Tuesday, June 19, 2012

For Profit Education to Blame?

As we continue to digest and react to the happenings on the grounds at the University of Virgina the fallout continues.  After the epic 12-hour Board of Visitors Meeting naming McIntyre Dean  Carl Zenthaml as the Interim President, the Vice Rector Mark Kington and noted professor Bill Wulf have announced they are leaving.  It is hard to imagine Helen Drages would be reappointed in 2 weeks by governor Bob McDonnell.   The Daily Progress reported today that the potential fact that when Sullivan's became an obstacle to a plan to partner for online learning, her fate was sealed  Hmmmm?

Forgive me for thinking this is the most plausible explanation for the whole debacle.  You draw your own conclusions but there appears tat the very least to be a lot of people writing letters.  Imagine though what the for profit giant Education Management Corporation would stand to gain by securing their place in developing UVa's online presence.
EMC's growth strategy is to tap into public and private education funds through UVa and like my colleague stated this all just fits too nicely.    In short  For Profit Education(K-12, Apollo Group, Bridgeport, et al.) needs markets and colleges(and public schools) are those markets. 

Peter Kiernan, Darden School Board of Trustees Chair who resigned a short while into all of this,  was closely tied in and coincidentally a former partner of Education Management Corporation(and Goldman Sachs), a company in which Goldman Sachs acquired a major stake. EDMC is “one of the largest providers of private post-secondary education in North America."  Can't blame business people for doing business, except when they do it in the manner many now suspect. 

Set aside the merits of Online Learning or the fact we have business people not educators weighing the merits of such programs, the basic problem remains that if is there is a sliver a truth to any of this money and profit has become a poor substitute for why we have schools and learning institutions. When education becomes about money and private financial outcomes we are destined for bad things.  To bring it full circle we cannot judge this as good or bad unless we shine a light upon all the shadows.   By contractual amendment Sullivan can only speak out so much on this and is prohibited from making disparaging comments.  So someone else will have to help piece this all together.  It does appear to be about business. And based on public response to what has transpired here, most people agree this is no way to do business. Helen Dragas and the Board of Visitors are framed as the villains but that might be overly simplistic.  They might be, this exact lack of response was responsible for Jefferson's most famous work.  He preferred to be remembered for the founding of UVa.

The TU does not necessarily think online learning or virtual education is bad.  Nor do we dislike money.    I don;t even have a problem with most rich people.  :)   It is the for profit aspect that is troubling.  These are public schools and institutions and part of the public trust. They are intended to serve the greater good and not the bottom line. Once we hand them the keys will we be able to take them back?  I can live with selling naming rights to a rest stop but not sure I'm OK with sending my kids to State University of Inc. 

Make too much sense?   Read what you want, believe what you will, I am not alone.   

 Check out this UVa Alum and current Dukies theory on these things.  She dialed her theory in back on June 13th. 

Love to hear some other thoughts on this.

PS I have never seen Sasquatch, a yeti or skunk ape...yet.