I noticed that a lot of hits have been about the University of Phoenix, and let me point out one of the things that I’m worried about. You can think of degrees as something like paper money. They are pieces of paper that represent claims on value.
This is what I’m worried about. Suppose a university like UoP generates a diploma. What is the economic value of the diploma. If the main value of the diploma is as a representation of skills, the economy in general increases. If the main value of the diploma is to be a selection mechanism, then we have a problem.
Suppose you have fifty jobs and ten MBA’s. Lots of people see this and get MBA’s. So now you have 100 people with MBA’s. If you still only have fifty jobs, then the MBA is worthless since they will now use some other mechanism to select those people. The question that needs to be seen from a social science perspective is what is the effects of generating a lot of new MBA’s, because I’m worried that the outcome will be the same as the current massive glut of physics Ph.D.’s.
One thing that I would strongly advise people who are getting MBA’s is to study history and philosophy. History and philosophy are perfectly useless for getting that promotion right after you get your MBA. But ten to fifteen years down the line, when the world changes, and you are trying to figure out what to do, history and philosophy suddenly become very useful.
The other thing I would suggest is to customize your degree. UoP may produce thousands of MBA’s, but if you have an MBA, and some skills (either formal or informal) in something weird like candy making or Fiat auto repair.
Some problems with UoP
1) there is no mechanism to learn calculus. Once you learn calculus, this is the gateway to a lot of math, science, and engineering.
2) there is nothing that I’ve seen that resembles a “student union” or a “teacher union.” It would be nice if UoP had some organized mechanism by which students and teachers could express their concerns to the administration in some sort of organized fashion.
(By the way, since I’m throwing firebombs here, if anyone here is working for the AFL-CIO, UoP and similar schools seem to me to be ideal targets for labor unionization, since someone is making a lot of money, but it ain’t the adjunct faculty. It’s also difficult to move these jobs offshore, and it seems to me an ideal way of adapting the labor movement to the new economy.
The other thing is that a lot of the people in UoP are professionals. If you can show them how a labor union is good for them and make them comfortable with the idea of a union, then this is the ticket to unionization in other professional fields.)
3) I have real problems with UoP marketing that makes it seem like a degree is a magic ticket to success. A degree is useful, but it is only part of your education. You need to go to the library, and be involved in your community, be informed in public affairs. If the economy falls apart, then a degree is not going to help you at all.