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Compare Nonprofit, For-Profit Online Degree Programs

While there’s still a stigma against for-profits, the quality of education varies widely within the sector, experts say.

To some students, a for-profit online degree program seems like a risky option.

“I’ve seen a lot of reports for a lot of years about how for-profit schools have pretty much based their incomes on the ability for students to get federal financial aid,” says 30-year-old Matt Warner, a cybersecurity and information assurance master’s student at the nonprofit, online Western Governors University.

Though he’s personally hesitant about for-profits, he suggests prospective students focus more on factors such as cost and the degrees offered.

For California resident Carlos Ramirez, enrolling in an online doctoral program in health administration at the for-profit University of Phoenix was a no-brainer. Ramirez previously earned his bachelor’s and master’s at the school and was satisfied with its flexibility and student support.

Experts say in online education, a school’s classification as a for-profit versus nonprofit tells prospective online students little about overall quality.


“I think it’s less about the sector and more on how attentive the institution is to meeting the needs of students, to understanding best practices, to preparing their faculty for this robust learning experience,” says Karen Pedersen, chief knowledge officer for the Online Learning Consortium, an organization aiming to improve online higher education.

For-profit institutions have faced criticism in recent years for questionable recruitment practices, low graduation rates and high student debt. Though employers today are becoming more receptive to accepting candidates with for-profit, online degrees, there’s still a stigma around them, experts say.

[Discover how employers view for-profit online bachelor’s degrees.]

“It’s a distinction that has gotten a lot of press over the last many years, and I’m not sure that it’s warranted,” says Betty Vandenbosch, president of the for-profit Kaplan University, which delivers many degrees online.

When for-profit online degree programs started becoming more prevalent around 1999, they accepted almost anybody who applied, including those who weren’t sufficiently prepared for college, says Kathleen Ives, OLC’s CEO and executive director, who has served as faculty for both for-profits and nonprofits. That, she says, contributed to low graduation rates and high debt for those who dropped out.

That initial focus primarily on corporate profits “has tainted much of the for-profit sector. And not fairly, because the for-profit institutions are just as diverse as the nonprofit institutions,” says David Schejbal, dean of continuing education, outreach and e-learning at the University of Wisconsin—Extension, which coordinates continuing education and online programs across 26 statewide campuses.

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posted in: Blogging, California, Diversity, EmployerNews, Florida, Georgia, Graduation, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, New York, News, North Carolina, Personal, Wisconsin

Silicon Valley Offers Humanities PhDs Some Solid Advice

On a sunny May 10, 2012 high-tech industry heavyweights and Stanford academics reconvened to discuss potential futures of humanities PhDs. This year’s second annual Bibliotech conference at Stanford University offered solid advice. Here are some soundbites from Silicon Valley industry experts:

The Bibliotech Program is the brainchild of Stanford Ph.D. Anais St. Jude, who with Stanford Professor David Palumbo-Liu organized the inaugural conference in the spring of 2011 to help build a bridge between doctorates in humanities fields and potential employers in Silicon Valley. This year’s conference opened with an introduction from Senior Associate Dean for the Humanities and Arts, Debra Satz. Martin Giles, U.S. technology correspondent for The Economist newspaper, very ably moderated, asking hard questions and eliciting thoughtful discussion. Geoffrey Moore, author and venture partner at Mohr Davidow Ventures presented the keynote and was active on discussion panels. Stanford Lecturer Petra Dierkes-Thrun tweeted up-to-the-minute thoughts on the discussion. Tim McCormick of Stanford’s HighWire Press covered the conference and posted a Storify wrap-up and highlights.

Well-attended and showcasing several success stories of former Stanford Ph.D.s who now work in industry, the Bibliotech12 conference demonstrates the increasing openness of academics to industry, and hopefully the converse about industry as well. Having faced a shrinking and ever-more dismal academic job market over the last 30 years, while also experiencing the digital revolution in their own work and teaching, more Humanities Ph.D.s are looking to the high tech world for jobs, even as they anticipate the tsunami of online higher education.

Being humble: As was clear from the first Bibliotech conference, in order for humanities Ph.D.s to find employment beyond the university, they must first re-evaluate their self-understanding in the universe as bearers of enlightenment and prestige. While many humanities Ph.D.s continue to educate the public and work for greater human understanding, from the perspective of industry, humanities Ph.D.s suffer from of a reputation of arrogance, evidenced in a sense of superiority over the technological culture that defines industry. In addition, their prospect of participating productively in a new work environment is limited to the extent that they have been trained in present-day version of a medieval guild system of professorial patrimony and solitary research. What can humanities PhD’s do to change this perception? First, they need to get over themselves. Surely, spending 8-12 years in higher education suggests one is fairly well-educated and has many ideas, but these should not promote any feelings of entitlement. As a panelist put it about a former employee, who misguidedly imagined academic credentials could compensate for lack of hard-work: “Someone said to me ‘you can’t fire an Oxford Ph.D.’ and I said ‘I think I will.”

Some of this newly gained humility may require Ph.D.s to “give up your nouns,” by which industry experts suggested transitioning away from academic jargon, and being willing to take more entry level jobs, while learning new skills. Many of the academic participants in the audience responded by asking industry members, what it would take to find more “points of entry” and to get companies to take a chance with candidates who have taught many years, but not held industry position. The answer was always “willingness to learn” and “openness to new publics.”

Learn Something (ANYTHING) About Technology: In the process of re-evaluating the public value of their skills, many humanities Ph.D.s have come to understand the importance of the technology they use in the classrooms and for research. Everyone at the conference agreed that better preparation for public contributions and employment means learning new technical skills e.g. commuter languages, protocols, vocabulary, ideas. This in turn requires taking relevant courses while still at the university and also continuing education afterwards. There are many enrichment offerings that fit the schedules of working professionals that will also enable humanities Ph.D.s to improve their understanding of the high tech industry they hope to join.

Ask Yourself Where and with Whom You Can Play: Along with broadening one’s knowledge and vocabulary for a larger public sphere, humanities PhDs need to think about the compatibility of their skills. Some suggestions for graduate students included looking for collaborative work with design schools at universities, law schools and schools of journalism to help develop new modes of writing in order to enhance their humanities skill set. All of these translatable skills also play an important role in marketing and communications. In fact, the most re-tweeted statement came from Vivek Wadhwa who captured keynote speaker Geoffrey Moore’s words:

Engineers know how to create a product but they don’t know how to make a market—@geoffreyamoore #bibliotech12

Here’s the moment for Humanities Ph.D.s to step in and provide their expertise with languages, metaphors, narratives, logic, analogies, naming things, teaching and disseminating knowledge. All industry guests at the conference agreed industry could benefit from advanced expertise in these essential skills and knowhow. Teaching experience proved one of the most important expertise academics could offer. After years of leading courses, helping students, marking papers, humanities Ph.D.s are well-prepared for transmitting ideas to others. Here, Russell A. Berman, offered a passionate argument for the greatly undervalued importance of teaching and for revising the Ph.D. to prepare humanities students to share their skills more effectively and in many different publics.

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posted in: Blogging, California, EmployerNews, News

San Francisco Tech Jobs: A Bright Future, Not a Dark Cloud

Critics of San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee believe they have found a dark cloud in the city’s creating new tech jobs: these well-paid workers are said to be driving up rents, displacing tenants, and forcing the working class out of San Francisco.

But there are some problems with this reasoning. First, annual rent increases on tenants in place have been less than 1% in recent years, so sharply rising rents on vacant units does not affect the vast majority of tenants. Second, Ellis evictions are still down from the housing boom high, and are driven by factors other than new tech jobs. Third, the city’s rising housing costs reflect high-paid residents in medicine, law, financial services and many other fields outside of tech. If you think new tech jobs are bad for a city, try San Jose, which has laid 20% of its public employees because it lacks the revenue stream Mayor Lee has helped bring to San Francisco.

As San Francisco announces new business openings and expansions when much the nation still suffers from high unemployment, it’s perhaps understandable that the media would seek out a contrary, man bites dog angle. But challenging the value of creating tech jobs in the city drives logic into the ditch.

Last week, we saw the Bay Guardian devote a cover story to all of the terrible consequences allegedly impacting San Francisco due to the new tech boom. The paper argues, “there are already signs that displacement is creeping back, rents are soaring, housing prices are driving people out of town — and even the city’s own economist admits that nobody knows whether the tax-cut driven development will pay for itself.”

The Guardian’s familiar villains in this saga are Supervisor Jane Kim, Mayor Ed Lee and the Mid-Market/Tenderloin payroll tax exemption. The weekly has long and vigorously opposed all three. Its opposition to the exemption has not stopped the policy from being overwhelmingly popular among city residents; Mayor Lee aggressively promoted it during his campaign and handily won the Tenderloin and the overall election.

The Bay Citizen, also no fan of Mayor Lee, also sees a dark cloud to the tech boom. In a February 16 column primarily devoted to arguing for the abolition of rent control, Scott James notes, “Thousands of people are expected to become rich in the latest Bay Area tech boom…. And with so many tech nouveau riche around, that could make matters even worse for those of ordinary means.”

James does not describe how tech employees “make matters worse for those of ordinary means,” but repealing rent control would certainly achieve this result.

The San Francisco Chronicle’s John Cote is apparently working on his own “dark cloud to the tech boom story.” Based on his anti-Lee coverage during the mayor’s race, an article based on anecdotes rather than facts would not be surprising.

San Jose v. San Francisco

Before examining the factual basis of the “dark cloud” perspective, let’s look at a nearby city that is not enjoying a high-tech jobs boom: San Jose. The New York Times on February 19 wrote a very sad story about San Jose’s loss of 1,592 jobs in the past four years. That’s more than 20% of its total city employees, whose departure became necessary due to declining tax revenues.

Some of these employees face eviction and even potential homelessness due to the inability to secure new employment. Yet if critics of Mayor Lee’s job creation strategy had their way, San Francisco could be laying off public employees, cutting services, and causing resulting tenant displacement as well.

Fortunately, San Francisco is going in a different direction from its more populated South Bay neighbor. Controller Ben Rosenfield reported on February 14 that the city has brought in $122 million more revenue than was anticipated just three months ago. He said, “It’s the first time since 2008 that we can really see positive continued trends in almost all of our major tax revenues in San Francisco.”

That’s great news, particularly for the city’s nonprofit workers who have gone five years without a raise due to the city’s fiscal problems. Due to job creation and its related economic impacts, San Francisco has the opportunity to boost workers pay and enhance vital services, while San Jose and most American cities are doing the reverse.

Job Creation and Displacement

San Francisco’s housing prices began sharply increasing in the late 1970’s and with some interruptions (roughly 1989-1995 and 2008-2010) have shown greater appreciation than any major United States city outside New York City. The tech sector did not exist until the dot-com boom, which did contribute——along with the influx of high-paid workers in many fields during these years—- to rising rents on vacant units and single-family home prices.

But after the dot-com bubble burst, San Francisco rents on vacant units and home prices continued to skyrocket. And that’s because the city attracts many highly compensated workers in fields outside of tech.

Critics of the tech sector ignore that many high-paid employees work in hospitals, law firms, and in financial services. The notion that high paid employees are the problem is nonsense, but if the Guardian believes this it should have waged an all-out struggle to stop the expansion of USCF – with its well-paid medical staff – to Mission Bay. Guardian progressives should also have protested the growth of downtown law firms, whose associates earn more in their first year than even the most senior legal services attorneys.

Tech jobs get criticized while other well-paid work does not because young people are making a lot of money without obtaining post-graduate degrees, and this makes some folks jealous. But jealously is not a basis for sound economic policy, especially in one of the world’s great cities.

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posted in: California, EmployerNews, News

Hiring surge brings recruiters to Bay Area campus job fairs

After years of gloom, college students are flocking to campus job fairs this month in what is shaping up to be the best job hunting season since the Class of 2008.

Universities all over the Bay Area report an increase in the number of recruiters seeking to fill entry-level jobs and internships—brightening prospects for students whose entire adult lives have been clouded by the Great Recession.
As commencement approaches, 148 recruiters are visiting UC Berkeley this week at a job fair so big that it was turned into a two-day event—for the first time since 2008. More than 1,500 students are expected to attend.
Earlier this month, Santa Clara University’s fair attracted 75 employers, up from 50 last year. At San Jose State, lines of students snaked through the Student Union hallways and the number of prospective employers jumped from 52 to 73—so high that recruiters were turned away.

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posted in: California, EmployerNews, News

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