Showing posts with label online program manager. Show all posts
Showing posts with label online program manager. Show all posts

Sunday, September 11, 2022

State Universities and the College Meltdown

State Universities are using Google Ads to boost enrollment numbers.

While for-profit colleges, community colleges, and small private schools received the most attention in the first iteration of the College Meltdown, regional public universities (and a few flagship schools) have also experienced financial challenges, reorganizations, and mergers, enrollment losses, layoffs and resignations, off-campus learning site closings and campus dorm closings, lower graduation rates, and the necessity to lower admissions standards. They are not facing these downturns, though, without a fight. 

State universities, for example, are attempting to maintain or boost their enrollment through marketing and advertising--sometimes with the assistance of helpful, yet sometimes questionable online program managers (OPMs) like 2U and Academic Partnerships and lead generators such as EducationDynamics.  

 

Academic Partnerships claims to serve 50 university clients.  HEI has identified 25 of them. 

Google ads also follow consumers across the Web, with links to enrollment pages.  And enrollment pages include cookies to learn about those who click onto the enrollment pages. Schools share the information that consumers provide with Google Analytics and Chartbeat.  

                                       A pop-up Google Ad for Penn State World Campus

Advanced marketing will not improve institutional quality directly but it may raise awareness of these state schools to targeted audiences.  Whether this becomes predatory may be an issue worth examining.

Despite marketing and enrollment appeals like this, we believe the financial situation could worsen at non-flagship state universities when austerity is reemployed--something likely to happen during the next economic downturn

While state flagship universities have multiple revenue streams, they are often unaffordable for working families.  Elite state universities, also known as the Public Ivies, have increasingly shut out state residents--in favor of people from out of state and outside the US--who are willing to pay more in tuition. 

Aaron Klein at the Brookings Institution calls this significant (and dysfunctional) out-of-state enrollment pattern as The Great Student Swap.  

State Universities with more than 4000 foreign students include UC San Diego, University of Illinois, UC Irvine, University of Washington, Arizona State University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, and UC Berkeley. 

People fortunate enough to attend large state universities as undergrads may feel alienated by large and impersonal classrooms led by graduate assistants and other adjuncts.  There are also significant and often under-addressed social problems related to larger universities, including hunger, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, hazing and sexual assault.  

Online only versions of flagship schools may not be of the same quality as their brick and mortar counterparts. Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global Campus, for example, are open enrollment schools for working adults which produce questionable student outcomes.  These "robocollege" schools hire few full-time instructors and often spend a great deal of their resources on marketing and advertising.  


EducationDynamics is a lead generator for "robocolleges" such as Purdue University Global and University of Arizona, Global Campus.  

 

                    Purdue University Global has used questionable marketing and advertising.

The Higher Education Inquirer has already noticed the following schools in the Summer and Fall 2022 that received media scrutiny for lower enrollment, financial problems, or labor issues:

 
 
 
 
 

More schools will be added as information comes in. 
 
Related link: College Meltdown 2.0 



Monday, July 11, 2022

Colleges Are Outsourcing Their Teaching Mission to For-Profit Companies. Is That A Good Thing? (Richard Fossey*)

[This article is part of the Transparency-Accountability-Value series.]

Years ago, colleges employed people to perform auxiliary services. University employees staffed the campus bookstore, ran the student union, and performed janitorial services.

Over time, however, universities began outsourcing almost all of their auxiliary services. Barnes & Noble now runs hundreds of college bookstores. National fast-food chains operate stores in countless student unions.

Recently, however, American colleges have gone beyond outsourcing their non-instructional activities. Now, the universities are outsourcing their core mission: teaching students.

According to the Government Accountability Office (as reported in the Wall Street Journal), 550 colleges and universities are partnering with for-profit companies to design courses, recruit students, and manage instruction.

Academic Partnerships, one of the leading for-profit outfits, contracts with universities all over the United States to manage graduate programs--for a hefty fee, of course. Higher Education Inquirer estimates that AP collects about half the revenue from the courses and programs they manage.

2U, another for-profit online instruction provider, has a contract for services with the University of Oregon and gets 80 percent of the tuition for 2U-managed courses. That's a good deal for 2U's stockholders.

What the hell is going on?

As the Wall Street Journal explained, colleges are losing revenue due to declining enrollments. They aren't raising enough money to pay all their administrators and bureaucrats. Thus, hundreds of schools are investing heavily in online academic programs--especially graduate programs--to juice their revenues.

Respected public universities like the University of North Carolina and the University of Oregon have turned to for-profit companies to design or revamp various graduate programs, recruit students, and oversee instruction.

Why don't the professors do those things?

I don't know. Perhaps the faculty don't have the skills necessary to recruit students, manage enrollment, or design academic programs for an online format. Or maybe doing these things is just too fuckin' hard.

I have a professor friend whose dean ordered him to design and teach an online course for a master's degree program managed by Academic Partnerships. He was told the class would be conducted online over five weeks.

My friend was a good soldier and taught the course as directed. He had over 600 online students! When the class was completed, my friend told the dean he would never teach an online course that way again, even if it meant being fired.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, students are often unaware that they are taking a course managed by a profit-driven company, not the university.

For example, the University of Texas at Arlington has a big-time financial relationship with Academic Partnerships, which manages graduate programs in nursing, education, business, and public health. Nevertheless, UTA's promotional materials do not disclose that Academic Partnerships manages these online graduate programs.

Students all over the United States are taking out loans to pay tuition bills at public universities in the naive belief that these schools are non-profit entities dedicated solely to the public good.

Most of these students would be surprised to learn that a profit-making company is sucking up a good share of their tuition dollars to enrich their executives and investors.

My take on this? If a public university is so goddamn lazy or incompetent that it has to pay a private company to manage its academic programs, then that university should be closed. 

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Richard Fossey


*This article originally appeared in Richard Fossey's Condemned to Debt Blog. The blog's URL is https://www.condemnedtodebt.org/

 

 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

HEI Investigation: Academic Partnerships

In 2022, Online Program Managers (OPMs) are being scrutinized like their predecessors, for-profit colleges, in the early 2000s.  2U, one of the leaders in the industry, has been particularly singled out as a predatory company, working with elite schools like the University of Southern California, and selling their overpriced master's degrees.  

Before that, Kaplan Higher Education and Kaplan Higher Education gained attention for selling off their for-profit schools but maintaining the management services for Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global.  

In this media attention on OPMs, a few companies have been able to avoid much scrutiny, with Academic Partnerships flying below the national media radar for years.  

Academic Partnerships (AP) is a mature online program manager that claims to serve more than 50 universities, most regional state universities.  The Higher Education Inquirer could only find about half that number. AP also claims to "help universities grow"--without providing much evidence.  In some cases, these lesser brand schools have been facing decreasing enrollment and revenues-- and it's not apparent how much AP can help them in the long run.  

What we do know is that the OPM receives about half of all the revenues for their work, which includes cheaper privatized marketing, advertising--and recruitment services from enrollment specialists spread across the US. 

AP's sales pitch is that they can transform their partner universities and help provide reasonably priced degrees in lucrative career fields (such as RN to BSN programs), but is this happening with all the online degree programs offered? And would some consumers be better off choosing a local community college? 


AP's partner universities include: 

Arkansas State University
Avila University
Boise State University
Carleton University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Washington University
Emporia State University
Florida International University
Louisiana State University Shreveport
Norfolk State University
Northern Kentucky University
Pittsburg State University
Radford University
St. Cloud State University
Southern Illinois University
Southern Oregon University
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Texas A&M (International University)
University of Illinois Springfield
University of Maine at Presque Isle
University of North Carolina Pembroke
University of Texas at Arlington
University of West Florida
William Paterson University
Youngstown State University

If you teach or study online at one of these AP university partners, what have you observed?  

  • Do instructors maintain the rights to the content they have created?  
  • What are the online classes like compared to face-to-face courses?  
  • What are graduation rates for these online students compared to on campus students?
  • How much debt do former online students have compared to on campus students?  
  • What kind of jobs are former online students getting compared to on campus students? 
  • Are former online students able to pay off these debts?  

 

Related link: "The Private Side of Public Universities: Third-party providers and platform capitalism"

Related link: HEI Investigation: EducationDynamics

Related link: 2U Virus Expands College Meltdown to Elite Universities

Related link: Purdue University and Its Subprime College Cousin Committing Fraud 

Related link: Online Program Manager for University of Arizona Global Campus Facing Financial Collapse 

 

 

Friday, October 4, 2019

2U Virus Expands College Meltdown to Elite Universities

Related article: Education is a Racket

Related Article: Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time

Related Article: Many People Saw The Crash Of A Billion Dollar EdTech Company Coming (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related Article: TCF Analysis of 70+ University-OPM Contracts Reveals Increasing Risks to Students, Public Education

Related Article: How They (Online Graduate Programs) Get You (Katerina Manoff, The Atlantic)

Once restricted to for-profit colleges and community colleges, the College Meltdown has advanced to elite colleges like Harvard and Cal Berkeley. These schools have enormous firewalls (e.g. large endowments, strong alumni associations, and powerful donors), but that does not shield them from skepticism about overpriced online graduate degrees and certificates. Adam Looney at Brookings has already outed USC about their outrageously priced MSW program, but that's just one example. The collapse of 2U, the online program manager (OPM) for several elite colleges, exposes this subprime elite degree mess even more.

With 2U, we are not talking about subprime colleges like University of Phoenix or Purdue University Global, but prestigious schools like American University, Baylor University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pepperdine University, Rice University, Syracuse University, University of California, Berkeley, University of North Carolina, University of Southern California, and Washington University.



"Steer clear for your own sanity"

Admissions Counselors at 2U perform work much closer to fraud telemarketing than "counseling." The volume bleeds the human element out of every phone call because you will constantly be striving to hit metrics and enrollment goals.

3) 2U programs are godawful expensive. For many programs, 2U also has multiple offerings for the same discipline, so ACs working for the more expensive option are often out of luck if a student is admitted to a cheaper competing program. Kinda hard to convince someone to take out 40k more in loans than they have to. You will be tacitly encouraged to manipulate students into taking on more debt just to meet your goal. They want you to do everything just shy of outright lying. Admissions is a breeding ground for exaggerated claims, half-truths, and lies by omission. In short, you will be kicking water uphill every day in this role, trying to meet laughably unrealistic targets made by leadership.

That's not even to touch on the sham "Core Values" 2U shoves down your throat. They literally have these values in neon tube lights on the walls in HQ. Now, of course every company has their own brand of BS, but 2U is insane about theirs. It is cult-like. People use the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” unironically. Maybe it’s just me, but using the language of a mass s–c-de in a positive sense...doesn’t exactly sit right. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the core values.

1) ”Cherish every opportunity"–so long as you make 75 calls every day, annoying the heck out of people who just wanted a brochure about the program! Also, if someone has a low GPA or GRE scores and cannot help you meet your goal, that is not an opportunity, so don’t cherish it. This would be an accurate value if it said, "Cherish every opportunity that can make the company money. Forget everything else."

2) ”Be candid, honest, and open" —Honestly, for this one I might as well just post the prĂ©cis of the pending lawsuit against this company: “[2U] throughout the Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) the Company faced increasing competition in online education and particularly regarding graduate programs; (2) the Company faced certain program-specific issues that negatively impacted its performance; (3) as a result, the Company’s business model was not sustainable; (4) the Company would slow its program launches; and (5) as a result, 2U’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. When the true details entered the market, the lawsuit claims that investors suffered damages.”

2U also doesn’t want you being “candid honest and open” with the students. Generally speaking, none of these students even know 2U exists, let alone that it gets a large chunk of their tuition money. You are lying by omission on every phone call, every time you send an email from your university email address. Students assume you are directly tied to the actual campus of the program you represent, because 2U spoofs the phone numbers, so every AC calling from say, Maryland, has an area code local to the school they are representing. Here's another hilarious thing: in September 2019, after mass firing 67 tenured employees and, again GETTING SUED BY ITS INVESTORS, 2U put out a "Framework for Transparency," which asserts, "2U has always publicly listed the degree and non-degree offerings we power," which, while technically true, is exactly the sort of PR/optics sophistry you should expect from this company. Yes, they list their university partners on their website. But at no point in an AC's correspondence with a prospective student is the name 2U ever brought up. Students would have to already know what an OPM is, and what 2U is for this "transparency" to actually do anything. As it stands, this Framework for Transparency looks to me like just another PR maneuver designed to give 2U rhetorical wiggle room to claim they’re being forthcoming while actually being the opposite.

3) ”Give a Damn!” – but not about all those poor schmucks with low GPAs who can't help you meet your goal.

4) “Relationships matter!” - remember where I said above they mass fired 67 employees one day? Yeah, they gave these people no notice– people who had been with the company for years, had helped build the business, and had bought into all of 2U's pompous, self-aggrandizing rhetoric about how they are "changing the world!" True believers, hard workers, in other words, fired en masse with no notice. These unfortunate individuals were literally called into an auditorium, let go, and informed “You’re welcome to work for the rest of the day if you want!”

5) “Don’t let the skeptic win!” — by which they mean don’t question anything or think for yourself, peon! Drink the Kool-Aid! DRINK IT I SAID! SHUT UP AND DRINK IT!!! HAVE YOU MADE YOUR DIALS FOR THE DAY YET?!

6) “Be bold and fearless” — I guess it was pretty bold and fearless to abruptly and callously fire a significant chunk of their loyal workforce, so kudos to 2U on this one. And it was pretty brazen to lie to their investors too. So, all right, I've give them this one.

7) “Make service your mission” — in other words, do good volunteer work and take pictures wearing 2U swag so we can take credit and get those sweet sweet PR social justice brownie points. 2U spends a lot of money promoting itself, getting named as a Great Workplace in magazines, maintaining this veneer that they are an ethical, socially conscious organization, when in reality, like most other companies, business is the first priority. Ethics and social consciousness are a very, VERY distant second. Actually, probably more like a very distant tenth or eleventh. This wouldn't even be annoying if they were just honest about it. I get it. A company exists and makes decisions solely to grow its business. So why does 2U seem to demand that its employees pretend otherwise?

8) “Have fun!” – you know the phrase “bread and circuses?” It means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy but by diversion, distraction, or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace— by offering a palliative: for example, food (bread) or entertainment (circuses). Thanks Wikipedia. Yeah, that is 2U’s main operating strategy. They do all these extravagant events, e.g. random dance parties in HQ, renting out Six Flags for Halloween, or flying everyone to some destination once a year for company meeting. Superficially these are nice, until you remember that these events are bonkers expensive, and that 2U will then lay off 67 people at a moment’s notice due to monetary concerns. I feel reasonably safe in saying those employees would rather have kept their jobs than gotten to see Flo-Rida live in concert. Moreover, the events, particularly company meeting, are basically thinly veiled attempts at brainwashing, stoking the CEO's messiah complex. They give a lot of ra-ra, gosh-aren’t-we-awesome speeches and make you stand in an auditorium chanting company slogans (again, DRINK THE KOOL-AID, SERF). They get great performers and speakers—Michelle Obama in 2018, for example—who lend specious legitimacy to 2U’s alleged mission and values, but are probably told nothing about the company beyond its claims of being "an innovative tech start up increasing accessibility in higher ed."

9) “Strive for excellence!” — in other words, light yourself on fire daily to keep the higher-ups warm. Break your back to carry the company.

In short, this company is an object lesson in disingenuous corporate doublespeak, bad faith business practices, and dogmatic, cultish conformity. Their core values are a bad joke, and if you are an independent thinker at all, you will not like it here. Also, for the record, I was not fired. I left of my own accord before all the firings and lawsuits started. This is not some disgruntled, terminated ex-employee sounding off. This is just an honest appraisal of how 2U does business from my perspective. Work here at your own peril.