Thursday, June 24, 2010

For-Profit Schools...Good or EVIL??

I attend a for-profit school. I am **according to all the commercials I see** a Phoenix. (Although, I don't advertise this because I have yet to drink the UOP kool-aid!)

I tell you this only because I recently watched the Documentary, College Inc. on PBS.
Click here to go to the site, the entire video is available to watch online & I highly recommend it (especially for students/parents about to enter the college arena).

Anyways, I was alerted to the documentary after having long discussions with both my mom & my brother. Apparently, my brother watched this doc. & was concerned that I was unwillingly being taken advantage of (I am the youngest & my older brother sometimes confuses me for a moron!)

After explaining my position to my mom (to whom my brother first voiced his concerns) & later (Thank you mom for the heads up so that I was prepared!) to my brother, I wanted to know exactly what this documentary was all about **what was their position, their feelings, what message were they trying to portray**

In short...College Inc. wanted to convey that:
for-profit schools= bad
non-profit schools= good
(but this is an extreme generalization & I will leave it up to you to watch & come up with your own assumptions about what the message was!)

Here is my side of the story as a for-profit school student (and FYI I am still deciding whether for profit schools = good or evil):

College Inc. states that for-profit schools exploit students by enrolling every&(any)one that qualifies for federal student aid whether they are qualified or not. Then these schools charge outrageous amounts for each class while providing a sub-par education (compare it to lining up cattle for slaughter!)

Enter me:
a 28 year old (at that time) receptionist working in a position much lower than I am capable of (mainly because I don't have the piece of paper saying I attended school for an extra 4 yrs.)

My career hopes were to enter a company at the bottom & work my way up after proving my worth. The plan hit a snag when the economy took a turn for the worse in 2008 & I was left working at a company that lost 95% of the employees...leaving me with no way to advance since most dying offices don't promote! So I made the decision to return to school & better my future (& in truth I had always regretted not attending a 4-year college out of high school & getting my degree).

I didn't know how to return to school because I had been out for so long (I still am not sure what I could have done differently). I could go the J.C. route, but I had tried that before. I struggled to get into classes before they were filled & once in the class I struggled to finish the semester **I am a quick learner & classes are formatted to progress as quickly as the slowest learner (not the fastest)**. I get easily bored & uninterested...eventually dropping out all together. The worst part (& I am totally to blame for this!) is once I drop out it's too late to withdraw from the class & I end up with a W or worse yet an F in a class that I could have easily received an A.

For my experiences & reasons only (the program works great for a lot of students!) a Junior College was out. So, I called up UOP and met with a counselor. I knew that they were expensive (although, to be honest I didn't know how expensive when compared with some of the well reputed non-profit universities). Regardless, I was willing to rack up the student loans because I had already seen my future as a receptionist without a Bachelor's degree & it was DEPRESSING!

For me, the best thing about the school is the small classes along with the rapid 5-week courses. Most people are under the mis-belief that the time to obtain a degree @ UOP is quicker because the classes are only 5 weeks long. This is false! It takes 4 years. The difference is that at UOP I am enrolled in only 1 course at a time, putting all my attention on 1 subject as opposed to 5 subjects, in my opinion I can learn the same in a 5-week focused course as I can in an extended unfocused course.

But there are, on the other hand, some things that aren't so great about the school.
It is completely true that they will take anyone that can pay cash or qualify for a loan. I was enrolled before they ever saw my transcripts! There was no assessment test to make sure I could put a sentence together, could add 2+2, or that I could even read. Nothing!

My first class at UOP was a joke! I was with 20 other students & I could tell right away that 1/2 or more of them would never graduate. For the following reasons: they could hardly read or speak proper English, they didn't know how to operate a computer or in some cases turn on a computer, and they couldn't form a simple written sentence. They would progress so far until they finally gave up or were performanced (as they say in the corporate world) out.

The school is heavy on teamwork & 30% of every course grade is based on team papers & presentations. This still gives me nightmares & I have received so many papers that I have tossed & re-written completely in order to keep my GPA up. (The vicious circle is that these students that shouldn't be there to begin with get better grades because of my efforts & they end up staying in the school longer than they should, racking up more in student loans they won't ever pay off! all because I am striving for the best GPA to end up in a better school for my M.B.A.) for this I feel guilty. But, as it turns out, not too guilty...because I still put my A in the class above their future bankruptcy! & isn't that real-life anyways...we have all worked with someone that is in a position they aren't qualified for because they advanced by taking credit for their co-workers hard work!

So far, I have been attending the university for 1 1/2yrs. & I am underwhelmed with what I have learned! I have been lazy and still I have a 3.97 GPA. I don't read the required chapters, because for the most part I haven't had to. I have finished most of the classes & looked back on the previous 5 weeks not being able to point to one thing I have learned or can apply in the future. Although I can whip up an APA formatted paper in my sleep! But what good does APA formatting do me? I've never worked anywhere where I was asked to write a 1200 word paper in APA format! (But that is an issue for all universities, not just for-profit schools!) There was an exception, an Econ. class where the professor said he didn't care what format or how many words we submitted as long as our papers were well written and thought out & we proved what we proposed in our thesis statements (to that professor, I say THANK YOU!) That was a class where I read every chapter, & sat in full attention soaking up the wealth of information he provided. I loved every minute of that course & took away the desire to keep learning!

My Bottom Line:

The good- UOP does not cater to the slower learners, they expect you to be able to pick up ideas and formulas quickly. They are accredited (very important!). They push team-work. I have (almost) gotten over my fear of speaking in public because every class requires 1-2 presentations & participation (speaking up & voicing opinions) is required in every class.

The bad- UOP accepts anyone who can pay even if they are not qualified & sadly, they make it further than they should by relying on teammates & teachers that don't grade harshly enough. Teachers **for the most part** accept mediocrity (I know because that's what I give & I keep getting awarded for it). The price per class is high (especially for the school's rank & the knowledge obtained in each class!).

I am a for-profit school student & while I agree with everything PBS' College Inc. documentary proposes, I am still (in cases like mine!) for the for-profit sector. I came to UOP understanding that the degree I end up receiving will not be worth as much as a degree from say USC or a Cal-State school. Which is why I am going to continue on & get an M.B.A from a school like one mentioned above. But for those wanting a great education & the college experience, go to another school! Because I am attending UOP for the piece of paper, not the education, and their format works for me (& that is what I was finally able to portray to my brother!).

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Why I Returned to School After Nearly 10 Years...

I am 29 years old and 1 1/2 years ago I threw up the white flag & returned to college.

For years I tried to convince myself that my work ethic & natural ability to pick up new procedures quickly would assure me a promising career.
It's not that I hadn't tried to go to college after high school!
It is just really hard to sit in a class bored to death while the professor caters to the slowest learner & I sit there with my eyes rolled in the back of my head struggling to stay focused.
Inevitably, I dropped class after class, until I could no longer call myself a student because...well...I wasn't one.

My career, did not take off as I had naively expected...SHOCKER, I know (I was young & foolish!)
So, at the start of 2009 I called up a local college & spoke to a counselor, applied for a school loan, and signed up for my first class in years.

Now, I have about a year left until I graduate. As of this moment in time, my GPA is 3.97 & the lowest grade I've received so far is an A-.
Yet, somehow...the knowledge I have gained is from the books like, "What Would Google Do?" by Jeff Jarvis. Books that I've chosen to read in my free time. NOT from the classes I have invested thousands of dollars in!!

Recently, however, I've started to look back on this 1 1/2 years and I can't tell what I have gained from this extra knowledge aside from the growing debt thanks to my government sponsored student loan.

Maybe someone with a degree can help me my school the problem, or is the higher education system in need of fixing?

Because honestly, I was hoping for more than just a piece of paper from my 4 year education! I wanted to feel like I learned something!