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Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Tue, 12th May '09 8:54 PM


I've been going to College for way too long now, lol, and it doesn't look like I'll be stopping anytime soon. I know there are a number of educators in the audience, and I was kind of interested in a general discussion about higher learning, though I have to warn you that except for my first hand experiences I don't know a whole lot about the topic (though I imagine some of you do). Plus, I'm bored of the threads on international affairs anyways.

The following is a "critique" of traditional universities by some guy at the University of Phoenix. I don't personally go to this particular school, and whatever you think about online schools, it seem like taking classes this way is becoming more popular all of the time. I use this particular "critique" because alot of what I dislike about the universities/colleges I have gone to is kind of made fun here, though I will add my own few critiques at the end to help round it out.

I'm personally used to internet schools recieving the put-down from others, so this was an interesting turn around for me. Here goes:

Scene: accrediting board room, where a traditional-school representative is making his presentation:

"Ok, we are a new school and we want to be accredited. Here is what we are going to do:

1) First of all, we will TURN AWAY at least 60% of the people who apply.

2) We will offer NO HELP getting the students registered. If they can't acquire the forms, get the signatures, and wait in long lines on their own, too bad for them.

3) We will make each class FOUR MONTHS LONG. Actual assignments will only be due every month or so. But it sure looks impressive, doesn't it!

4) We will offer no help keeping them in class. If they can't keep their lives together with no interruptions for months at a time, screw 'em! If they drop, we will NOT CALL THEM BACK to see what was wrong or to help them in any way get back into school.

5) We will offer TWO OR THREE START DATES. In the whole year.

6) We will offer classes only during NORMAL BUSINESS HOURS during the work week.

7) We will hire teachers only among people who have NEVER ACTUALLY WORKED IN THE FIELD.

8) We will NOT MEASURE the teachers on teaching effectiveness.

9) We will NEVER MONITOR or visit the classrooms

10) And, we will let teachers teach whatever they want, with NO OVERSIGHT by the University.

11) After a few years, we will give teachers a permanent job-security guarantee for life, as long as they write a book or two, or at least a couple articles.

12) We will put students in MASSIVE LECTURE HALLS in groups of hundreds.

13) Most of the "teachers" in those lecture halls will actually be fellow students. We'll call them "teaching assistants", mwha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

Ahem, sorry, back to the our accrediting presentation...

14) We will keep the actual teachers as highly shielded from the undergraduates as possible, so they have more time to write their books and order their assistant-book-writers around, whom we will call graduate students.

15) We will make it so that getting a graduate degree is mainly a political exercise in servility, and if a graduate student fails to please his faculty OverLord, his work will be rejected. Actually, we may change that OverLord title to something more user-friendly, maybe Committee Chair or something innocuous....

16) We will get 80% of our operating funds from GOVERNMENT HAND-OUTS. We definitely don't want to be subject to consumer choice, as you can probably tell by now, hehe...

17) We will give free educations to certain entertainers, but only as long as they allow us to keep all the proceeds from their performances, such as football or basketball games. If those entertainers dare accept a cent out of the millions of dollars they are making for us, we will throw them out!!! Ha ha! This is brilliant, isn't it!

18) Speaking of money, we will constantly hit up our graduates for donations. We will collect their donations into massive investment pools that grow into multiple BILLIONS of DOLLARS! This will help remove us from consumer pressures, and we can raise all of our salaries to astronomical levels. I am telling you, man, this will be a cash cow for all of us! Yet, we will be considered “non-profit” so no one can accuse us of being evil capitalists! Pure genius!

19) And get this, we can use some of our billions of endowment dollars to help some students pay for their outrageously high tuition, and people will actually thank us!

Hahahahah, I know, I know, it sounds crazy, but we have done some focus groups, and we are confident this will actually work. So anyway, how does that sound? Can we get accredited?"

What you traditional-school-proponents offer is a mockery of education, and to support it would set higher education back by centuries. Your accreditation application is denied."

Posted by: Justin Halter on February 27, 2007 5:05 PM

I have alot to complain about when it comes to traditional universities, especially the feeling you get when you go to state schools that you are kind of a number in a huge herd, and whatever mistakes the university makes is now YOUR problem. The customer service is terrible, which seems true of most state run entities, but it's particularly aggrievous when it affects your future the way college does. I hate "weeding out" classes, and the defences I've heard of them by teachers are not very convincing, though they've helped.

I guess what I was hoping to get from this particular post, was someone who actually knows something about higher education (whether you've worked in it or not) to point out the flaws in the above argument, which I imagine there are probably many that I wouldn't even recognize given I don't know much about it, and maybe someone who feels traditional universities deserve one, give a defence of their policies, procedures, behaviors. Any discussion on this thread about education would be fine by me, even criticizing this guy's school or online schools in general. I can't understand personally how some of the above mentioned "flaws" (IMO) are just allowed to continue, year after year. Suggestions for improvements? Anybody?

Pennwoman  (Level: 163.1 - Posts: 2475)
Tue, 12th May '09 9:36 PM

Having 2 kids that have gone to college, the thing that amazes me is that no one knows how much it costs. Ever. No one can pin it down. Drove me batty.

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Tue, 12th May '09 9:47 PM

Yeah, huh Martina? Lol, I forgot about that one. There's the tuition, then they throw on a bunch of fees you didn't expect, lab fees, technology fees, yada, yada, yada, cost of books, parking, why don't they just throw it all in one lump sum so you have some idea of what you are going to pay before you hit the window and the shock hits you? I love how you can pay for a parking sticker at a college and not be guaranteed a parking spot, EVER. Why did I buy one again?

Lynnm  (Level: 238.0 - Posts: 2051)
Tue, 12th May '09 10:21 PM

I went to a meeting yesterday at the University. It's about 5 miles from my office and I drove. Should have known better. There is nowhere to park without some sort of sticker. A full parking permit costs about $300 PER SEMESTER! As a visitor, I learned I would need a visitor's parking pass. Catch 22 - to get a visitor's pass, you have to get to the student services building. Guess what? You can't park there without a permit!

Adding more irritation, I am an alum of this school and they've already gotten a ton of money out of me and family members. You'd think a thank-you visitor's parking sticker would be appropriate.

More to the point with your question, I think it's important to do what you are passionate about, and to prepare for that the best way you can. That's going to differ from person to person. Many highly intelligent people will find that a degree from an online school suits them perfectly - they get the credential they're after and move on with their lives. Others really love the college experience - the students, the smell of a library, the non-academic activities.

Foogs  (Level: 282.5 - Posts: 847)
Tue, 12th May '09 10:27 PM

OK. I'll bite. First of all, much of the criticism described
above applies to state universities. Large. Impersonal.

I remember much of it from my days as a student. Not
much of it applies to my experience as a teacher.

Foogs  (Level: 282.5 - Posts: 847)
Tue, 12th May '09 10:37 PM

Relying on my limited knowledge. God forbid I should
ever be an administrator. Call me on this, please, if I'm
off base.

By the numbers:

#1: This applies to fairly elite colleges and universities
(i.e. Notre Dame, Duke, MIT). Most state Universities
take a high percentage of accepted applicants.

#2. Don't know. Judging by what we're getting in the
mail, colleges are trying to make it as easy as possible.

#3 Many of these complaint have to to do with
individualizing the college experience. BFD. If you want
what I have, make time.

#4 Definitely not true of private colleges. We bend over
backwards to help. I would say we try too hard.

Foogs  (Level: 282.5 - Posts: 847)
Tue, 12th May '09 10:40 PM


Our president is/was fond of saying, "No one pays
sticker price." What we (private college) have to
keep an eye on is the "discount rate." This figure
is built into our budget.

Foogs  (Level: 282.5 - Posts: 847)
Tue, 12th May '09 10:48 PM

#8 - #14: Inaccurate based on my experience at
small, private, liberal arts colleges. Your mileage
may vary.

#15: I've heard all kinds of nightmare stories about
PhD committees. I didn't experience it. My profs
were great.

#16: We're tuition driven, which makes student
satisfaction important. Referred to as retention rate.

#17 We got rid of this to a certain extent when we
dropped from NCAA Div. II to NAIA. NCAA Div. III
supposedly has no scholarships, but I've heard

#18: Endowment is what allows for scholarships.

M48ortal  (Level: 263.5 - Posts: 3849)
Tue, 12th May '09 11:28 PM

When I was a freshman at the large state university, I came down with double viral pneumonia. Two weeks in the university hospital. My parents were never called, until I was out of danger and called them myself. The university told them I was "over 18, therefore an adult." Next year I went to a small private college, then transferred to another university my junior year on. The worst classes I had were in my education classes. Standard belief was that this was where they put their worst teachers because "they have to be somewhere." Most of my best college memories did not happen within the classroom.

Two of my sons went to a prestigious private college, and twice we had to go there to take son #2 to the hospital when his roommate called us. He had gone to the campus infirmary and they gave him two aspirin and a condom. His fever hit 105.6.

Our best experience was with the small regional university our daughter attended. Son #2 transferred there also and both graduated with honors. Private college still sends us donation requests. My current office is on the campus of a small two-year college. Some of their faculty are great, but most just draw a check. Expectations are very low, even though nursing is the dominant associate degree major.

Online colleges? If you are capable of working on your own, find the one with the best reputation for post-grad placement, and go for it. Good luck.

Quackinator  (Level: 176.4 - Posts: 151)
Wed, 13th May '09 12:01 AM

Let me offer two perspectives

As a student, I can totally relate to (I think it was) #14, about grad school being an exercise in servility. I was NOT able to please my Overlord with my dissertation, got tired of jumping through the hoops (if I was lucky enough to find them) and became a doctorate level drop-out

As an adjunct professor working at the community college level, well.....most of the other items are not true of my institution. We offer a highly personalized educational experience. If we ever get "better" at items 1-15, I will quit.

Jank0614  (Level: 67.1 - Posts: 4593)
Wed, 13th May '09 12:30 AM

2 aspirin and a condom LOLOLOL!!!

My biggest surprise going back to university was that in the med offices in every room were what used to be candybowls, full of condoms. Encouragement to have one, stick a bunch in your pocket. I was wondering what was REALLY going on in those examination rooms! ha

Lodi  (Level: 107.5 - Posts: 2144)
Wed, 13th May '09 1:14 AM

What could have prompted this thread. Hmmm, well, I know I just posted grades at our university.

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Wed, 13th May '09 1:26 AM

Foogs: interesting, I would definitely say that a lot of it overwhelmingly applies to State universities. I’ve been to three of them, and it had to be the worst educational experience of my entire life. Everyone pressured me to go there because of the money I’d save, but nobody told me how much my education (IMO) would suffer. Are they all like this?

I’ve also been to two private colleges along the way, though one was short lived, I definitely thought maybe I had died and gone to heaven? I had no idea what customer service was, let alone experienced it a college. One of my favorite experiences at a state college was when my teacher didn’t turn in the paper work required to get my grade in on time, (not because my assignments were late or anything), and the school charged me some kind of $150 dollar fee off my menial going to college job wages. My appeals fell on deaf ears, despite the fact that the only person who had done anything wrong was my teacher who turned in my grade late for no reason at all!

Glad you’re in the system somehow. Regarding your comment to Martina, why doesn’t anybody “pay sticker price”? Is it that hard to not advertise “just tuition” and put the figure into some kind of lump sum so we know what we are really facing? I know of one college that does just this, books and all are included in the “sticker price”. Not looking to change anything, just after understanding on this one. After all, if you aren’t forewarned, it does feel like a trick! And btw, what’s endowment?

M48ortal: I enjoyed reading your post, thanks for the info on your experiences. Curious, was the university that eventually pleased you and your family a state or private college? You might’ve said, but if so I missed it.

Quack: You said, “If we ever get "better" at items 1-15, I will quit”. Not sure I understood this comment, but it sounds like you actually support all of these practices? I will say that some his complaints I don’t particularly care about, that being said, I personally find some of them to be highly disturbing. If you do support #1-15, I would love to know more about why……

Lodi: Bwhahaha, I haven’t got anything other than an A in class in more than two years, but very funny nevertheless. No need to worry about my grades at this point.

Another complaint I had, was that I hate when PARTICULAR “tenured” professors push their politics on you. I swear I get tired of students warning me that if you don’t “parrot” the teacher in a particular class and spew back their opinions to them verbatim, you are going to lose points on your assignments. Really? Does that attempt at “forcing” us to view life the same way as that teacher does really change our views? I think it just sours us to those views even more. Tenure is an interesting debate in itself…I had to write a paper on it before.

As far as my decision as to what school to go to, I’m more curious about understanding problems like these so I can make up my mind for grad school and have no intention to decide any time soon. Though a general discussion of higher learning interests me as well. It’s not a topic I know a lot about, especially because I had some recent interest in possibly working in education in some capacity. Thanks.

Madamec8  (Level: 85.9 - Posts: 897)
Wed, 13th May '09 2:19 AM

Talking about higher education is like the blind men trying to describe an elephant -- it all depends on what part you touch.

First, I think it has to begin with realistic expectations. Going from high school to college is not, nor should it be, a seamless transition. If a student doesn't have a certain level of maturity and initiative and responsibility -- he/she is going to be in for a rude awakening in an institution of higher learning. Life is complex, unfair at times, and doesn't hand us what we want, we have to go after it, navigate it, without mommy and daddy's help. Students who have that figured out early are going to do much better in life.

There shouldn't be any big surprises, financial or otherwise, if people plan ahead. The big ticket items -- tuition and fees are easily determined by looking through class schedules; room and board, the same. Books and supplies are going to vary from course to course, factor that in. Scholarships don't find the students ... the other way around ... full-board scholarships are few and far between. You want a scholarship based on your scholarship -- better get serious in high school, because there is already competition for the big ones. A good SAT score is just that ... it takes more.

Don't have enough $ for a 4-year-school? Guess what? There are great community colleges, where one can get a lot of individual attention and a good foundation in the lower-division courses. There are part-time jobs to defray costs. Of course there will be: no fraternities or sororities,no impressing others with your prestigious school, no designer holidays, maybe living at home a while longer ... it's only 2 years (if you don't dink around), time to get credentials and plan for the last 2 years. Certain 4-year schools don't accept community college credits -- others do.

Consider other things:

The absolute last thing to consider is student loans. They're a potential millstone around one''s neck for years.

Constant complaining about schools, athletics, and other things students have no control over takes precious energy away from their studies. Looking for the perfect school, changing majors, dropping classes, going part-time, etc. does not reflect well on the student, and it's self-destructive as a way of coping with life. For the most part, professors and instructors are in the driver's seat, like it or not -- you need them more than they need you. Just like the employer you may have some day.

A final comment on accreditation -- there are different kinds -- but don't get so hung up that you miss more important things.

The good news is -- you can get a good education, it's in your hands. Designer educations aren't necessarily good ones. Online educations may give you credentials -- but it takes a lot more for success in a career. There are no guarantees.

Bleepy  (Level: 149.0 - Posts: 626)
Wed, 13th May '09 4:21 PM

Not pay full price???? We will be a-paying upwards of $75,000 for college next year!!!!! is a gift to our kiddos!

M48ortal  (Level: 263.5 - Posts: 3849)
Wed, 13th May '09 6:05 PM

The college I mentioned as being good was a regional state university. It was small enough for the faculty to get to know the students, and many of them did just that.

You will learn something from every teacher you have, depending on your motivation. I said most of my 'education' classes were a waste of time. I think most teachers learn to teach by emulating the teachers they most respected. I had one teacher in grad school who would come in, fill the board with notes. then go back to the left side and start erasing to fill it again. Sixteen students, 11 Fs, 3 Ds. From him I learned how NOT to teach. Also compassion. I've now taught every level from 6th grade to college.

When I was teaching HS algebra and geometry, the local community college asked me to teach a summer algebra class. I wasn't asked again after that, because my "expectations were too high." I didn't tell them that I taught my high school algebra classes at a higher level than I did that 'college' class. I came early and left late and would tutor anyone who needed help on my time, but most of the college students came only to class, and then their attendance would have gotten them in trouble in high school. The ones who came in for tutoring went on to do well, moving on to four-year colleges later.

I retired in 2001, but have been called back to teach somewhere every year since. Now I work with GED candidates and do math clinics for other adult learning teachers. A math degree eventually pays off.

Foogs  (Level: 282.5 - Posts: 847)
Wed, 13th May '09 11:59 PM

All of my college education – roughly 10 years – was at state universities
and the good far outweighed the bad. Maybe I was just lucky. I had a bad
TA as an undergrad and a couple of lackluster grad profs, but I received a
good education. Sorry, Colleen, but my experience says to be leery of
community colleges. All the professors let go from my institution – for any
number of reasons – have ended up at the local CC. And I hear stories…

As far as sticker price: you have to have a base, I suppose. We offer
scholarships, grants, loans, work study, and something called talent grants,
which are, from my perspective, a joke. Students also get credit for being
from Siouxland or for having relatives that graduated. States offer grants to
stay in state. And that’s just what I can think of.

The nickel and dime stuff, all the fees, is aggravating to students.
Technology fees are a biggie. Meal programs. Book store. Graduation fees.
Matriculation fees. There are calculators.

My problem with my institution is that we are TOO nurturing. Unfortunately,
that’s part of our marketing. I don’t know, maybe parents want their kids
eased into adulthood, or just worry they won’t be taken care of. But I try to
treat my students as adults. Student Life suggests I call them if a student
misses three classes in a row. I don’t. If students want to skip and flunk,
that’s their choice.

My kids could attend my college, or any number of other small colleges,
tuition free--one of the few perks. My son does not, and I’m glad. I like the
fact that he has to compete and do for himself. He doesn’t need a nanny.
He needs to be an adult. He has had to deal with a TA whose first language
was not English. He’s had to deal with unfair grading. That’s life. I’m glad
he’s being introduced now.

Smokydevil  (Level: 163.0 - Posts: 5381)
Thu, 14th May '09 1:12 AM

Thank you to all who participated in this thread, it was very helpful and informative. It seems this thread is going to die without me learning all I wanted to know, but y'all gave me a kick in the right direction. Thank you very much.

Foogs  (Level: 282.5 - Posts: 847)
Thu, 14th May '09 10:33 AM

Don't give up yet, Stout. I realize I haven't necessarily been
responding to the original question, but that's because I'm
not all that familiar with internet colleges.

Let me try again: I'm old school enough to believe the "best"
learning takes place interactively between teacher and
student. I can't see how that interaction -- critiques,
discussion, advice, etc. -- can be done effectively by e-mail.

Similarly, many of the criticisms of traditional college posted
at the top of this thread seem to relate to the impersonal nature
of many universities. That's where I took issue with the list
because that is not the experience I come from. I don't see
how online colleges could do better, however.

A new aspect of college life that I'm not real comfortable with
is the idea of student as customer, which introduces
customer service and customer satisfaction. It's the new
reality for colleges, it is being assessed, as are professors
(which is another aspect of the list above that is out of date).

Student evaluations of professors are important here and the
Dean takes them seriously. I just received my spring semester
evals and I'll end with a comment from a freshmen in my
college writing course:

"Student's first years are the most vital. It is in the first year
that students form an opinion of the college based on the
classes they take. College writing should be a learning
experience, but many students struggle to make passing grades
on papers, homework, etc. because of high expectations.
Students need a working environment full of learning."

My conflict, as a professor, is how to sustain some sort of
standard while maintaining customer loyalty and satisfaction.

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