Thursday, September 19, 2013


I've been teaching part-time for a private university since July to supplement my income. I have some misgivings about this consumer-driven highly-accelerated degree program, even though I had taught history and humanities for many years as an adjunct instructor at comparable institutions, usually for a business or nursing school. Notwithstanding what the dean and other administrators at this institution’s College of Business and Management say about ethical values and academic rigor, it's all about making money; students pay for serves rendered, fastening a bunch of “A”s to their belt with relatively minimal effort in order to obtain that precious piece of paper and further their career ambitions, or at least retain their job position. And we're talking quick service too: five 4-hour sessions to cover, in my case, Western civilization or a survey of humanities: centuries of literature, history, philosophy, music, and visual art.

Some of these “adult learners” come to class tired and whiny after working all day; rare is the instructor who keeps them beyond three hours.  So, de facto, we’re talking about three-hour sessions.  Moreover, students get to miss one class session and not have it impact their grade; not a few of them use this option.  Years ago I taught a 12-week program, only to have it downsized to 7 weeks (i.e., 7 class sessions) a few years later.  This institution also offered a 2-Saturday course as well, enabling students to get their three credits of general ed. in about 13-14 hours.  Now, with my present part-time employer, I’m supposed to shove all of this information into 20 hours?
Yes, my friend, it’s about the Almighty Dollar.  It’s about being competitive with other accelerated programs that continually reduce the required credit hours so that the consumer, McDonald's-like, can get their degree ASAP. The administration pays lip service to the problem of grade inflation, yet there's a lot of pressure to give students “A”s and “B+”s.  In an unguarded moment I revealed to a colleague at my day job that I was moonlighting.  He did not mince words about the greed and consumerism of private universities.  He’s right.  If the students don't get what they want, and when they want it, they'll take their money elsewhere, and deans and college presidents know this. The administration is all about recruiting as many students as possible; academic rigor can get in the way of that goal. Obviously there's a limit. Students must feel that they're getting a somewhat decent education, let alone the university having a modicum of credibility.  Nonetheless, I have my misgivings about the educational value of this program.  We’ll see what happens.