Pushing vulnerable students to pursue for-profit options

I was almost ready to call it a night when I saw a tweet in which Tressie McMillan Cottom linked to the article: Plagued by scandal, for-profit colleges target single mothers


As a single mom, having access to online, distance, high quality *public* higher education was the difference between me working a (or more likely several) minimum wage job(s) and working in a good-paying university position.  I say it often, or at least I used to say it often. At some point I stopped. It feels like folks don’t want to hear it; it feels like the words either have no impact or have the wrong kind of impact.

When I talk about online and distance education, I hear lots of stories about doing a masters degrees online and starting, but not finishing, a MOOC. But what about the folks who either need (or want) education at the undergraduate level? How many public institutions in the US and Canada are offering and developing new, high-quality, online and distance certificates, diplomas and bachelors degrees? How many public institutions are reaching out to single moms and other vulnerable groups with flexible alternatives that meet their needs?

In a time where public institutions are pouring money into platformed MOOCs, the development of “executive and graduate programs online,” and when foundations are funding OER and OEP, public online undergraduate offerings receive little attention.

I don’t think the issue is money. Running undergraduate classes online and distance courses is (in any model I’ve ever seen) less expensive than running them on campus. Something else is going on, and it’s pushing vulnerable students to pursue for-profit options (in both the US and Canada). That makes me sad.

If anyone is aware of a public institution in the US or Canada that is making a strategic investment in the development of high quality, online undergraduate courses and programs, please let me know. That would make me happy. We need more of them.







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