Thursday, 4 March 2021

Observations and Thoughts on Higher Education: Part II


This is the second post in my much vaunted series on higher education. This series of bespoke posts are part of a prestigious sequence, otherwise known as: ‘A Trilogy in Four Parts’. I consider myself eminently qualified to wax wondrous on this topic due to my prolonged dalliance with institutions, various, dispensing learning, if not wisdom. Herein find perspicacity and intense longing, tinged with a tincture of justified insanity as befits my current hiatus in my medication cycle.

I mentioned in my last post the rise in spurious colleges, and if not outright scams, they are at best, misleading. In this post I would like to ‘raise the cudgel’ against so-called, ‘colleges for profit’. Conventional colleges and universities are primarily concerned with imparting wisdom and the financial aspect is of secondary importance. This is not to say that these institutions are indifferent to financial matters, however, they are primarily devoted to impart genuine knowledge at a fair price and student fees evince this laudable ethos. This to be contrasted with ‘for profit’ colleges where the learning process is subordinate to the gathering of fees. Consequently, tuition fees are much higher than charged by conventional colleges and this reflects and supports their prime motivation to make money (oodles of cash).

Whilst a gaggle of these colleges have a physical brick and mortar institution, many run their courses exclusively online. However, you wouldn’t gather this from their glossy, professionally crafted brochures that depict smiling attractive students against a backdrop of a suitably regal edifice. Now there is nothing wrong with online learning. It facilitates easy access to knowledge and provides convenience in our hectic modern age. But not all colleges are the same and it is important to weed out the academic wheat from the chaff. 

So, what are the prime characteristics associated with 'for profit colleges'. Nota Bene. 

Firstly, these institutions are aggressively marketed. Their day time television adverts, at least in the US, are allied with typical trashy day time fare, such as, the ‘Jerry Springer’ show or ‘Maury’. This is a cynical ploy to target their designated audience. The typical demographic are the poor and uneducated. Those interested are encouraged to phone the college, ‘hot line’ and are forwarded to a ‘boiler room’ populated by high pressure sales people paid by commission. Once engaged the prospective student is bombarded (nay, regaled) with the importance of obtaining a college education and why the particular college in question is the best fit for the budding student.

Secondly, prior education, or lack of, is not a criteria for academic admission. A legit college will generally require a certain minimum degree of prior education and relevant qualifications suited to the course to be undertaken. However, 'for profit colleges' emphasise the importance of ‘life experience’ as an important factor required for admission. It seems that the most important entry qualification is the ability to pay the exorbitant admission and ongoing tuition fees. And of course they are willing to sign you up with a loan company, of their choosing, so you can obtain the necessary funds. What they wont do is mention the high interest rates involved and if the student expresses concern, they will quickly be reassured that this will not be a problem as, once they graduate, they will be able to seamlessly slide into a lucrative profession. All their financial woes will disappear and their idyllic future will be punctuated with abundant success and sweet meats (sweet meats incur additional fees).

Then there is the issue of accreditation. This is particularly pertinent to those perusing a vocational qualification tailored to a specific profession. Entry to a host of professions require a relevant and recognised qualification that needs be accredited by a respectable and officially recognised registering body for professional validation. In the brochure blurb accreditation is cunningly fashioned to allay student suspicion. Therefore, although accreditation is mentioned, the accreditation body concerned is not recognised at the national level and therefore once the student graduates his qualification for entry into the desired profession is null and void. Indeed, oftentimes the accreditation body has been manufactured by the institution itself. Woe unto the scholar! 

Likewise, those pursuing a degree of no professional provenance are equally fucked. A degree certificate from the college might look pretty but it carries no weight in a competitive work place. Employers are acutely aware of the issues attending 'for profit colleges' and act accordingly. Thus, graduates are treated with disdain and are unlikely to obtain an interview on the basis of their expensive ‘degree’.

And finally, the degree course itself lacks academic substance. Consider studying part time and achieving a degree after 18 months study. A degree, in the real world, in the US at least, stretches to four years of full time application. The course material often lacks intellectual content and is frequently out of date. Students are mislead by the implausible grades they achieve. All is geared toward success. The program is rigged so that the student continues to participate and therefore continues to pay the exorbitant fees.

The Aftermath: Finally, the ‘graduate’ has to face reality. As he/she enters the highly competitive work environment they are faced with a rude awakening as reality finally intrudes/impinges on the ‘student psyche’. Over and above the accreditation issue, the poor sods have to deal with the fact that employers are well aware that their ‘degree’ is worthless. Thus the erstwhile student is lumbered with massive debt, often in five figures, and are unable to gain employment commensurate with their 'degree' qualification. Ain’t dat the sad truth.

The phrase ‘caveat emptor’ should never be far from the mind of any consumer, regardless of the service or product. Sadly, there is a long queue of dubious folk willing to fleece the unwary, unschooled and frankly, stupid. Be careful out there in the big, wide world. Tis full of shysters of unprincipled intent. Arse akimbo.



  1. Oodles of boodle is the term.
    And WC Fields' axiom about the morality of letting a sucker keep his money applies.

    1. Yep, underlying all this is human nature which never changes.