Colleges Slash Budgets in the Pandemic, With ‘Nothing Off-Limits’ - The New York Times

Follow our live coverage of the coronavirus pandemic here.Ohio Wesleyan University is eliminating 18 majors. The University of Florida’s trustees this month took the first steps toward letting the school furlough faculty. The University of California, Berkeley, has paused admissions to its Ph.D. programs in anthropology, sociology and art history.As it resurges across the country, the coronavirus is forcing universities large and small to make deep and possibly lasting cuts to close widening budget shortfalls. By one estimate, the pandemic has cost colleges at least $120 billion, with even Harvard University, despite its $41.9 billion endowment, reporting a $10 million deficit that has prompted belt tightening.Though many colleges imposed stopgap measures such as hiring freezes and early retirements to save money in the spring, the persistence of the economic downturn is taking a devastating financial toll, pushing many to lay off or furlough employees, delay graduate admissions and e…

We Don’t Value Education. We Value The Credential. - Forbes

We Don’t Value Education. We Value The Credential. - Forbes

We Don’t Value Education. We Value The Credential. - Forbes

Posted: 17 Oct 2020 03:57 AM PDT

It's time for our country to reckon with itself on the deeply held value of education. Is it education that we value? Or is it the credential that results from certain types of education? We have lived in a society that has emphasized the importance of education from the very beginning. Benjamin Franklin once said "an investment in knowledge pays the best interest." A similar refrain has been made by nearly every American leader since and reflected by generations of Americans at dinner tables across the country. On the surface, there's nothing to argue about. Education, broadly defined, is among the most worthy goals of any democratic society. But lurking beneath the surface is a real crisis of conscience for our education system as to whether it values education and learning or simply the credentials that accrue from it. At the core of this are colleges and degrees.    

Colleges and universities do indeed suggest they value education; for example, 'lifelong learning' is one of the most common phrases in college mission statements. But they don't reward lifelong learning in any way. They only reward the learning that comes in the form of degrees – 2-year, 4-year and post-graduate. They don't provide recognition and credentialing for just one year of college nor – for those pursuing bachelor's degrees – for two or even three years of education. Aside from a vaguely defined movement on the part of some colleges to offer "certificate" programs, there isn't much that structures alumni lifelong learning in a formal way either. In reality, lifelong learning is more a myth than an outcome that has been achieved.

For the past several decades, champions of education have run well-meaning campaigns to improve college attainment by setting degree completion goals at both the federal and state level. Amidst the push for college attainment goals, there have also been a number of unintended consequences and negative externalities. Namely, we have greatly devalued the vocational training that has long been a staple of American education. Career and technical training in American schools has greatly receded. Worse, we have created a judgmental attitude about career and technical education – treating it as a 'second choice' alternative to college. Have college completion campaigns truly encouraged a spirit of learning and a 'learn ethic' among Americans? Or have we conflated education with degrees to an extent that a degree is the only 'acceptable' form of education?

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In Michael Sandel's new book "The Tyranny of Merit," he suggests that our overzealous belief in meritocracy has led us to a point where we have created a toxic politic of credentialism as "the last acceptable prejudice" in America. He points explicitly to American higher education as a source of this; elite universities, in particular, have created an obsession with selectivity that has led to 'fevered striving' among students who focus simply on grades and test scores rather than sincerely engaging in education. He notes that, "…the regime of merit exerts its tyranny in two directions at once. Among those who land on top, it includes anxiety, a debilitating perfectionism, and meritocractic hubris that struggles to conceal a fragile self-esteem. Among those it leaves behind, it imposes a demoralizing, even humiliating sense of failure." In essence, he argues that the value of the education in college classrooms is now lessened by students' obsessive focus on achievement; while at the same time, few of us bother to recognize all the valuable learning that takes place outside of college classrooms and beyond college campuses.

Sandel also notes the massive differences in investments made at the federal level between subsidizing degree-based education through colleges and universities and labor market training for career and technical education. In 2014-15, The U.S. spent $162 billion supporting degree-based college education while the Department of Education spent a mere $1.1 billion on career and technical education. Further, U.S. investment in labor market programs pales in comparison to other advanced countries who spend an average of 0.5% of GDP in this area. The U.S. spends only 0.1%.

Much of our rhetoric around college vs. career and technical education is that of an 'either/or' framing as opposed to a 'both/and' opportunity. In essence, we treat it as a binary choice. One either goes to college (the preferred route) or they take the less desirable alternative of career and technical training. In addition, we think of aspects of education such as 'critical thinking,' a liberal education and civic education as exclusive only to colleges and universities. But Sandel questions this as well by asking,"…why assume that colleges and universities have, or should have, a monopoly on this mission? A more capacious notion of educating citizens for democracy would resist the sequestration of civic education to universities." He's right to question. Why shouldn't colleges and universities offer a broad set of industry-recognized credentials and other industry-aligned training in addition to degrees? And why shouldn't career and technical training or the educational programs offered by employers include aspects of critical thinking and civic education?

If higher education fully embraced the inherent value of education more broadly, it would behave differently than it does now. Examples abound. The concept of 'prior learning' – where universities recognize the learning students have gained from work experience or the military as formal academic credits – has been around a long time; yet relatively few colleges and universities have fully embraced it as a practice. If we valued education, every college and university would readily embrace prior learning credits for all students. Many don't consider them worthy simply because they represent education that takes place outside of a traditional degree. We value degrees, not education. Likewise, industry-recognized credentials have typically been offered by providers outside the traditional higher education industry. Some colleges have recently become early pioneers in accepting credits from industry-recognized credentials toward degrees – but this is a very new and limited practice thus far.  

Massive open online course platforms (MOOCs) offer online courses from hundreds of universities, including many of the most prestigious. MOOCs advertise access to these courses free of charge, but if a learner wants a certificate verifying completion of the course they must pay a fee. On the surface, it's hard to argue with the mission of offering free education from the world's top universities to anyone on the planet with Internet access. But beneath that surface is the notion that the 'education' from these universities is a giveaway and the credential is the only thing of value. Although we are talking about certificates here – and not full degrees – the tyranny of merit and credentialism is nonetheless evident. The biggest shift in the business model of MOOCs in recent years has been toward certificates that are stackable into degrees – as well as offering full stand-alone degree programs. In other words, the way MOOCs have evolved to create a more sustainable business has been from selling credentials rather than by offering education.

None of this is to suggest that MOOCs are at fault here, but rather an example of the culture we have created where our education system delivers (and students are now accustomed to paying for) credentials instead of education. Another interesting way to tease out the downside of our valuing of education to excessive degrees (pun intended) is through the lens of return on investment for students. By now, we're all aware of the value of a bachelor's degree in terms of expected earning power. The average weekly salary of adults in the U.S. whose highest credential is a high school diploma is $712 while those with a bachelor's degree earn $1,173 – representing a 65% increase in pay. However, those with 'some college but no degree' earn only $774 per week – a mere 9% increase over high school-only graduates. This suggests there is a considerable premium for the degree credential, but little value to its educational parts. It's almost an all-or-nothing proposition; either you get the degree or you don't and anything in between is of little value. If the education underlying a degree is so valuable, this wouldn't be the case. Theoretically, those with three years of college credits would earn more than those with two years who in turn would earn more than those with just one year. But this isn't the case.   

There are currently a whopping 36 million adults in the U.S. with 'some college but no degree.' And many of them have gone a substantial way toward a degree. It's estimated that 10% of these 36 million (3.6 million people) have two years' worth of college credit. In one study done across 30 community colleges and 23 universities, one-in-five so-called 'drop-outs' had 75% or more of the credits needed toward a degree. Roughly 30% of college students drop-out after their first year of college – meaning that a sizable portion of students have at least 30 credits under their belts. Why wouldn't colleges and universities – in a rush to defend the value of their education – recognize students for partial degree credit? By not doing so they are reinforcing that it's the degree that is of worth, not the education. Some might argue that the degree is the true monopolistic feature of the higher education industry and that it should never stray from it, but colleges have a far more promising future expanding beyond (and including) degrees than by sticking to degrees alone.   

What if there was a new layer to the current higher education system that categorized and credentialed students as 'Level 1' (meaning they have completed 30 credits toward a bachelor's degree), 'Level 2' (60 credits), 'Level 3' (90 credits) and 'Level 4' (120 credits but no degree)? This would at least provide important signaling value to employers and provide meaningful recognition of the valuable education a student has received. What if higher education widely adopted the practice of recognizing prior learning from previous work or military experience? What if higher education regularly recognized credits from career and technical training and industry-recognized credentials? What if higher education served entire families instead of individual students? These steps would go a long way toward both valuing education and improving degree completion.

Considering whether it is education that we value or simply degrees is a critical reflective moment for our democracy. Sandel makes a blunt point about this against the backdrop of rising populism in the United States: "Building a politics around the idea that a college degree is a condition of dignified work and social esteem has a corrosive effect on democratic life. It devalues the contributions of those without a diploma, fuels prejudice against less-educated members of society, effectively excludes most working people from representative government, and provokes political backlash."

The notion that higher education might be contributing more to the unrest in our country than to building its common good is a deeply troubling thought. It forces us all to think carefully about what we're really after. Is it the unending quest of credentialism and educational elitism for a select few? Or is it education for the benefit of all? Like it or not, higher education has a crucial role to play in all of this and a number of directions it can take. Business as usual is not one of them.

Rio Salado College Create New Partnership for Online Degrees - Brandman News Bureau

Posted: 01 Oct 2020 12:00 AM PDT

IRVINE, Calif. (Oct. 1, 2020) – Brandman University and Rio Salado College today announced a new partnership enabling students to earn an online associate degree with seamless transfers into selected online baccalaureate programs.

The programs are open to students throughout the United States. Brandman is headquartered in Irvine, California. Rio Salado is based in Tempe, Arizona.

Brandman and Rio Salado share a common mission to promote college completion via online learning. Both institutions specialized in distance learning courses for several years before the coronavirus pandemic prompted a widespread shift to online learning at colleges and universities from coast to coast. The schools also share a commitment to fostering a learning environment that promotes diversity, equity, inclusion and putting the needs of their students above all else.

"We are committed to providing accessible and adaptable online pathways for students to achieve their goals," Rio Salado Interim President Kate Smith said. "Beyond this present crisis, we look forward to this partnership providing innovative and flexible options for students who may be juggling multiple responsibilities, serving in the military, residing a prohibitive distance from an institution of higher education, or who simply prefer the flexibility and experience that this online partnership provides."

This partnership will enhance Brandman's and Rio Salado's abilities to offer relevant degree programs to students who are looking for online programs because they are a safer option while the pandemic is still a public health concern, or because they are at a point in their lives at which online learning best matches their personal needs.

The partnership establishes articulated transfer pathways leading to bachelor's degrees in business and information technology. Additional degree pathways will be created in the future.

"Starting at a community college and transferring to a four-year university is a cost-effective pathway to a four-year degree," Brandman Chancellor Gary Brahm said. "Working together, Brandman and Rio Salado will be able to provide students who select the transfer route a reliable roadmap to the degrees they want to earn."

The transfer pathways will also create value for students by enabling them to concentrate their time on classes leading to a degree and ensuring that students will earn a valuable credential – an associate of arts or science – midway through their college journey. Transfer pathways offer cost savings for students allowing them to benefit from Rio Salado College's affordable tuition rate while they complete their associate degree. 

Federal data show Americans working in positions that generally require no greater credential than a high school diploma earned a median wage of about $38,000 last year. An associate degree opened the door to positions that paid a median wage of about $55,000 last year, and a bachelor's degree could qualify a recipient for jobs that paid a median wage of about $75,000.

Working Americans with college credentials are also less likely to be unemployed during hard times. Labor Department figures covering April through August of this year show substantially lower unemployment rates among members of the workforce who have earned bachelor's degrees. Similarly, people with associate degrees had lower unemployment rates than people who did not go to college.

Brandman and Rio Salado are regionally-accredited institutions and national leaders in online education with long records of helping students complete the transfer process. Serving more than a quarter million students online for more than 20 years, Rio Salado has been a leader and innovator in distance learning since 1978. A survey of 554 students who graduated from Rio Salado from 2014 to 2019 found that 91% indicated that the college met or exceeded their online learning expectations.

Rio Salado College has more than 40 additional partnerships with four-year schools within and beyond the Grand Canyon State, offering educational opportunities to communities across the country.

Brandman is well-adapted to educating transfer students. As a formal partner with the California Community Colleges Chancellor's Office, Brandman guarantees admission to California community college graduates who earn an associate degree for transfer. Brandman students are typically working adults who already have some college credits to their name when they enroll, and federal College Scorecard data shows full-time transfer-in students have a 76% graduation rate within eight years of enrollment with Brandman.


Brandman University is a private, nonprofit institution accredited by the WASC Senior College and University Commission. As part of the Chapman University System, Brandman blends a legacy of academic excellence with innovative programs and support services designed for students with busy schedules. The university offers undergraduate, graduate, credential and certificate programs designed to be relevant to more than 90 career paths. Brandman serves about 22,000 students, about 14,000 of whom are degree-seeking students, at 25 physical campuses in California and Washington, as well as online. Brandman offers fully-online courses for students anywhere in the United States and for military personnel serving abroad. For additional information, visit the university's website.

Rio Salado College
is one of ten Maricopa Community Colleges and one of the largest online public community colleges in the nation, serving nearly 50,000 students annually with almost 30,000 online in 50 states and internationally. Founded in 1978 and headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, Rio Salado offers 600+ online classes, 130+ degree and certificate programs and general education courses. The college also provides support for dual enrollment, military and incarcerated students and serves as the largest provider of adult education in Arizona.


Media Contacts:

Terri M. Carbaugh, Brandman University Vice Chancellor of Public Affairs:

Andrew Edwards, Brandman University Senior Multimedia News Writer:

Annette Flores, Rio Salado College Senior Public Relations Marketing Analyst:


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