by: John Mark Reynolds
Beware: higher education is changing. Many schools that exist today will not exist tomorrow and to make matters worse scams happen. The faster change comes, the more bogus programs will develop.
What are signs of a bad deal educationally?
Beware the unaccredited program.
If a school is Harvard, it need not be accredited. If your school doesn’t have that name value, make sure it has the same accreditation as dear old State U. If it doesn’t, it might be good, but it probably isn’t.
It also might not “count” (credits, diploma) when you need it to do so. You want regional accreditation . . . not just some “national” group. This might change soon, but it hasn’t yet.
Do you interact with the professor during the class? Or are you sent to staff or teaching assistants? Does a faculty member grade your papers or again is this farmed out or worst of all automated?
Of course, in alternate delivery this interaction does not have to occur “live,” it can happen “asynchronously.” The key is make sure the evaluations, the syllabus, the teaching are done by a qualified professor. How quickly can you email or call that professor if you have trouble? If you cannot contact the professor during the term, beware.
Don’t accept answers from staff. Demand answers from faculty.
How big is the class? If you want free education, just take a MOOC for free. A class much bigger than thirty is making money off your being on-line at the cost of quality or professor time.
Beware programs where nobody or almost nobody fails.
If the professor isn’t grading your work, then who is? Do people who hand in any-old-thing get help? What kind of help?
The sure sign of a “diploma mill” or “semi-diploma mill” program is that there is no support available for failing students. You might also be in a program that an otherwise good school uses as a “cash cow.” This program is best spotted by seeing if it is part of the mainstream academic offerings of the school or is off in its own “special” niche.
Quality will tell over time. Some programs are so concerned about headcount that is very difficult to get asked to leave. Where does that leave the quality of your program?
Beware school’s programs that have no conventional equivalent on campus or where more conventional parts of the school do not take the units from their own program.
This seem obvious, but if on-the-ground students get something so different the units don’t count: beware. There are good “only on-line” or only “alternative” programs, but they better boast the same faculty/student ratios and contact hours of the other on-site programs at the school.
The market is not yet mature enough for most to trust an “on-line” only school.
Beware programs that spend more on marketing than on student support.
Ask the number of students support services available to you and the number of workers hired. Ask the number of workers assigned to recruitment. Compare.
Beware messianic claims that college is not needed.
Not everyone can benefit from college. Not all college degrees are worthwhile either in a job or in growth in virtue. Some colleges are too expensive. Some colleges spend too much on administration.
Changes are coming, but avoid being the “early adopter” who forgoes a solid degree before the changes are processed. A good liberal arts education will benefit you for the rest of your life if it teaches you to read well, write well, and think well. A good liberal arts education should civilize the soul. A good American liberal arts education should help you get your first job.
College is still a good value for most Americans if they choose wisely. Don’t so anticipate trends that you get ahead of them.
The person scoffing at college often has a diploma themselves or is in a profession (radio or entertainment) where a tiny percentage of people make a great deal of money. If you can do something so well that you fit the tiny category of “super genius/gifted” in an area where there are jobs, you may not need college for that job.
Make sure the exceptional don’t convince you their experience is the rule.
And yet many of these same folk might have benefited by a good philosophy class that taught them the danger of advising folk to anticipate history.
This article was written by John Mark Reynolds and originally published on patheos