Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"Let's all pretend we couldn't see it coming" (The US Working-Class Depression)

How is the working-class Depression of 2020 similar to the other 47 financial downturns in US history? 

Downturns are frequently precipitated by poor economic and cultural practices and preceded by lots of signals: over-speculation, overuse of resources, oversupplies of goods, and exploitation of labor. What I see are many poor practices brought on by corruption--with overconsumption, climate change, growing inequality, and moral degeneration at the root.

The "disrupters" (21st century robber barons) have enabled an alienating and anomic system that is highly dysfunctional for most of the planet, using "algorithms of oppression." And this cannot be solved with data alchemy, marketing, and other forms of sophistry.

Put down your iPhone for a minute and ponder these rhetorical questions:

Warm Koolaid (2016) signified corporate America's use of myths and distractions to sedate the masses. 

How long have we known about all of this dysfunction? Academics have known about the effects of global climate change and growing US inequality since at least the 1980s. The Panic of 2020 should be a lesson so that we don't have a larger economic, social and environmental collapse in the future.

Who will hear the warnings and do something constructive for our future? Or is this Covid crisis another opportunity for the rich to cash in on the tragedy?

The answer lies, in part, to an ignorance of history and science, and oversupply of low-grade information, poor critical thinking skills, and lots of distractions. That's in addition to the massive greed and ill will by the rich and powerful.

US downturns are baked into this oppressive system. And crises are used to further exploit working families. With climate change and a half century of increasing inequality, these situations are likely to worsen.

Workers will resist and fight oppression; they always do, but will they have a voice as the US faces another self-induced crisis, as trillions are doled out to those who already have trillions?

Here are the dates of the largest economic downturns.
1873–1879 (The Long Depression)
1893–1896 (The Long Depression)
1918–1921 (World War I, Spanish Flu, Panic of 1920-21)
1929–1933 (Stock Market Crash, Great Depression)
1937–1938 (Great Depression)
Feb-Oct 1945
Nov 1948–Oct 1949
July 1953–May 1954
Aug 1957–April 1958
April 1960–Feb 1961
Dec 1969–Nov 1970
Nov. 1973– March 1975
Jan-July 1980
July 1981–Nov 1982
July 1990–March 1991
Mar-Nov 2001
December 2007 – June 2009 (The Great Recession)
March 2020-

We live in an economic system that is unsustainable, unjust, and exploitative. While many of us in academia and the thought industry have known this for decades, those with greater wisdom have known for centuries. Techies and disrupters think it can all be solved with technology, not with profound wisdom. The ultimate in hubris and reductionism. We have to change the system politically, socially, and culturally. We have to be wiser.

How do we do that, radically change society, when our economic system has driven us in the wrong direction for so long? Some of these lessons can be learned from working class history, but they have to be applied with wisdom.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Revising Indicators of the College Meltdown during the Panic of 2020

Insiders in higher education and at bond rating agencies know how bad the College Meltdown has become. They have been tracking it for years, and know the most vulnerable schools by name. What indicators do they use, and why aren't the People privy to the information?

In May 2017, I posted the short piece, Charting the College Meltdown. The article included a spreadsheet of key variables that could be used to gauge the direction and intensity of the downturn in US higher education.

Three years ago, revenues were the only variable in the green, and those numbers were from 2015. Clearly, even revenues had been declining earlier at many institutions, especially at for-profit colleges, community colleges, and smaller private schools.

Additional information has been compiled and analyzed since 2017. For example, Gary Roth's "The Educated Underclass" (2019), painted a disturbing picture of US higher education and gainful employment, and the larger economy that had been producing lots of low-wage jobs and fewer good jobs with security. And enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse point to a hollowing out of America and significant declines in state enrollments.

Nathan Grawe's analysis of demographic trends also projected a dramatic loss in the college enrollment pipeline in 2026, a ripple effect of the 2008 Great Recession.

One of the problems with even doing an analysis is the lack of data and the quality of data. As part of their plan to deregulate, defund, and privatize higher education, the Trump Administration has discouraged transparency and accountability measures put in place during the Obama Administration.

Student loan defaults, measured by the 3-year student loan default rate, is a poor indictor of problems in the student loan system. Colleges and universities have learned how to game the system, offering deferments to students to keep debtors from defaulting in the three-year window. Student loan repayment rates, a good proxy for long-term defaults, have been eliminated from the College Scorecard.

Variables, like the actual quality of Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (SLABS) can only be gained through inside information.

The New York Federal Reserve had been a source for the College Meltdown, but recently they appeared to be more like cheerleaders of the industry rather than objective analysts.

In addition, US Department of Education data is released at a plodding pace, often lagging about 2 years. That's why data from the National Student Clearinghouse are so important.

What variables do you think are the most important in gauging the higher education business? And what variables should be added or removed from the chart?

More resources from College Meltdown

Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time

College Meltdown Resources (includes college choice and career planning tools)

A preliminary list of private colleges at risk 

Are Brand Name Coding Bootcamps the New Higher Education Scam? 

College Meltdown Expands to Elite Universities

Education is a Racket

Higher Learning Commission: Accreditation Is No Sign Of Quality

The Slow-motion Collapse of America's Largest University

Enrollment declines, campus closings, economic losses and the hollowing out of America 

Community Colleges at the Heart of the College Meltdown

What happens when Big 10 grads think "college is bullsh*t"? 

US Departments of Education, Defense, and Veterans Affairs Shirk Responsibilities to Servicemembers, Veterans, and Their Families

The College Meltdown Is Painfully Obvious

When College Choice is a Fraud

Music Videos of the College Meltdown

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus and the College Meltdown

If the student loan debt bubble blow ups in coming months, it will be because the US economy had been seriously compromised for decades. 

The College Meltdown continues in 2020. This phenomenon is deeper than the coronavirus, the temporary closing of campuses across the US, and the cancellation of NCAA basketball's March Madness. What we are seeing in the news should be a smaller entry in the History of American Higher Education compared to larger trends and social problems that preceded the pandemic.

College and university enrollment has been declining slowly but constantly since 2011, with for-profit colleges and community colleges taking the largest hits. And it follows larger demographic trends which include a half century of increasing inequality, including "savage inequalities" in the K-12 pipeline, crushing student loan debt, decreasing social mobility and the underemployment of college graduates, smaller families, and the hollowing out of America.

Spending on college is also an increasingly risky decision for working families.

A larger enrollment decline is projected for 2026, a ripple effect of the Great Recession of 2008. With fewer younger people to attend college, this "enrollment cliff" could amount to a 15 percent drop in a single year.

There are many parts to the current Coronavirus crisis and its effects on US higher education. But they all boil down to the Trump mantra (defund, deregulate, and privatize) and the opportunity for the elites to capitalize from the crisis, as they did during and after the Great Recession.

[Image below from Wikipedia. Higher education in the US has increasingly relied on for-profit mechanisms for growth and revenues. This includes privatized housing and services and for-profit Online Program Managers (OPMs).]

Higher education is a small but significant part of the US economy, which includes much larger sectors like Health Care and Finance. While the working class will not get bailed out, these sectors likely will, with the sudden crisis used as a rationalization. The crisis of crushing student loan debt and the much larger problems related to 50 years of growing inequality may be more disruptive in the long run, but these matters continue to be ignored.

Whether the next President is Donald Trump or Joe Biden, things could get worse for working families, unless there is mass resistance--right now I don't see that happening. For the moment, many young people are responding by living with family, not going to college, and delaying child bearing. Those who do get an education are also making economic sacrifices. Some, for example are selling their bodies as Sugar Babies to get through school.

Many state economies also look bleak in the near future. Not enough in revenues and increasing Medicaid costs make investments in education difficult to do without increasing taxes or state-level debt. And it's not likely that the wealthy will be willing to pay their fair share, unless they feel economically threatened. If that happens, rich companies and rich people can just move out of state or out of the country.

Higher Education and the Student Loan Mess

In October 2019, Trump Department of Education official Wayne Johnson resigned, recognizing that student loan debt mess was worse than anyone had imagined. US higher education enrollment is supposed to be countercyclical (improving when the economy drops) , but don't bet on it without government help.

Haven't heard any rumors in months, but it should also be interesting to see if President Trump tries to unload the $1.5T in federal loans to his banking friends using an executive order. McKinsey & Company have been tasked to determine the possibilities of such a maneuver, but there is radio silence on that front.

In the education sector, I'm watching student loan servicers and private lenders Sallie Mae (SLM), Navient (NAVI), and Nelnet (NNI) closely. Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (also known as SLABS) are also worthy of scrutiny given the low rates of student loan repayment.

Newest Links

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Are “Best for Vets” and “Military Friendly Colleges” Rankings Believable?

[Editor's Note: This article is for US servicemembers, veterans, and their families.]

GI Bill benefits are a well-deserved reward for your years of military service. They are also an important, but not endless asset for you and your family to transition back to civilian life and to have a good future. In a 2018 Military Times opinion piece, I suggested 8 tips for choosing a college. Those tips are an important primer, but even more education is necessary to spend your GI Bill funds wisely. Military Times, GI Jobs, and others have compiled “Best for Vets” and “Military Friendly School” lists for servicemembers and veterans, but are their lists credible?

Military Friendly?

Whether you are on post, off post, or surfing online, hucksters are trying to sell you their schools, calling them “military friendly.” Servicemembers, veterans, and their families are inundated with advertisements and recruiting for schools--and often these schools are what I call “subprime,” meaning they have questionable value and use questionable tactics to recruit. These messages appear on billboards, ads at the top of your Google or Bing search, on your feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media, in ads embedded in internet articles, and in local newspapers, and magazines in unemployment offices and in grocery stores. And once they get your personal information, subprime schools may end up sending you a slew of texts and phone calls pitching their messages.

Military Times, GI Jobs, and other media produce college rankings specifically for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. This lists have some valuable information, but they should not be used exclusively for making the best college choice. You should be particularly skeptical of advertisements in these and other sources, which may or may not be helpful in making college choices. In some cases, websites posing as informational tools for veterans are actually internet predators.

Military Times’ “Best for Vet” Lists

Military Times (publisher of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Times) produces a “Best for Vets” list that includes separate lists for 4-year colleges, two year colleges, online and non-traditional colleges and vocational colleges. The schools are ranked by factors such as: whether they have a veterans center, military retention rate, military graduation rate, and affordability for people using DOD Tuition Assistance and GI Bill funds.

The Best for Vets four-year college list has schools with value, with University of Texas, Arlington, Colorado State University, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and Syracuse University topping the list. But while these schools may be good for many veterans, high-performing veterans may be better served at highly selective schools like Columbia University, Cornell University, and Stanford. If you have done well on the SAT or ACT and shown promise in your educational work, Warrior-Scholar and Service2School may be important allies.

Military Times’ lists of 2-year schools and vocational schools includes community colleges that have reasonable value, but they may not be the best choice if a student doesn’t plan to stay in the area. The list of online schools does include, Excelsior College, New York state’s college for working adults completing their degrees. Other schools on the online list, however, are particularly troubling (Colorado Technical University and American Intercontinental University, for example). Rather than being best for veterans, some are considered bad actors by organizations looking out for veterans and other consumers. To muddy the waters even more, Military Times accepts advertisements from subprime schools that have the money to post half-page ads in the magazine.

Subprime Colleges

By subprime college, I am referring to schools that have:
  • high tuition in relation to community colleges,
  • low graduation rates, and
  • low student loan repayment rates*

You can find this information at the Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

Subprime schools also spend a great deal of their revenues for advertising, marketing, and recruiting and little on instruction. Subprime schools often sell themselves as accredited, but accreditation, even regional accreditation, sets a low bar for educational quality. These schools have also been called “bad actors” and the “bottom of the barrel.”  The Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Comparison Tool provides some information on complaints made to VA. If a school has more than 30 GI Bill complaints, consider another school.

Subprime colleges are often for-profit, but they may also be non-profits or state universities that operate as bad actors. University of Phoenix, DeVry, Colorado Technical Institute, and Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan University) are glaring examples of subprime schools that have used shady tactics to recruit servicemembers, veterans, and other consumers. 

GI Jobs “Military Friendly Schools”

GI Jobs’ Tier-1 university list includes selective, well-respected schools like Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Columbia University, and University of Connecticut. If you look at the schools by state, you’ll find a much smaller list, which will have schools of varying in quality and value. Unfortunately, the Military Friendly lists you may generate with the filters do not compare the schools as transparently as the Military Times lists. 

Schools that use an outdated Military Friendly logo should be particularly suspect. In this case, the schools may have lost their ranking or designation and are using their most recent award. If the designation was not issued after 2017, the school may be considered subprime. 

Predatory Lead Generators

Do an online search for “military friendly schools” or “GI Bill” and you may find results that are even less helpful than Military Times or GI Jobs: results that may make take you down a wrong turn in your career and college decisions. Scam websites use internet lead generators to take your personal information, to sell you a degree or certificate that won’t be a good investment. In some cases, these lead generators pose as military friendly sites with flags and people in uniform. Lead generators have been fined and shut down for misleading veterans but that has not deterred others from continuing their predatory behavior. 

Sunken Investments

If you have found that the school you went to while in the military is a “bottom of the barrel” college, you have lots of research to do before using your GI Bill benefits. Think twice about investing your GI Bill money into a school that will not lead to gainful employment, even if that means starting over if you have to. You should also contact VA and Veterans Education Success to register any complaints about a school you have attended.

*Unfortunately for consumers, student loan repayment rate has been removed from the new College Scorecard.

Helpful Links

Warrior-Scholar (college preparatory boot camps)

Service2School (free application counseling)

Veteran Mentor Network on LinkedIn

Veterans Education Success (tips in enrolling for college)
8 tips to help vets pick the right college (Military Times)

Thursday, December 26, 2019

State By State Changes in College Enrollment (National Student Clearinghouse, 2011 and 2019)

Florida, Indiana, Arkansas, Missouri, Vermont, and Wyoming have dramatic college enrollment losses in 2019. Alaska, New Mexico, Michigan, Illinois, Hawaii, Oregon, Missouri, Arkansas, West Virginia, Montana, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania hardest hit over the long haul.

State F2011 F2019 %Loss/Gain

AK 35,473 22,268 -37.2

NM 144,202 110,427 -33.4

MI 633,576 482,058 -24.0

IL 758,074 583,960 -23.0

HI 65,638 50,697 -22.7

OR 253,403 198,518 -21.6

MO 411,508 323,361 -21.4

AR 178,628 143,895 -19.4

WV 169,510 137,665 -18.7

MT 55,945 45,492 -18.7

MN 420,655 347,114 - 17.5

WI 350,803 295,341 -15.8

OK 211,151 178,411 -15.5

PA 755,158 639,366 -15.4

WY 32,729 27,664 -15.4

IN 402,850 342,615 -15.0

IA 221,732 190,209 -14.2

OH 689,862 593,527 -14.0

MD 387,487 334,422 -13.7

LA 261,494 225,868 -13.6

FL 1,077,332 933,180 -13.3

ND 56,359 48,966 -13.1

KY 277,688 243,299 -12.4

NY 1,191,463 1,044,338 -12.3

KS 203,748 178,623 -12.3

VT 43,201 38,207 -11.5

NE 141,944 127,113 -11.4

CO 320,626 287,781 -11.2

NJ 421,196 374,348 -11.1

MA 477,423 427,958 -10.4

ME 70,051 63,259 -9.7

MS 180,310 163,966 -9.1

DC 77,652 70,717 -9.0

VA 529,007 483,686 -8.6

WA 343,300 314,380 -8.4

SC 246,121 230,256 -6.4

NC 555,392 524,679 -5.5

RI 72,722 68,739 -5.4

TN 320,979 304,279 -5.2

CT 193,381 183,981 -4.9

CA 2,559,423 2,466,867 -3.6

AL 294,853 286,421 -2.9

NV 112,736 110,338 -2.1

GA 525,734 518,826 -1.3

DE 56,103 56,388 +0.0

SD 45,398 46,019 +1.4

ID 96,649 100,270 +3.7

TX 1,431,062 1,490,953 +4.2

AZ* 427,789 456,453 +6.7

UT* 254,731 361,652 +42.0

NH* 78,112 157,248 +101.3

*Arizona, Utah and New Hampshire enroll many students online.

Related link: Enrollment declines, campus closings, economic losses and the hollowing out of America 

Related link: National Student Clearinghouse, College Enrollment, Fall 2019.


Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Higher Education Assembly Line

[Image of the boss in Diego Rivera's Mural of Detroit Industry]

I'm conducting a study of Taylorism (aka The "Scientific Management of Work") in online higher education. If you are in the education business, I would appreciate your input, both positive and critical.

According to Maduakolam Ireh, "scientific management (in the 19th century and beyond) eliminated the need for skilled labor by delegating each employee one simple task to repeat over and over. Although this method increased the productivity of factories, it stripped employees their freedom to choose their work, as well as how it should be done."  While it may be an exaggeration that academic work is like factory work, trends in US higher education point to reduced autonomy, job deskilling, and greater demands to produce more work in less time.

In online higher education, a small number of full-time instructors act as managers, with part-timers (euphemistically called associate professors) facilitating classes--with little input regarding content. Academic work is deskilled: educational content is created on an assembly line that includes instructional designers, copy editors, finishers, and quality assurance specialists who may all be precarious 1099 workers.

Associate faculty are kept in the dark about what's happening. According to one person on thelayoff.com, "...when you're let go don't expect any sort of phone call. One day you'll go to login to the portal and it will say your credentials are invalid. You'd do what any normal person will do and call technical support. Support will awkwardly tell you'll to contact your supervisor to regain access. So you'll call them and if you're lucky enough that your supervisor wasn't also let go in the most recent round of cuts then they'll give you a call in a few days to let you know the bad news."
Is anything lost in the deskilling and marginalization of academic labor?
Unlike an assembly line, however, academic laborers in online higher education may never see each other or talk to each other, creating an atmosphere of alienation, especially among adjunct instructors. Feedback is created by student surveys and by crucial numbers such as retention rate, but not necessarily skill attainment or gainful employment.

Management signals workers an organization's true values and priorities. What values and priorities are online managers signalizing to their faculty? And how does this play out in the classroom and in decisions by faculty and staff?
"They had us deactivate an associate faculty because she was doing what was right: reporting a student for plagiarizing. One of the associate deans didn’t like that she held a standard so she told them to deactivate her." -- Online college program chair
"I was increasingly asked to pass students who did not earn the grade. As a result I was put into a "professional development" program which resulted in my leaving the university. I could no longer work for a school that has become a diploma mill." --Online instructor
It amazes me how online higher education has been able to reduce the number of full-time instructors to almost nothing, and with few complaints from consumers, educators, or teachers unions.
Have professors becoming obsolete, especially with colleges that serve working adults?
The small number of full-time instructors at regionally accredited online colleges is astounding:
  • Colorado State University Global has 34 full-time instructors for 12,000 students. 
  • Ashford University has 194 full-time instructors for about 35,000 students.
  • University of Maryland Global has 193 full-time instructors for 60,000 students.
  • Colorado Technical University has 59 full-time instructors for 26,000 students. 
  • Devry University online has 53 full-time instructors for about 17,000 students. 
  • South University has 0 full-time instructors for more than 6000 students 
  • American Intercontinental University has 51 full-timers for about 8,700 students.
  • Southern New Hampshire University has 164 full-time instructors for 104,000 students.
  • Walden University has 206 full-time instructors for more than 50,000 students. 
  • Capella University has 216 full-time instructors for about 38,000 students.
  • Liberty University has 1072 full-timers for more than 85,000 students. 
  • University of Phoenix has 70 full-time instructors for 96,000 students.
  • Purdue University Global has 346 full-time instructors for 38,000 students.
Glass Door, Grad Reports, and other internet sites, however, provide a small peek into the world of academic worker and student dissatisfaction.  But it's not sufficient in understanding the magnitude of Taylorism in online higher education. 
What's your take on the online higher education assembly line? And what numbers do you find important?

Related article: ‘The Gig Academy’ Colleen Flaherty (Inside Higher Education)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Unnamed Ashford University Suitor Joining Purdue University Global in "Race to the Bottom"

Who would buy Ashford University, an online school that has lost more than 50 percent of its students and is downsizing key faculty and academic administrators?

[Video above:  Dr. Stephen Brewer has reported on the downsizing of key faculty at Ashford and the suspension of the University Senate.]

Having seen so many crazy deals in subprime higher ed, from the ECMC shotgun marriage with Corinthian Colleges to the Kaplan-Purdue deal, anything seems possible.

"A bunch of state schools want online at scale at any cost."...(It's a) race to the bottom. They see their students heading to ASU, SNHU, or the for-profits, and figure if they can get to scale, they will have the time and resources to fix the programs."--anonymous online college expert
Tyton Partners managing director Trace Urdan has suggested that UMass or George Mason might buy Ashford from its parent company, Zovio, but I'm not sure either of those schools would take the risk. In my estimation, Zovio does not have the assets, such as cash on hand, for a safe conversion over the long run. And this lack of assets would make the buyer school more responsible for finances during the conversion.

In my opinion, the most logical buyer would be a school that is WASC accredited (Ashford's current accreditor), large enough to handle the risk, and either does not have a strong online presence or wants to expand its presence. It would also need a president/CEO strong enough and a board and faculty compliant or weak enough to take the bait.

It's possible that a hedge fund or other for-profit firm could create a non-profit specifically for the new school.

In the meantime, Dr. Brewer, is asking for accountability and justice for Ashford University students and professors.  After working at the school for a decade, he said that the situation had changed for the worse, "restricting creativity, inhibiting instruction, and demoralizing otherwise talented, motivated, and forward-thinking educators."

For any state university willing to scale up their online presence, be warned. The Kaplan-Purdue University Global deal is not working out, and Purdue bought Purdue Global for $1 and $50 million in free advertising.

Other subprime deals, such as the EDMC-Dream Center deal (Art Institutes, Argosy, South University), Adtalem-Cogswell (DeVry University), and Apollo Group-Apollo Global Management (University of Phoenix) appear to have panned out poorly. But that may not stop someone in the big business of higher ed from taking the risk.

Related article: There’s a Right Way to Convert to a Nonprofit. Ashford University Isn’t Following It (Bob Shireman, The Century Foundation)

Related article: Restructuring and Layoffs at Ashford (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Education)

Related article: The Next Purdue-Kaplan Deal? (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Education)

Related article: Early Troubles In The Purdue, Kaplan Marriage (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related article: For-Profit Bridgepoint Says Its Colleges Will Become Non-Profit, But It Won’t (David Halperin, Republic Report)

State Colleges Seduced By For-Profit, Online Education (David Halperin, Republic Report)

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.