Judging from the increasing enrollment, it appears that the Apollo Group and Kaplan, Inc provide a highly demanded service. However, the dual mission of education and profit is not without controversy as many in academia are critical of the quality of education these institutions are providing.
Nelly Stromquist, a professor of international development education in the Rossier School of Education at the University of Southern California points out that the emergence of an educational private sector gives rise to new, weaker institutions with less prestige than the established one. A de facto bifurcate system of higher education is created, so that although more people are gaining access to those levels, the distinction now emerges among these new programs and the degrees offered by elite universities or institutes, with the latter carrying more prestigious recognition (Stromquist, 2002).
These concerns regarding the rise of new and weaker educational institutions also look to the development of coursework and the role of professors. The University of Phoenix uses a contracted faculty that receives compensation for their activities and works under the supervision of a “curriculum development manager” and an “instructional designer” to create syllabi and instructional modules for each course.
Due to an increased amount of criticism over for profit Universities’ recruiting processes and the high rate of loan defaults, the Obama administration took steps to enact stricter guidelines for these institutions. According to a June 2011 New York Times article:
the for-profit system, which enrolls only about 12 percent of all students in higher education, absorbs about a quarter of the federal government’s $155 billion student aid budget. These schools, some of which get as much as 90 percent of their money from federal student aid, earn a profit partly by charging higher tuition than public colleges and by driving their students into debt. Among bachelor’s degree recipients, for example, nearly a quarter of 2008 graduates from for-profit colleges owed $40,000 or more, compared with just 6 percent of graduates from public colleges (The New York Times, 2011).
In June 2011, the Department of Education issued new regulations for for-profit colleges, which became effective in July 2012. The new rules threaten those institutions that do not measure up to prescribed standards—such as thorough preparation for “gainful employment”—with the loss of access to federal student aid (Lewin, 2011).
Clearly a different model from those used in traditional universities, the curriculum development manager oversees the document process in course planning while the instructional designer ensures that the syllabi and instructional components fit program objectives and the University’s learning goals. In the case of the Apollo Group, development of content takes place within a controlled atmosphere (Spring, 2009). This is a dramatic departure from a traditional university where professors develop and control their own courses.
Next: Blackboard Inc.