful about the curriculum or faculty without having to chat with a sales representative.
Or read this, an easy A for effort in 9 easy steps.
1. All of the for-profit universities have special software tools and pop-ups designed to get you to enter your contact information. Phoenix nudges you toward this on its home page, with a 4-step “Ready to Change Your Life” tool. Phoenix is big on breaking processes into steps, of which there are rarely more than four. If you’d like to change your life, the 4 Steps are to enter your area of interest, educational background and contact info into Phoenix’s database so that an “Enrollment Advisor” can reach you. Tada! Your life has been changed into fodder for their targeted marketing!
2. You beat a hasty retreat from the “Change Your Life” tool, returning to Phoenix’s home page in search of academic information. Scrolling down, you spot a practically invisible link for “First Year Sequence,” which Phoenix provides on the off-off chance people browse university sites in order to discover what they might learn. You click, expecting a list of courses or a description of the pedagogical philosophy behind the core curriculum. You are disappointed. Whatever the “First Year Sequence” of study might be, the site tells you only that it’s “more than prerequisites and busy work.” Because what could be a bigger waste of time than laying the foundations for higher education?
2½. You’ll also find two videos on the “First Year Sequence” page. Phoenix's website uses a lot of videos, lest you get the impression that you’ll be asked to read in college. One video is called “What to expect” and the other, “Funding your education.” Hopeful, you click on the first. But “what to expect” is mostly about how college isn’t free, it costs money, and nothing about what you might learn. What you should expect, and Phoenix is very clear on this, is to pay tuition. How much tuition, and for what, it doesn’t say.
You turn to the next video, “Funding Your Education.” This one also neglects to specify tuition costs. Instead, it features two main strategies for getting Phoenix University money that isn’t yours: federal loans and federal grants. That’s right, your first class is in how to feed Phoenix with government dollars. The video does not suggest that maybe you should pay Phoenix out of money you earn in the private sector, where it allegedly dwells. Before you even know what it charges, it’s steering you toward taxpayer-funded subsidies.
3. But you are visiting this site to explore the academics. You click on “What to expect when getting started.” Perhaps information about your studies can be found there. You’re greeted with a wall of video boxes, all animated. Not only do you watch your way to an education at Phoenix, you watch cartoons. Just like at Yale.
To be fair, there is text on this page: the 5 Steps to “Getting Started at University of Phoenix.” These steps ascend to—guess what?—that “enrollment advisor,” the human contact so essential to making a sale. Indeed, Steps 1, 2 and 3 all urge such life-changing contact. Academics don’t show up until Step 4, where you learn that you will find out everything you need to know about your academics after you’ve already enrolled. Step 5 is “your Graduation Team.” Where, you might ask, are the steps when you take classes? Your education occurs between Steps 4 and 5. Get it, silly?
4. But then you notice, one of the cartoon video boxes is called “Programs & Courses.” Huzzah! You click. Here are the first two paragraphs you’re asked to read:
A popular game show in the 1960s was all about making choices. Contestants chose between one of three doors. Sometimes the door would open to reveal a new car; other times there was an old donkey and a wooden wagon. Imagine the anxiety over making the wrong choice.
You can relax when you choose University of Phoenix, because we’re focused on quality and all of the choices we offer can help enrich your life. We boast a 95% satisfaction rate for curriculum effectiveness. For you, this means you won’t just be reading from textbooks, you’ll be getting a relevant and meaningful education.
This kind of vacuous happy talk mingled with deep skepticism about the value of books continues for a few more paragraphs, then you get this:
Why not make the choice to enrich your life today? An advisor will contact you to help you get started.
Click on that link and, voila! Our friend the “enrollment advisor tool” pops up and, once again, you’re prompted to enter your contact information, this time in 2 easy steps.
5. Scroll down, way down, to the fine print area of "Programs and Courses" and you can actually browse programs. You click on the education program, and up pop links for two MAs offered in your zip code. Somehow, the site has captured your zip code; now that field is filled in already when you stumble on yet another “enrollment advisor tool.” One program is Masters of Arts in Education/Adult Education and Training. What could that degree be? Useless, as it happens. According to Phoenix’s own site,
Jobs that graduates of this program are educationally qualified for:
- Distance Learning Coordinators (11-9039.01)
- Fitness and Wellness Coordinators (11-9039.02)
6. Click on the first link to discover the job description of a low-level administrator. You could be a secretary with this Masters degree. You could also be a secretary without this Masters degree. At my university you’d earn $45,000/year for this job. Phoenix claims you’d be earning $75,690 from such "top" employers as:
That’s right, you can pay off the subsidized Federal loan money you gave to Phoenix with a government job.
7. But do you yet know the name of a single course you’d be taking, or a single faculty member, or the cost of a single credit? You do not.
8. After much clicking around, you finally find a “Faculty Profiles” page. You click on the College of Education, which offers degrees not only in Masters of Arts in Education/Adult Education and Training, but also:
- a B.S. in Education/Elementary Teacher Education,
- a B.S. in Liberal Studies,
- an M.A. in Education/Early Childhood Education,
- an M.A. in Education/Elementary Teacher Education,
- an M.A. in Education/Secondary Teacher Education,
- an M.A. in Education/Special Education,
- an M.A. in Education/Curriculum and Instruction-Reading,
- an M.A. in Education/Teacher Leadership, and
- an M.A. in Education/Administration and Supervision.
Wow! That’s a lot of degrees! They must have a huge faculty!
The College of Education Faculty page lists exactly three faculty members, two of whom also teach in the College of Humanities. Their profile pages are interactive; you can leave a comment. Here is a student’s comments left on a faculty profile page, to give you a sense of the academic rigor at Phoenix:
I am pround of you, for all you have done to your community and the world at large! For shure, in my side I have managed to get a BA. Public Relations and Marketing with an Upper Second Class, just last year (2011). But, I need to join Masters of Arts in Education/Administration and Supervision at Phonex University. although , I am facing Financial challenges! Please, [Name deleted], my you show me what can I do to get a chance for Masters at Phonexi! My interest Tangela Williams-Daniel and talent is to be Educator like a lecturer.
An anomaly? Perhaps one student slipped through the chasm. Here’s another comment, right below it:
I think its amazing what you do kids, and people even of my age. Your someone to look up to without even having full introducement. I to plan to follow up on your achievements made with the more so urban, and less fortunate schools. Your a blessing, [Name deleted].
With luck, Phoenix can persuade one of these well-prepared rising stars to be Educator like a lecturer for the government. Or could Phoenix hire them to teach in its own program, perhaps with full introducement?
9. By now you’ve guessed that Phoenix University spends a lot more human capital on getting you enrolled than on teaching you once you’re there. Who is responsible for this blatant rip off? Would you guess someone with a PhD in linguistics? Nah, too many textbooks. Would you guess a classics major? No way. That’s busy work. The president of Phoenix University is a classics major and linguistics PhD named Bill Pepicello. He went to Brown.