Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Former For-Profit Instructor Shares

I've been on a for-profit kick lately (see my previous posts entitled, "Screw U" and "Sordid Relationships And Broken Promises: Kaplan University's Troubling Relationship To The Washington Post"). While I think we shouldn't lose focus on the larger student lending crisis and culpability of the non-profit institutions in this mess, it's just too easy to beat these places up! There. I said it. But let's be honest, they suck and they are by virtue of their nature evil. I do wish to clarify that point, however. I am not necessarily suggesting that the teachers at these schools don't do a good job, and I know plenty of highly intelligent people who obtained degrees from such institutions. Nevertheless, the for-profit industry is a sham and it should be shut down.

Here's another heartwarming tale, this time from a former instructor, about what it's like to work at a for-profit:

I went to and was later hired on as an instructor at a for-profit career school, and this is what I saw, as briefly as I can tell it:

As a student, my experience was actually quite good; a couple of years later, however, saw the place taken on by new ownership, and that's when all the games began. . .

First, they took over several classrooms and converted them to admissions offices. That seemed weird from the outset, but then shortly thereafter there was a staff meeting where they wanted each instructor to give them five ideas on how we could increase the size of the student body by 25% a year over the next five years. I refused to participate, and got written up because I told them that (a) this was an unreasonable goal, and it seemed like they were expecting the phenomenal growth of some stocks to be transferable to our situation; (b) there wasn't any place to put any more students, as they had just converted all of the 'extra' classrooms to admissions 'counselor' offices.

Anyway, the second thing that started to become apparent was that they were no longer testing applicants before they allowed them to enroll; I could no longer believe that a good 30% of my students had managed to graduate from high school, and the basic computer skills that were allegedly required also seemed to be optional as well. This was a huge problem for an instructor who was supposed to be effectively teaching 30 students how to program computers, and yet I was now forced to teach basic Windows stuff like saving files (I shit you not!) to these poor unprepared students while the rest of the class grew increasingly frustrated. Guess who got yelled at when they complained?!? I wasn't allowed to send them back to the admissions (SALES) people for placement in an alternate program or to send them home until they got the prerequisite knowledge, so there was nothing I could do. Sadly, the slower students monopolized the class and that, in turn, slowed down my instruction, and I finally had to talk some of the faster students into tutoring them in exchange for extra credit in order to get anything accomplished.

Next, I found out the hard way that an instructor who gave grades based upon actual merit was going to get in trouble if a student (or his or her parents) didn't like the grade he or she received. I was ordered to re-evaluate several grades each class by my program director, and to give re-tests to students who had done poorly and felt the tests hadn't been 'fair.' I even failed a student for cheating - not once, but twice - after I had called him on it and told him what the consequence would be if he chose to do it again. He did, and I followed through. That was until his father called and threw a fit, threatening to sue. I had to let the student re-take the final exam and resubmit any assignment where he didn't like the grade he got, followed by being forced to apologize to the kid and his father and listen to the father tell me what crappy 'customer service' skills I possessed. The director just stood there, and told him that it wouldn't happen again; later, I was shocked when he didn't even try to apologize to me for having to fall on my sword like that, and when he told me that I should try to 'overlook' such matters in the future for the good of all concerned. What about the honest students?!?!? Letting the assholes who knew that complaining would let them slide through get away with it was a slap in the face to everyone else, and most importantly it would devalue the certificates awarded by the school over time as the news got out that straight A's didn't mean squat from our institution anymore.

Finally, a few former students sued when they couldn't find jobs after graduating. They claimed that they had been led to believe that the school had promised them that they would get them a job, and that all they got was just a 'career resource center.' This was true, to a point, because they changed their language in the sales pitch to 'career placement assistance' from 'job placement' - but someone will hear what they want to hear, especially when the emphasis can be placed differently by individual salespeople. Taken along with the hard sell, it was misleading, in my opinion, and probably deliberately so.

I left that job after just under a year, and went to the corporate training world, which had its own issues, but at least I didn't feel like I was ripping off the students . . . 

Shocking, right?


Nando said...

Diploma mills also love to hire gung-ho salespeople. Often, these pigs do not even have a college degree - in many cases, not so much as an Associate's degree. Yet, these swine call and recruit more victims/students.

I had a co-worker who worked for ITT Tech. She was 20 when she worked in the "Recruitment Dept." I knew a slob in Des Moines who had NEVER set foot in a college classroom. He worked for Universal Technical Institute (UTI). I was in my first year of graduate school. I should have slammed his face into a wooden table when I had the chance.

The other day, I went home for lunch. I turned on the TV, and my choices were tripe and tripe. During one court TV show, I saw more than 10 ads for various diploma mills, i.e. Broadview, Eagle Gate College, Stevens-Henager, Kaplan, Provo College, et al. This was during a 30 minute broadcast!!

Broadview?!?! That sounds like the name of a damn cemetary! Cryn, keep exposing these frauds. They are preying on people's misfortunes, i.e. unemployment, low-wage jobs, outstanding debts, calls from collection officers, etc.

Anonymous said...

The Admissions Advisor:
It begins in Kool Aid Club training, when questions about stigma and accreditation are dodged. They’d prefer you didn’t think too much on the sales floor, either; there’s virtually no discussion or training on program content or quality. When there is, it’s sub par, poorly organized, and offers little. Your job is simple: sell the American dream that higher ed equals car, house, stability, etc. There’s a quota each day, and sales managers roam the aisles of our cube heaven. Cube Heaven comes complete with for profit vending machines that distribute smaller portions of Doritos and candy for $.20 more than machines everywhere else. What will they think of next?

You’re taught and encouraged to temper (and avoid in the initial interview) any “process” based questions…the realities of debt, how financial aid works, the work required, etc. You’re not even supposed to use the word “school.” You’re regularly and strongly encouraged to enroll same day, and management makes it clear that doing so helps to avoid losing students to other universities. They’ll fluff that with a seemingly bullet proof rationale that students have been putting this off forever, or are frightened, and that they need your help. Today. Never mind that 95% of prospective students we’ve targeted are in poor financial situations, or the fact that they’re jobless, with the rent due, and in emotional, irrational states. Omit, enhance, and manipulate. You’re helping, so do whatever it takes. Get the enrollment. They need a change. Here it is: Not only will they be saddled with debt they can’t shake in bankruptcy, but they’ll also have spent their Financial Aid card, effectively disqualifying themselves from school aid in the future.

Back to the sales floor and earning your check. It’s time to start “overcoming objections.” This is what you’ll spend the majority of job doing – convincing students that their intuition about a quick fix is wrong, that they shouldn’t wait until tomorrow, or that they can make the time for it. You encourage to hurry down to a library computer if they don’t have one…they NEED this. Omit, enhance, and manipulate…guilt if you must! The single biggest “objection” you’ll be encouraged (for unspoken threat of termination) to overcome is the application fee. Sure, it’s not much, but the majority of students don’t have it, choosing rather to spend it on food, or avoiding cell phone service interruption, drugs, or getting it waived to enroll in a university that will charge them thousands more. It’s now your job to call them three times a day (this is policy) to help them “overcome this obstacle.” Can they ask the church? Parents? Find some bottles and cans to recycle?

The reality is that while a few of them are late bloomers and/or working professionals that bring the necessary experience and education to succeed, the vast majority are low SES, or flat broke, with little education experience, poor skills, and even poorer consumer awareness. They all have only one thing in common: a social security number! A number that grants access to Federal Aid that, as admissions advisor, you’re about to help a corporation plunder.
I once enrolled an ex-bank robber recently released from prison. He was brilliant, doing well in his classes, had great passion for people and doing the right thing. It’s a painful realization that my managers, when their careers end, will have stolen more taxpayers than he did.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

@Dec 22 - Wow. Your description is powerful. I will be posting as a story. Thanks for sharing such dreadful information. We will continue to spread the word, and we will do this together.

Anonymous said...

Thanks! I'm doing what I can. The sad reality is that it's actually much worse when you did into the details. It could fill a book, and that's my plan. This is a dark little chapter in postsecondary education.

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

You're welcome. I'd be the first to read your book, and I'd promote it left and right!

C. Cryn Johannsen said...

I made the mistake of rejecting ItalianDragn's comment on my Blackberry (still getting used to it). ItalianDragn wrote:

Let me guess... ITT?

I was amazed that they had a great-grandmother on dialysis in my IT classes. Like she was really planning on getting a job in the IT field... That should have given me a clue to get out, but I was an idiot and continued paying them for nothing.