Monday, October 1, 2012

A Juggernaut It Ain't

There's been a tendency in higher education circles to inflate the threat posed by on-line, for-profit higher education. At its most extreme people have argued that the new massive on-line models have completely changed the paradigm of higher education, threatening to push traditional universities to the brink of extinction. In one case, such overblown fears appear to have played a role in the Greek drama over last summer's firing and rehiring of the president of UVA.

To those alarmists who warn of a "higher education bubble", this news item should be of some interest:
Kaplan Says It Will Close 9 Campuses
It appears that this particular for-profit outfit may have engaged in a bit of overstretch, and is now being forced to retrench. Notable in particular is this tidbit:
Kaplan had been warned earlier that it could lose accreditation for three campuses because their students had failed to meet achievement requirements. 
It's only a better business model if you really deliver a better product, or one at least as good, more efficiently and at a lower cost. This is a problem that has dogged the for-profit sector - their inability to deliver graduation and completion rates on par even with most open-access public universities. Until they solve that problem, the "threat" they pose to higher education is minimal. Selling a worse product cheaper isn't a paradigm-changer - it's just cheap imitation.

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