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I teach at University of Phoenix and at Portland State University, so I have the opportunity to compare for-profit education with traditional education from the viewpoint of a professor.
In every class I teach at both schools, I ask students what they want to do when they get out. In comparable classes, most students at PSU have specific career paths they intend to pursue. At Phoenix, fewer than half of my students have specific career plans. Many say they are in college to advance in their current job, but almost as many respond “to get the piece of paper,” “to finish something unfinished in my life,” or “I have no idea.” This troubles me as an educator. It is the responsibility of the student to have goals and aspirations, not the responsibility of admissions staff, so you can’t fault Phoenix for this. Nonetheless, I suspect students will not do as well graduating from Phoenix as similar students graduating from PSU.
Phoenix is what a colleague called an “open enrollment university,” and I frequently see students who would not do well at a traditional university but will do very well in the Phoenix model.
Comparable classes at University of Phoenix have less instruction time than PSU. Phoenix uses a 5 week term instead of 10 weeks (at PSU), both with 4 hours of instruction per week. This means instructors have to cover the same material, frequently from the same textbook, with half the instruction time. It is difficult to get the same depth of treatment in classes with fewer instruction hours. Comparable classes cover the same topics, but the quality of education cannot rise as high as it would with more instruction hours.
Because they attract students who cannot go to traditional universities, I sometimes (privately) refer to Phoenix as “University of Lowest Common Denominator.”
posted 2 years, 6 months ago
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