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Wednesday, October 18, 2006

For-Profit Universities

On Monday the Chicago Bears played the Arizona Cardinals at the University of Phoenix stadium. Is this the stadium where the University of Phoenix normally plays their football games? No, the University of Phoenix doesn't even have a football team or a traditional college campus at all. Rather the University of Phoenix is a for-profit university with about 300,000 students taught at several small campuses in the US and beyond and online focusing on career-oriented majors. In an AP Interview, their new president Bill Pepicello explains their mission.
Our philosophy for serving students is the same as Harvard or Ohio State, and that is we're mission-driven. The mission of, say, Harvard is to serve a certain sector of the population and their mission is not to grow. And that's true of higher education in general. The reason the University of Phoenix exists at all is that is that all of those various (universities) and their missions did not provide access to a large number of students who are capable and wanted access to higher education. And that's our mission.
This university fills a need for training Americans for new careers as we continue to ship manufacturing and service jobs overseas. But the University of Phoenix doesn't fulfill other traditional university functions like basic or applied research or being the intellectual center of their communities.

For-profit universities haven't posed much of a threat for the traditional university model in the US. But in the long run as people get more comfortable with the virtual world of the internet, universities with a large on-line presence might radically change higher education as we know it.

Meanwhile India has a shortage of trained professionals as the country explores how to best address its higher educational needs. Germany on the other hand is focusing on encouraging high-level research by establishing elite universities, graduate schools and research clusters.

So how did the University of Phoenix get their name on the football stadium? The same reason the White Sox play in U.S. Cellular field—corporate sponsorship. At least we don't put corporate logos on the fronts of our jerseys like the European footballers.

17 comments:

  1. Whats wrong with corporate logos on
    team sweatshirts? Its not as though
    sports is so pure that its being
    made commercial or selling out by
    doing this. And LANCE- you're a
    capitalist, so I'm surprised you have
    a problem with this.

    bill gasarch

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  2. I wouldn't say Chicago won that game so much as Arizona lost it...

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  3. If I controlled the federal government, I would have every university with televised football either spin off its football program, or lose its non-profit status. That way most universities would attain the same benign relationship to football that the University of Phoenix already has. (Even though, ironically, Phoenix is already for-profit.)

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  4. Bill -- there's a big difference between believing in capitalism, and believing everything should be for sale.

    Different people will draw the line at different places, of course, but just because something like professional sports is "commercial" doesn't mean there can't be any legitimate complaint (or at least debate) about the lengths teams will go to for sponsorship deals...

    Or, to phrase things in more exclusively capitalistic terms: the audience's (hypothetical) negative reaction to corporate logos on jerseys can itself be thought of as a market force -- it is one of many small factors that, in sufficient numbers, could marginally decrease demand.

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  5. Soccer teams may have coporate logos on their shirts, but football teams interrupt the game so that TV channels can play commercials. I'd rather watch people play with logos on their shirts than watch commercials.

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  6. A few years ago, the school of engineering at Columbia University changed its name to the Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science, in acknowledgement of a $26 million gift.

    It's nice to name buildings after donors, but I thought that naming the school itself was stretching it. When I moved to Columbia, I feared I would soon work for the Coca Cola Department of Computer Science.

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  7. "For-profit universities haven't posed much of a threat for the traditional university model in the US. But in the long run as people get more comfortable with the virtual world of the internet, universities with a large on-line presence might radically change higher education as we know it."

    Five words: University of Illinois Global Campus.

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  8. speaking of Lances, Lance Armstrong's jersey typically bears enough logos for 4 or 5 european football clubs...

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  9. As I come from Finland, I've never really understood the reason for U.S. universities having their sports teams. Here in Nordic countries university is a place for higher education and sports have little to do with that. I mean, I've never really understood how basketball contributes to our scientific knowledge and what is its contribution to higher education...

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  10. I've never really understood how basketball contributes to our scientific knowledge and what is its contribution to higher education...

    you haven't lived until you throw an elbow into your prof's chest to clear him out of the lane so you can grab the rebound.

    (that's right satish, cower in fear)

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  11. The primary purpose of the university is thought to be very different in the US and other places. In the US the university is NOT a place to go to primarily be educated as a scholar. As someone astutely put it to me: Oxford aims to create gentleman (or a gentleperson today); Harvard aims to create leaders. While education plays some role in both being a gentleman and being a leader, it is not the primary aim of either place. What is education anyhow? Learning facts; learning skills; learning scholarship?

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  12. I don't see how Lance can complain about commercialism in Baseball when he's a Sox, not Cubbies fan.

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  13. As I come from Finland, I've never really understood the reason for U.S. universities having their sports teams.

    Very few things exist in the United States for a planned reason. Instead, institutions evolve. In this case, American football was actually developed at universities. That by itself does not explain everything. The mor enduring reason is that professional team sports have a regional, or minor league, or feeder level. In baseball it is called the "minor league", and by a lucky historical accident, it is separate from universities. College football evolved as the de facto minor league of professional football, for one reason because of the university origins of football.

    Basketball was not developed at universities. However, university athletic programs, with the lucrative example of football before them, extended their system to basketball. (Ovoid) football, basketball, baseball, and hockey are the only four really successful team sports in the US. Baseball and hockey both have non-university minor leagues.

    Now you might ask why universities developed football, or how they could get their foot in the door with basketball. The answer is that students at most universities, I imagine in Finland as well, like to play team sports sometimes. So there is some kind of athletic program. In the US, some of these team sports drew many spectators early on, and eventually big money came in.

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  14. Soccer teams may have coporate logos on their shirts, but football teams interrupt the game so that TV channels can play commercials. I'd rather watch people play with logos on their shirts than watch commercials.

    You've obviously never seen a live game then. They don't really have to "interupt" the game; football necessarily has a LOT of down time as it is.

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  15. According to the article, University of Phoenix spent
    "nearly $485 million on selling and promotional expenses and $936 million on instructional costs and services."
    This advertising/instructional costs ratio is a bit scary. I hope that's not the future of education.

    Andris

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  16. Under closer examination for-profit universities do not provide an alternative to traditional education. Their students are generally the same kind of students as students at not-for-profits. The argument that for-profits are able to adopt more flexible teaching and management practices is also questionable. The major difference is that for-profits adopt management practices that save money even if this effects the delivery of education.

    Some number of for-profits are traditional schools that were going bankrupt. It's hard to argue that a school going bankrupt is better off closing than turning for-profit. On the other hand, there's no reason to believe that for-profits are doing anything other than offering the very minimum that can pass for eduction while charging a price determined primarily by not-for-profits presence in the market.

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