People, particularly business people, talk about higher education in ways that would have been inconceivable not so long ago. So what? Well, for one thing, we know that discourse shapes practice. So what kind of practice is likely to follow assertions such as this from Chris Kershner, a member of the Dayton (Ohio) Area Chamber of Commerce: “The business community is the consumer of the educational product. Students are the educational product. They are going through the education system so that they can be an attractive product for business to consume and hire as a work force in the future.”(I am quoting from Johann N. Neem “The Common Core and Democratic Education” in the Hedgehog Review, 17,2 Summer 2015. )
If students are products for business to consume, then practices that work in business should be applied in higher education, too. Right? That’s exactly what we read in Stephanie Saul’s report in the New York Times for November 16, 2015: “The nation’s second-largest for-profit college operator, Education Management Corporation, is expected to agree to pay nearly $90 million to settle a case accusing it of compensating employees based on how many students they enrolled, encouraging hyperaggressive boiler room tactics to increase revenue. “
Regulators may not like it, but why not, after all, “incentivize” recruiters? And, one step more, why not compensate faculty based on the number of students enrolled in their courses?
The Education Management Corporation does not stand alone. Ms. Saul reports, “ … one of the largest for-profit providers, the University of Phoenix, announced in a filing to the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was under federal investigation for deceptive and unfair practices. The company is owned by the Apollo Education Group. “
Incidentally, the newly named president of the University of North Carolina , Margaret Spellings, served on Apollo’s board in 2012 and 2013 , according to the Chronicle of Higher Education. Perhaps Apollo’s oracle a Delphi advised her to get off the board while the getting was still good.