The Killing of American Higher Education (Part 3)

Alan J. Yeck

The Dirty, Rotten, Crooked, Broken, Student Loan System and the Immoral Bankers, Brokers, Collectors, and Corrupt Politicians Who Make Billions Off of It While the Courts Garnish Wages and Destroys Lives

The Black Hole of Incompetent Leadership in Higher Education

Universities teach business education (best practices in leadership, management, finance, accounting, organizational behavior, HR, etc., and all the processes that go with these) but they seldom apply it to their own operations. It can often be an ego-driven, personality-based free-for-all from the top down in constant turmoil hidden from outside eyes.

A 2018 report from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) has the U.S. spending more on higher education than any other country in the world with the exception of Luxembourg (college is free  for the citizens of the small country, so we’re still number one on higher education spending) but the results are far from what they should be.

Andreas Schleicher, OECD director for education and skills says that “The U.S. is in a class of its own… Spending per student is exorbitant, and it has virtually no relationship to the value that students could possibly get in exchange.” Averaging $30,000 per student the U.S. spends double what the other developed countries spend. The $1.6 trillion question is, why?

According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics comparing the Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all goods, the average annual increase in college tuition between 1980 and 2019 grew by nearly 300 percent compared to a 120 percent increase for everything else. This is only the average tuition cost increase; there are many public and private institutions that have increased much more. In one generation, we have crippled the great equalizer of education and placed millions of Americans in a modern-day debtor’s prison. The extent of the damage and destruction that is being done to our country from this system is deep, wide and if not addressed in full, will have a cataclysmic effect on the nation’s health for decades.

State Reductions in Subsidies

Over the last 30 years, public dollars spent on higher education were drastically reduced year after year, and the only way for higher education to survive was to increase tuition and pass the financial burden on to the consumer – and that model continues to this day. I’ve heard this repeated over and over by senior administration to the trustees, the faculty, the parents, so much so that they begin to believe it.

The fact is that in inflation-adjusted public dollars, much more is spent on higher education today than in the 1970s. In fact, public investment in higher education is more than ten times what it was then. Compare this to military spending in the same time period which only increased twice as much. States did significantly reduce funding during the last great recession, but we are still looking at an $80+ billion subsidy, so it still doesn’t account for the increases in the current price of post-secondary education. Studies also show that when state funding does increase, there is little reduction, if any, in tuition (Rizzo, Ehrenberg).

The Bennett Hypothesis

The Bennett Hypothesis began in 1987 when President Ronald Reagan’s Education Secretary William J. Bennett wrote in a New York Times op-ed entitled “Our Greedy Colleges” that federal government’s financial aid programs “…enabled colleges and universities blithely to raise their tuitions, confident that Federal loan subsidies would help cushion the increase.”

Bennett’s hypothesis has been studied and debated by scholars and economists with neither being able to clearly state cause and effect validity.  Over the last 30 years, though, we’ve seen a correlation between tuition costs increasing as federal student loans increased. When Bennett was asked about his hypothesis in a 2013 New York Times interview he said he still believes financial aid contributes to tuition increases but is not the only cause.

“If the federal government gives money, tuition goes up. If the federal government doesn’t give money, it goes up. Now, I think the availability of federal funding drives it up more quickly and more surely. Federal student aid makes it easier for colleges to do what they’re going to do anyway, which is raise tuition. There’s more money available.”

Bowen’s Rule

Howard Bowen was the president of Grinnell College and an economist who theorized in his book “Costs of Higher Education” that higher education institutions will spend all the money they are given or can spend. If they have covered all budgeted expenses, they will find something else to spend it on. On the other hand, if colleges and universities are under financial strain, instead of finding areas to cut costs, they’ll look for ways to increase revenue — tuition being the easiest way. Bowden’s Rule, alternatively known as the “revenue theory of cost” is explained in five points:

  1. The dominant goals of institutions are educational excellence, prestige, and influence.
  2. There is virtually no limit to the amount of money an institution could spend for seemingly fruitful educational ends.
  3. Each institution raises all the money it can.
  4. Each institution spends all it raises.
  5. The cumulative effect of the preceding four laws is toward ever increasing expenditure.

Tuition increases have little to do with what education is supposed to be, but rather a modern mixture of executive administration and faculty governance being marketed and sold a social media version of it. They’re raising tuition because they want the money and the more costly the institution… Well, it must be awesome (rule 1).

More Students Cost More

Because the number of people attending college today has increased, the amounts that the state and the federal governments subsidize on a per-student basis are lower than they were at the peak of appropriations in the 1990s. As demand for it increases, education requires more teachers, more support staff, more infrastructure. That is just how service industries are affected by economic growth. While there’s truth in that, it doesn’t explain why higher education costs in the U.S. are double and triple what they are in similarly developed countries.

Employee Costs

The increases to faculty salaries and the increased cost of healthcare benefits have driven up operational costs, which could only be paid off by increasing tuition.

In the 1970s, the vast majority of faculty teaching on campus were full-time employees. Today, it is not uncommon to have more part-time adjunct (non-tenure track) faculty teaching than full-time. These faculty are paid per course they teach, and most do not receive any benefits. Full-time faculty salaries at the majority of colleges and universities have remained relatively flat throughout the last 30 years. This year, there was an average increase of 2 percent, but the inflation rate was 1.9 percent. I will note that there are professors whose salaries are in the six figures, but they are the exception and not the norm. The average salary for a teacher is less today than it was 40 years ago.

Administrative Bloat

In 1980, colleges spent $21 billion on instruction (41 percent of total spending) and $13 billion for all other support services (26 percent of total spending). Data from the National Center for Educational Statistics shows U.S. public degree-granting institutions today spend $372 billion total with 42 percent of that amount being spent on instruction and 37 percent on support services. Spending on instruction increased by 1 percent while administrative spending increased 16 percent, meaning universities are spending about the same on administration as they do on instruction (their raison d’être).

Some of these increases can be attributed to an increasing number of rules and regulations from the Department of Education that require significantly more resources to ensure compliance. There are also more programs for students who are struggling academically with tutoring services, career counseling, and internships. The U.S. also leads the world in money spent on non-teaching staff who do not provide direct academic support such as campus safety, alumni relations, admissions, recruiters, fundraising, financial aid, athletic, diversity and inclusion, food service, and maintenance staff. There are senior executives who are being paid an outrageous, questionable amount of money but the increases have not been given to senior executives so much as those working professional support jobs.  Administrative positions increased by 60 percent between 1993 and 2009, ten times the growth rate of tenured faculty in the same time period.


College sports can make a great deal of money for some schools… For a few schools… For very few schools, so the vast majority are losing money from their sports programs. These programs can only be supported through direct and indirect financing through fees, general funds, tuition…  Every student is therefore paying more to support the sports programs. Schools argue that they attract more students and therefore increase overall revenue, but athletes are often given some type of scholarship ranging from a full ride to a reduction in costs (as is the case with NCAA Division III schools, which are forbidden from offering scholarships but can offer deep discounts. Go figure).  The vast majority of college sports are subsidized programs, and those costs are again passed on to the student. I personally support college athletics but believe the costs associated with them need to be completely transparent to potential students.

The University Amusement Parks, Books of Gold and the Mystery of “Fees”

Last year, a higher education institution spent a record $12 billion on constructing new facilities to attract students, including the infamous lazy river where student can destress by floating around an amusement park-like water attraction. There are climbing walls, shiny new sports facilities, gourmet dining and luxury dorms. Some of these additions may be paid for by outside funds or alumni, but ultimately, the inevitable maintenance and repair fees ahead will be added into budgets, and those budgets will be passed on to the students. Universities want more students, but there is no legitimate argument for the welfare of the student taking priority over revenue. They have created a machine, and it needs a great deal of cash for those gears to keep turning.


Not seen when parents and students are looking at the costs of education are the textbooks. Compared to your basic bookstore non-fiction novel, which has actually decreased in costs, textbooks have more than doubled, increasing four times faster than inflation. This escalation goes hand-in-hand with the rest of the student loan industry. The four major publishers that control the majority of the textbook market, charge what they want because they know customers will be obliged to pay. New texts can run easily into a few to several hundred dollars, often with multiple books needed for each course.

Fees: Hidden Costs of College

In the last 20 years, fees have increased 30 percent more than the outrageous tuition increases, but rarely are they talked about. The bottom line is that fees, as in ‘tuition and fees’ are a way for institutions to amass more money without it being seen as increasing tuition. Increasing tuition normally requires trustee or state approvals, but fees can be tacked on at will – and they are. Need more money to cover employee salaries? Add an orientation fee. Short on funds for the new sports uniforms? Create a technology use fee. Paying with a credit card? Convenience fee. Drop a class – fee. Add a class – fee. And on and on and on… Because many of these fees can be hidden in dense college bulletins, in the fine print, while others are only applicable to specific programs, students often don’t see the full picture of college costs until their bills become due. Senior management at these colleges and universities have made the decision to bring their institutions and higher education down to the lowest possible ethical operations without crossing the line into true fraud, but they are damn close.

Are You Shitting Me?

Public (your tax dollars) university presidents are paid like CEOs of Fortune 500 corporations. I do not fault them for saying ‘yes’ to their exorbitant salaries but rather condemn the trustees, who are supposed to act as students’ guardians, holding their best interests in mind and actions. A full report including the top paying private institutions, can be found here. If you don’t want to look at the list, though, I can break it down for you simply. The lowest-paid president among the top-50 university presidents made more in 2018 (including base, bonuses and non-taxable income) than the highest-paid state governor.

We look to these leaders to hold dear the public trust of higher education, yet they appear to be completely out of touch with their own students’ challenges and needs. They fear the trustees, only, and have no sympathy for the debt their graduates will carry for many years after they themselves have retired with the title of president emeritus/emerita and dedicated campus office. If this is not the case, where are their voices in addressing the corrupt student loan system in which they have become key players?  Their bloated salaries and positions mean more to them than those they are supposed to be taking care of. Piss. Poor. Leadership. The maniacal cost of higher education isn’t because of just one thing but a consistent mismanagement of university funds and priorities. Because education cannot oversee itself, we must demand our elected officials at the state and federal levels call out this waste and abuse and hold senior leadership accountable. Until that is done, costs will continue to rise and continue to be passed on to the students.

This is the third installment of a five-part series by Alan Yeck reflecting on the student loan system, its challenges, and the far-reaching effects it can have. For a full list of works cited, please view the last installment in the series.

We have the power to change the business of education back to a right for all. Contact your representatives and ask them to listen to these facts and national narratives.

Read Part 1 here

Read Part 2 here

The Killing of American Higher Education (Part 2)

The Dirty, Rotten, Crooked, Broken, Student Loan System and the Immoral Bankers, Brokers, Collectors, and Corrupt Politicians Who Make Billions Off of it While the Courts Garnish Wages and Destroy Lives

Alan J. Yeck

The Age of Darkness, Greed, and Gnashing of Teeth

“It was lip-smacking,” wrote an employee of the student debt collection industry after witnessing a student loan debt protest where students wrote across their shirts the huge amounts of debt they owed.

Lip-smacking. These are the people from the loan “servicing” companies, the other end of the phone calls, the other end of the letters and emails, the other end of human decency. It’s as if by taking out a student loan, you unknowingly sold your soul to the devil.

One in four borrowers will be forced into default, or approximately one million every year, but that will increase. The dollar amount of defaulted loans is more than the tuition for all public colleges. Since the federal government can seize tax returns, garnish wages, and garnish social security payments, the agencies contracted to recover the defaults are doing very well. Very, very well.

The New (and improved) Mortgage Crisis Instrument: SLABS

Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (SLABS). Do you understand what these are and how they make you a lot of money? No? That’s because you’re not supposed to. There is much more detailed, complex information on how these “financial instruments” work but here are the major points you need to understand – let the scales fall from your eyes.

The top three student loan collection agencies also lead with the most issuance of SLABS are Navient, Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA) and Nelnet (all are being sued for a variety of illegal operations). They work in collaboration with help from our buddies at Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, Wells Fargo, et al. These are the same firms and people that brought you the 2007-2010 residential mortgage-backed securities (RMBS) crisis that foreclosed on over a million homes, who were then bailed out by the U.S. tax payer in the neighborhood of $30 trillion. Goldman Sachs awarded record bonuses that same year to the very people who caused the collapse. This group of bottom dwellers sell your student loans to investors (over $1.5 trillion in SLABS currently outstanding). These investors receive monthly loan payment and interest. Navient, PHEAA and Nelnet receive the cash, fees and commissions, which allows them to continue making more loans, while the risk is pushed to the investor.

The Higher Education Act and SLABS: A Marriage Made in Hell

Now here’s where you can see the scum rise to the surface. In 1992, federal policy from the Securities and Exchange Commission allowed student loan companies to avoid regulatory oversight. This is the same time period that student loans jumped $10 billion in two years with many changes to the HEA reauthorizations allowing more money to more people regardless of income, credit history or ability to repay. The most SLABS were sold between 2005 and 2007, with 2005 being the same year that all student loan debt was exempted from bankruptcy.

Because the market corrector of bankruptcy was stripped away from these citizens’ rights, they are on the hook for life, so SLABS are insured by the federal government which means if a loan goes into default they will garnish wages, tax returns, and social security benefits. A defaulting student borrower now owes more due to interest and fines and with the help of the federal government the investor now makes more money. Defaulting is good business for those unique people who have no interest in humanity or our country. It incentivizes the lenders to continue to make risky loans while the government protects them and the investors – everyone but the student borrowers who are then consumed, bones and all.

Over the last 10 years those “servicing” agencies have made record profits, as have those brokerage houses from these financial instruments selling your debt and profiting even more when a loan goes into default and the interest begins to substantially increase the amount owed. These institutions know that since there is no bankruptcy option available, those borrowers are forced to pay for life – debtors’ prison. “Sure, go into default and we’ll take your tax returns and garnish whatever wages you make.” Brilliant in the most diabolical way.

Borers Maggots of Our Political System

Borer maggots from beetles and moths tunnel and feed under a trees bark, in the darkness unseen by the light of day as they destroy the water and sap tissues in the tree. This causes girdling or strangulation which weakens the structure and causes the branches to dieback to the eventual death of the tree. Millions of acres are destroyed every year. Political lobbyists are the borer maggots of our political system.  It’s not about presenting a viewpoint or idea. It’s about buying influence, and they spend a lot of money doing it. Where your vote ends, which is immediately after the election, lobbyists step in to ensure that they get the legislation they want to happen, not what is best for you or the country but for them and who pays their salaries.

Source of Funds are PACs, Super PACs, Individuals – an average would be 60 percent to Republican candidates and 40 percent to Democratic candidates. Both parties get to be in on the take.

The student loan industry has their maggots deep in the House, Senate, Executive Branch and the Department of Education and the damage they’ve created cannot be hidden any longer.

About $90.92 million has been spent lobbying since 1998 (the Center for Responsive Politics based on data from the Senate Office of Public Records).

Student loan companies spent $11,072,047 (the Center for Responsive Politics based on data from the Senate Office of Public Records) on campaign contributions to Congress over last 9 election cycles (2002 – 2018). For 2019, Navient alone spent $1,000,000 dollars lobbying congress, the Department of Education and the Office of the Vice President.

I went back to school in 40’s to get a better job. I got an Associate, Bachelors and a Masters. Almost 9 years later I don’t have a better job but I have almost $80,000 of debt. No matter how much I pay the balance doesn’t go down. I am at my wits end. I don’t know what to do. I barely have gas money to get to work to pay this bill,” said LaDean Mitchell.

Defiance. We Must Fight!

I cannot keep up with all the lawsuits filed in the last several years against the student loan industry including the (self) servicing agencies, Department of Education, Secretary of Education, Betsy Devos, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and their new leader Kathy Kraninger. What I want you to understand is that system is completely and utterly broken and in complete chaos driven by unprecedented greed and corruption. Below is by no means a complete list.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau filed against Navient in 2017 (when Seth Frothman was still there fighting for American consumers) for “systematically and illegally failed borrowers at every stage of the repayment by”;

  • Steering borrowers toward more expensive forbearance instead of affordable repayment plans;
  • Misleading borrowers about the options available;
  • Processing payments incorrectly.

Attorneys General of California, Illinois, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, New Mexico, Arkansas, Arizona, Connecticut, Idaho, Iowa, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oregon, Pennsylvania and Washington as well as the Securities Exchange Commission and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau have launched investigations and/or filed lawsuits against this industry for fraud and unfair practices.

New York state sued the Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (PHEAA), aka American Education Services. New York Attorney General Letitia James said they “failed miserably” in their servicing of the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program.

I previously mentioned Seth Frothman, who resigned from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau as its chief ombudsman over student loans. In his resignation letter to the than acting director Mick Mulvaney, Frothman stated the administration “has turned its back on young people and their financial futures…unfortunately, under your leadership, the Bureau has abandoned the very consumers it is tasked by Congress with protecting…instead, you have used the Bureau to serve the wishes of the most powerful financial companies in America.”

The Celebration of Corruption

By the Department of Education accrediting (recognizing the validity and affirming the quality) any institution of higher education, they have done so on behalf of the students that are or would be attending. What has occurred is that for-profit institutions were accredited because of the money paid by these institutions to lobbyists and politicians – not because they were quality programs that would give the graduates the career promised them. Then they go out of business and those students who took out loans to attend are still on the hook for all the money those institutions took from them, or rather, have a barbed hook inserted through their spine by the federal government.

The National Student Legal Defense Network filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia alleging that the Department of Education’s practices “caused students at the schools to borrow money and waste months of their lives in pursuit of an education they did not know was unaccredited.” In 2017, Dream Center Education Holdings purchased around 100 for-profit schools from Education Management Corporation. A few months later, some of these schools lost accreditation but students were still required to pay for the fraud perpetrated on them.

Recently, Harvard University’s Project on Predatory Student Lending filed a lawsuit again Betsy Devos on behalf of former students that were enrolled in for-profit schools operated by Corinthian Colleges that are now out of business.

Another lawsuit was filed by a non-profit student loan advocate group Student Debt Crisis, against DeVos and the Department of Education as well as against the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its Director, Kathy Kraninger. This lawsuit alleges that because of mismanagement, over 40 million student loan borrowers ($1 trillion) are at risk of being cheated by the companies that administer their loans.

Kraninger, who is the head of an agency originally established to look after the interest of consumers including student loan borrowers, hired former Pennsylvania Higher Education Assistance Agency (now being sued by Attorney General of New York) executive Robert G. Cameron as the agency’s student loan ombudsman. The shepherd has hired the wolf to oversee the flock. Why? Because the shepherd’s real job is keeping the fraudulent money flowing back to her masters in the higher ed student loan industry, not the sheep. Among many other destructive moves, Kraninger has also proposed a debt collection rule that would allow debt collectors to send unlimited texts and electronic communications to consumer as well as appointing Rebecca Steele, a former mortgage banker who was called the “new face of the housing crisis” to serve on the Consumer Advisory Board.

“In October 2013, The New York Times Referred To Rebecca Steele, Then Rebecca Mairone, As The “New Face Of The Housing Crisis” Due To Her Role In “Saddl[ing] The Housing Giants Fannie Mae And Freddie Mac With Bad Mortgages That Resulted In Over $1 Billion In Losses.” “More than five years after the housing bust, the roll call of banking executives who have been blamed by the public for the crisis has grown ever longer. But when it comes to top managers who have been hit with a jury verdict for pushing dubious mortgages, the list is small indeed. The new name added this week was Rebecca S. Mairone, a midlevel executive at Bank of America’s Countrywide mortgage unit, who was held liable by a federal jury in Manhattan for having saddled the housing giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac with bad mortgages that resulted in over $1 billion in losses,” said Landon Thomas Jr.

I’m sure she’ll be of great help to the financial industry.

There are also numerous class action lawsuits ongoing about the loan industry’s deceptive practices and dirty dealings filed by unions, coalitions and individuals.

This is the second article in a five-part series by Alan J. Yeck reflecting on the student loan system, its challenges and the far-reaching effects it can have. Check back each Thursday for the latest installment. For a full works cited list, please view the last installment in the series.

We have the power to change the business of education back to a right for all. Contact your representatives and ask them to listen to these facts and national narratives.

Read part 1 of the series here

Reflections on Higher Education Reform: “Free College” and the fallacy of the college degree as a necessity.

By Christiane Warren, Ph.D., Guest Contributor

January 15, 2021

In today’s public discourse both on and off university campuses, the overwhelming consensus asserts that a college degree has become a necessity, even a collective right to secure individual economic security and to address past and present wrongs of racial and economic inequality.  If the cost of college remains high, many students, and disproportionally this means, students of color, are unable to attain a college degree.  Thus, existing levels of social and economic inequality continue to persist and even grow, contrary to the long-cherished belief that a college education serves as the key to social mobility and economic stability.

The answer to this generally accepted causal connection, as offered by the incoming administration and its Progressive supporters, can be found in an expanded role of Federal funding and regulation aimed at removing financial barriers from college attendance. While noble in its basic sentiment, these ideas are highly problematic and largely unrealistic in their implementation. Furthermore, much of their justification is built on a flawed premise, shaded by ideological subjectivity, and will lead, not to greater equality, but only to the hastened demise of the American higher education structure.

To address the issue in detail, it is necessary to clarify the current crisis in its actual terms: The first assumption, that a college degree is a “must have” and thereby should be fully funded by the public, namely the taxpayer, is false. Not every person needs to, nor is academically able, to earn a college degree. Most jobs still do not require four years of study. By reducing the college degree to a means for obtaining employment, we lower its educational value and place an undue burden on many students, who are neither prepared for, nor truly need four years of intellectual study in abstract thinking and theoretical analysis to obtain employment and relative financial security. Most of today’s occupations can be entered into with an arguably improved, High School education and 18 months to 2 years of vocational skills acquisition.

Yet, many argue that the modern-day high school diploma no longer serves the needs of the 21st century workplace. The responsibility and cost of educating the American public has been displaced, largely on community colleges and state universities, where most under-prepared students attend. The need for additional services both in student activities and services along with the steep increase in assessment requirements, have greatly contributed to the growth in administrative costs.  Many educators place emphasis for reform here, demanding that colleges offer even more robust support systems, alter admission criteria and adjust course curricula to reflect the learning needs of academically under-prepared and financially marginalized students.

This acceptance of so-called “credential creep” as a fact due to the overall failure of many public high school systems, is inherently wrong and should be vigorously fought. Shifting the responsibility of general education from high school, which is free and mandatory, to colleges, which are voluntary and require payment, is contradictory to the tenets of equity and defies basic common sense.  It also further contributes to the escalation of costs and persistent educational inequality. When the educational responsibility of the secondary school system is transferred to post-secondary sector, society ends up paying twice for the same service and perpetuates instructional redundancies. Students spend additional time, financial aid, and energy, learning in college what society paid for them to learn while in high school. Not only does this deplete already limited public resources, but it also decreases their chances of success, and thus leads to greater drop-out and loan default rates.

Educators and reformers acknowledge the problem; however, they advocate for colleges to provide more support services in the name of racial and economic equity. Doing that, however, only exacerbates the original problem of inequality and further adds to the cost of higher education.

For those who truly seek reform, both for students and for society, the answers are far from easy. Points for exploration may be found in ending social promotion in public schools, curtailing systemic disciplinary discrimination against male students of color, raising the professional status of public-school teaching through recognition, salaries and support, and limiting the reliance on standardized testing as the primary measure of student achievement. By bolstering the depth and quality of the general education students achieve through their high school diploma across the board, the necessary community and critical skills, so valued can be acquired before leaving school. Thus, post-secondary learning can be either focused on acquiring specific job training skills or furthered in college for those who have both the inclination and ability to do so. Doing so should be preferable over lowering standards and expending money to teach the same course work again that was not processed in high school, during the first 2 years of college.  While on the surface, free college, especially with an emphasis on community college appears to be a laudable concept, however, on closer examination, it is based on flawed assumption and will inevitably prove to fall short of its social justice goals, while burdening the American taxpayer with an unsurmountable bill.

More About the Author

Guest author, Dr. Christiane Warren, Senior Consultant at Anna J Cooper Education Advocacy. Recognized for producing growth and cultivating success in the career and education space, Dr. Warren has served as tenured faculty, department chair and academic dean for entire divisions and in the Academic Affairs office at both 2-and-4 year institutions in NJ and NY. Read more about Dr. Warren here.

“What Da Wybe Is” In Higher Education Leadership?

Let them eat conch

By Alan J. Yeck

Leadership, great leadership, goes beyond art and science to something that is often undefined by those who study it and even the practitioners themselves. In the context of varying, and often challenging situations, great leadership is clearly and consistently visible. Where does that je ne sais quoi ultimately originate? What is it about those we choose to follow (not forced to follow), which honors the trust and respect we give to them, which they give to us? There are people we report to and people who supervise and manage, but being a great leader is an entirely different dimension and one that many do not seem to grasp. The position or role may be one for leadership but that does not mean a leader sits in the chair. It is not a rank for we see generals that cannot lead. It is not wealth or power for we see CEOs that are more business dictators than leaders. Nor it is their level of education for we see college and university presidents running their campuses like first time teachers with badly managed classrooms. There is an organic element, applicable to every decision regardless of the industry, or issue at hand, and is too often missing in higher education today. 

 No matter how much post-secondary education wants to believe it is above the routine fray of other corporate entities, it is still a business. It is the business of education. Regardless of the tax classifications (nonprofit, for-profit, private) there are processes and procedures just as pertinent, prudent, and necessary to a university as they are to Microsoft, Walmart or US Steel. Higher education teaches business but rarely uses those same tools and best practices within its own hallowed halls. How many senior leaders on campus are Six Sigma certified? Project management certified? Certified human resources, certified public accounts, certified financial planners…etc? Too often, administrators are brought in or moved up without the experience, knowledge or skills required by their positions. Their mentors, if any, climbed the same status quo ladders so are incapable of seeing the gaps, let alone help in those areas. What we end up with, for leadership, is a group of nice, well-meaning people that probably excelled in something, at some time in their careers but are ill equipped to lead an institution. We see poor decisions made throughout the country resulting in inflated costs of education, poor on-time completion rates, and increased attrition rates with apathy being the campus modus operandi. These do not happen because our students Jenna and Jerome could not do the work but because their campuses were so intentionally unaware that the resources to help were never put in the right place at the right time with the right people. In education, all rubrics, including financial measurements, should flow back and forth from the goal of our students’ development, not internally for the occasional accreditation visits. It is a living process, constantly nurtured, free from fear, with the common understanding that we can be better – we must do better. Good leadership removes silos and barriers that inhibit teamwork, open communications and it openly values every member of the organization.  

I recently heard about a small, liberal arts college in the northeast struggling to keep the doors open as so many similar institutions have closed over the last several years. A previous president and his board borrowed $40 million dollars to build a new dormitory, a monumental structure complete with gargoyles and the president’s face (and his wife’s face too) chiseled above the entrance. While built in 2006 it looks like a palatial estate from the 1880s – truly a beautiful piece of architecture where a prince would have stayed if not Harry Potter himself. Normally there would have been a capital campaign to fundraise for this kind of project but instead they went to Wells Fargo and borrowed it. As enrollment continued to declined, all the college’s endowments were eaten-up over the next 10 years – reduced to nothing. After realizing they would never be able to pay back Wells Fargo, the college renegotiated and the bank forgave $30 million of the $40 million loan. The other $10 million was ponied-up as a loan from some of the school’s trustees. Day-to-day operational funding came from tuition revenue only. Bills went unpaid and projects on hold until the tuition checks rolled in. Major maintenance (roof repairs, elevator repairs…) were delayed, if done at all. The president, ever board-focused, would terminate various senior officers around him, which also allowed the blame game after they were gone, then he brought in unqualified friends, who brought in their friends. What money there was, now spent on new systems that did not integrate with old systems that never integrated with any of the other systems before anyways – a ‘if you always do what you’ve always done…’ approach to operations. Consultants were paid to bring new program ideas, which they obtained by asking faculty what they thought was needed, reviewing local Department of Labor data, and a few interviews including board members – all of which did nothing to slow declining enrollments. Not being able to afford an experienced or even inexperienced provost, faculty rotated this position every few years with the main requirement to obtain the job being, they said they would do it. No other management, leadership or position experience required. Nice people though.

The last pay increase that occurred for faculty and staff was several years ago although they’ve been promised, again, a one percent raise sometime in the near future, after HR developed the new employee appraisal system. There have been layoffs, attrition, and faculty positions left unfilled to save money; major support offices (IT, registrar, campus safety, student services, continuing education, marketing, recruitment, and graduate studies) operated with a skeletal crew. All continued to do the best they could with what they had, understanding the situation and hoping for better news to come. Senior administration (leadership) kept promising pay increases and new strategic directions to put them back on a solid plan of growth and opportunity. Meetings were held, new committees formed – a cornucopia of the correct buzzwords for educational management were dropped broadly and often.

The department chair’s meeting was at noon on a Wednesday, early February. One of the agenda items was “college culture” or specifically college morale. As the discussions took place on previous agenda items, discussions about more things the chairs would need to do, more reports, more things for them to ask their faculty to do, more committees for them to be on, it bled nicely to campus morale. There was no question in anyone’s minds how low morale was. You can ask your people to do extraordinary amounts of work because of a situation, and most will roll up their sleeves and do it, but you can’t continue to ask them to that on and on and on with no end in sight. It degrades themselves, their work and destroys morale. The current acting provost suggested a solution, “maybe the college could do a year-end mixer.” How do you fixed overworked, underpaid, unappreciated employees? Cocktail sausages and toast points! What never came up was that he was leaving on a 6:00 a.m. flight the next morning with four other senior administrators to join the president and another vice president who were already there, for a board meeting in the Bahamas. The pictures of the beach and water posted by the vice president on Facebook looked wonderful. At a previous all-faculty meeting a week before, faculty asked administration if they could speak to the board at their next meeting. Nothing was ever mentioned that it would be taking place in the Bahamas. I guess senior leadership just forgot about the upcoming trip. I mean after all, ‘what da wybe is,’ which is Bahamian for ‘what’s the problem?’ Success belongs to the team but the road to and from failure always has direct paths to leadership. Always.

For those out there thinking at least this was a good ‘team building outing’ allow me expand a bit more on this story. As I said the president and one of the vice presidents had left a day or two before with their spouses. The other five were scheduled to leave the Thursday before the Friday meeting with a planned arrival at the beach later that day. One of the five missed the 6:00 a.m. departure flight so now there were four flying into Detroit to make their connecting flight. Once there, they had less than an hour to get to their next gate, (if you’re transiting Detroit, inevitably, your next gate is always on the other side of wherever you landed). One of the four, a wonderful African American woman (the single person of color in any administration role) has a physical condition that limited the speed and distance she could walk. So, what did the others do? After admonishing that person for not making arrangements with the airline in advance to have someone at the gate to take them in a wheelchair or golf cart to the next gate, the other three abandoned her and dashed off to the next gate. The provost, the VP of advancement and the president’s administrative executive assistant (invited to entertain the spouses during the board meeting). Sometimes unseen adverse circumstances make the very best team building opportunities. This was not one of those times.

A few days later, Friday, the area was hit with a major snowstorm falling on another layer of ice that accumulated over the night. All local schools and many businesses closed, and the snow kept coming. This campus was a residential campus, meaning students lived on campus and could walk to their classes. Terrible weather would not prevent that. What it does prevent is the safe travel to and from campus for employees and staff. The roads were terrible and those coming in drove past accidents and spinouts. As all senior administrators were enjoying their conch omelets in the Bahamas, the person left in charge, (which nobody knew he was in charge because the president did not inform the campus that he was leaving) had no experience with this kind of situation. One of the trustees, on the island for the meeting, had heard from a relative back in the U.S. that the storm was ‘not that bad.’ and relayed that to the person running/not running the campus. No cancellations. No delays. Employees were expected to report on time as usual, or they could take a vacation day (as it was pointed out when anxiety about the dangers was expressed). Faculty canceled most classes because they were not going to risk their lives. Some staff dug themselves out and made it in. Others took a vacation day. I believe there must be other places just as demoralized and mismanaged. Somewhere. Ukraine? 

I started this piece noting that trying to define what makes great leaders goes beyond the arts and sciences, that it goes beyond position, wealth, or power. I have to also point out that the opposite of piss poor leadership, as reflected by the beach boys and girls above, is not great leadership either (although they are in no danger of being an example of that). We know great leaders share common qualities such as commitment, confidence, inspiration, honesty, empathy, vision…but what I’m speaking about is where these traits ultimately grow from. Great leadership begins and ends with the soul of the leader. It is a complete, conscious, tightly encompassed philosophy to value above all else those whom they have been given the great responsibility of leading. The roots are deep, and must be, because powerful storms will come. Great leaders recognize both the frailty and the unbelievable strengths within us all. This is not something to overcome but to hold dearly and model from when creating the culture of an organization. Great leaders recognize we are all the same beings on a short journey best taken together with support and love. Build your leadership, culture, company, house from here and see your life, and the lives of those you are responsible for, change for the better regardless of external conditions, despite the storms out of your control. This does not guarantee success from a Wall Street point of view, but neither does the Wall Street point of view. It aligns lives correctly with the time we have, in the place we are, to the unmistakable joy of our existence together. Anything else is just another trip to the Bahamas.  

The Killing of American Education

An Introduction, by Alan J. Yeck

The U.S. spends almost double that of anywhere else in the world on higher education and that’s before the interest charges are shackled upon the students. Nine million Americans are either in default, deferment or forbearance on their student loans with a million more each year. These students are Democrats, Republicans, African American, Caucasians, Latinx, Asian, Native American, young, old, married, divorced, LGBTQ, fathers, mothers…every single demographic that exists. It’s not a political party issue – it’s blatant criminal activity by our elected officials, their collection agencies and the Department of Education. They have created a life-long debt sentence for these students for their own profit at the cost of our country’s future.

This paper will discuss politicians and politics but is not pro Democratic Party or Pro Republican Party. The reality of today is that all politicians are arrogant, self-serving  assholes and all have damaged our country in pursuit of their own wealth building agendas.

The student loan debt crisis didn’t just appear. The warning sirens have been blaring for over a decade with the causes of it going further back than that. The subprime mortgage crisis was also seen years before but again, the people that could have changed it, the politicians, chose to do nothing until it was too late and then they bailed out the firms to the tune of $30 trillion.  That same year Goldman Sachs paid out record bonuses to the very people who caused it. Why was this allowed and why is the student loan debt allowed? Because nasty, rotten, bankers, brokers, collection agencies, politicians and billionaires are making a great deal of money off of the dreams and misfortunes of students and the mismanagement of higher education (again allowed). Shame on them all. A pox on them all. There are solutions beyond the news bites and campaign rhetoric but solutions don’t pay as well.

Forced to compete in the higher education war for a job. Now I’m crushed with the weight of student loan payments and no end to the payoff. I’ve been forced to withdraw from contributing to my retirement fund so that I can make the enormous monthly payments. On a 50k loan, I’ll (if I don’t expire first) will have paid over 250k for this loan. By the way, my annual income will never match the debt I’ve accrued in order to compete for a professional hire career! I think it’s important to note that community colleges had not yet molded programs to support a full-time employee who would be taking full-time credit hours. This forced many adult college bound students into the private college sector. These colleges continue to price-gauge adult students with inflated credit hour costs, books, and fees. My best option would be to quit working all together! I’ll never see the light of day, so why bother making a good living? I support student debt forgiveness!   Jennifer   November 25, 2019  Columbus (

The student loan debt crisis is not new. It wasn’t like a tornado that pops up with the warning sirens giving only minutes of notice before it destroys everything in its path. It has been in the making since the 1970s and touched down on land over a decade ago. It was seen then – sirens blaring and it was projected to get worse. The narrative never changed – do not ignore this or very bad things will happen – and it has. Our elected officials didn’t just ignore it but instead they have actively, albeit quietly, ensured the system remained broken and has supported the loan “servicing” agencies in pushing their boots harder on the necks of borrowers for their own profits.

These numbers, including our $1.7 trillion student loan debt figures are always increasing so this is a snapshot of the first quarter of 2019 –

Federal loan borrowers in repayment: 18.6 million.

Federal loan borrowers with loans in deferment: 3.4 million.

Federal loan borrowers with loans in forbearance: 2.7 million.

Federal loan borrowers with loans in default: 5.2 million.

11.3 million American citizens cannot make their payments. Twenty-five percent of all borrowers will go into default and that’s where the true ugly begins. At this point interest begins to quickly pile on and can double, triple, quadruple…more from the original loan amount.

Once in default, the loan is sent to collections – this is also the point where the power finance players make their money. With the blessing of congress and the courts, wages are garnished, social security payments are garnished, tax refunds are taken in full, you are no longer eligible for deferments or forbearance, and your credit is ruined. This can also cost you your job, or prevent you from future employment. This will last until the loan is paid back or until death (except private student loans where they can come after the estate).

How we reached this point can be very confusing (intentionally designed) so I’m going to attempt to deconstruct the main areas that facilitated the fraud and the areas that keep it going and growing. All of these issues have been previously reported by numerous journalists but have not always tied the relationships together of higher education, politicians, collection/servicing agencies, financial institutions, billionaires, the department of education and other branches of the federal government, and how they worked and continue to work together to commit such a monumental deception on the American public. 

There are many rabbit holes that they want you to get lost in so I’ll address some of those right now. This piece will not explain all the differences between all the various student loans available today – understanding that like a financial aid officer at a college doesn’t change the corruption. It will not explain in-depth how all the financial tools work involved in this industry – understanding that like a broker doesn’t change the corruption. It will not explain the various loan repayment programs and faulty formulas used by the collection/servicing agencies  – understanding these like the Department of Education will not change the corruption. It cannot cover every institution that has operated fraudulently nor al the dirty, immoral, unethical people involved…but I’ll give it the old college try.  

Beware phony advocates for reform that appear to speak on your behalf with partial fixes but do so just to ensure there are no real changes to the system that would result in any financial losses for themselves and the masters they serve. The predatory student loan industry exists because our elected officials are either corrupt themselves,  don’t take the time to truly understand all the complex aspects of the abuse and fraud in the system (they choose to listen to the industry’s own lobbyists instead of their own constituents), or are just plain morons. Regardless, all kill American higher education. The American student loan system – government loansharking enforced with judicial muscle. The mafia never had it so good.

Drug Use at the Department of Education: The Discretionary Income Formula

By Alan J. Yeck

The formula used to determine how much of your monthly income the student loan “servicers” will steal is based on a model where Department of Education, in cooperation with Congress, fed rats LSD over a 15 week period and then observed their movements in a standard 20-point maze. What occurred was nothing short of remarkable on a global scale. After the results were reviewed by no less than seven times by outside scientists it was determined that the Department of Education, in cooperation with Congress, were the ones actually ingesting the LSD and not the rats. This explains why the payback formula used by student loan “servicers”, aka Sallie Mae, Navient, Fedloan, Nelnet, et al is so fucking insane.  

This is directly from the Navient website –

Income-Based Repayment Plan (IBR)

“Your payments will be 15% (10% if you are a new borrower*) of your monthly discretionary income, the difference between your adjusted gross income and 150% of the poverty guideline for your family size and state of residence (other conditions apply) divided by 12.”

Clear? Maybe if you’re on acid.

Here is what the federal government considers as ‘discretionary’ income, meaning they will take 10-15% from your monthly income before these bills are paid:

  • Rent/Mortgage
  • Food
  • Utilities
  • Clothes
  • Trash pick-up
  • Phone
  • Internet
  • Car payment
  • Car insurance
  • Car fuel and maintenance
  • Dental/vision (deductibles if you’re lucky enough to have insurance)
  • Health insurance (deductibles if you’re lucky enough to have insurance)
  • Emergency savings (emergency trip for family emergency…transmission breaks…etc.)
  • Any kind of retirement savings
  • Pets (food, litter, veterinary – or do we just put the down?)
  • Children (costs associated with children and or child support)
    • Trying to help them with their college costs so they don’t get sucked in this black hole of despair.
  • Misc (expenses I just can’t think of now or that might be unique to your life

The student loan “servicers” will take all they want, after their big brother has taken their taxes, and whatever is left you have to figure out how to pay these normal bills of life. When the transmission goes, and you need your car to get to work, so you can get your pay, so you can pay the loan “servicers,” you have to fix it, right? Right. Since you have no savings you have to default on your student loans to get your car fixed…or to travel to a family funeral on the other side of the country…and another 1,000 unseen events that you need emergency savings for. Then begins the interest game, and capitalization of that interest on to the principal…months later when you’ve been “rehabilitated” (what a great word – so fitting of the debtors prison they have created) you will owe more than ever before with the same formula used to steal your life. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat. This is the LSD influenced system they built and what our politicians protect. In turn for their feigned ignorance and silence to the plight of student loan borrowers, they are given campaign kickbacks through Super PACs to ensure the status quo remains the status quo and we go on paying. Forever. This story is told by millions of Americans and is the biggest scam ever inflicted by the U.S. Government on it’s own people.

At 59, with my 29 year plan ($35k loan will then be $310k), there’s a good chance I’ll be dead before it’s paid off. At least that’s one thing to look forward to.

#corruption #studentloandebt #dirtypolitics #bidenharris #joebidden #trump #kami #highered #students #business #innovation #blm #womensrights #elizabethwarren

Walking Dead Higher Ed: Leadership In A Pandemic

By Alan J. Yeck

Since the beginning of the pandemic there have been over 300,000 cases and 80 deaths at U.S. colleges and universities, according to a survey done by The New York Times of 2000 campuses. Of note is that the majority of cases occurred since the start of the fall semester (almost 70,000 cases since the start of this month). Also, given there is no national tracking system The Times relied upon the institutions’ self-reporting but at least 70 ignored requests while another 80 said they had zero cases. What we know about data is its ease in manipulation, and what we know about higher education is its ease in lack of transparency. The reality is that those numbers are likely higher than being reported/discovered.

The other numbers that are directly related to COVID are the job losses in education. According to an analysis by The Pew Charitable Trusts, since the start of the pandemic state colleges and universities are down 14% with some exceeding 20%. Declining enrollment, already a huge problem prior to the pandemic, continues to increase the financial strain. As state funding is reduced, declining enrollment revenue, and increased costs of COVID testing, their budgets are in complete chaos. 2021 doesn’t look to be any better. There is no surprise that most states are projecting greater revenue declines, which directly affects the already minimal aid given to education. Declining revenue and increased costs will surely mean more layoffs.

Now we have transparency of the problem. Now we can see the challenge – keeping revenue up enough to keep colleges open while not killing any more students or staff. Keep people safe but keep the money flowing. That’s a tough problem but I do have the answer – you can’t. Anyone who says the teaching and learning is just as good as it was a year ago is in denial or a liar (or maybe in denial that they’re a liar). The learning taking place on many of the colleges today is poorly done regardless of the quality of the instructor or the student. Fatigue coupled with curriculum never meant to be taught online to students who were never meant to take these classes online by faculty who were never meant to teach these classes online means learning outcomes blur down to, survival. Nothing more. Senior leadership and trustees must realize they are not only robbing the students tuition but wasting the students’ time and cheating them with a subpar product. It’s a pandemic and the issues need to be addressed as if it were a pandemic – because it is. We will recover but if your plan is to keep the lights on at the students’ expense, it’s a poor plan from poor leadership.

Colleges and universities must work together and present a unified front to the state capitals and Washington. Remember these are the same folks that bailed out Wall Street after the mortgage crisis (which Wall Street causes in the first place). Your voices must be loud and in unison. Do not let them ignore you or surely you will fall, one by one.

There will be more layoffs until this is under control but stop passing that burden down to the students. It’s a pandemic.

Institutions that bring students back on campus to fill dorm rooms to ensure their money flow should be held liable for any deaths they cause. It’s a pandemic.

While there is no argument that success in teaching and learning, historically (but not exclusively) has been through a classroom experience, historically we haven’t done this in a pandemic. Yes, again, it’s a pandemic.

Higher education leaders who would risk students, faculty and staff (and their families) to make up for years of financial mismanagement are playing a dangerous game. Take care of your people, first and foremost and brighter days will return for all. It’s a pandemic.

#highered #higheredleadership #highereducationleadership #highereducation #studentloans #studentloandebt #altraged #election2020 #corruption #elections2020 #education #students #dirtypolitics #teachers #school #teaching #teacher #backtoschool #blmmovement #kamalaharris #joebiden #trump #elizabethwarren #womenempowerment #business #innovation #covid19learning


Alan J. Yeck

The Strong Retirement Act of 2020 is a bipartisan bill proposed by Congressmen Kevin Brady, R-Texas and Richard Neal, D-Mass.  I want you to focus on the student debt part, they so kindly included. The bill would allow businesses to pay a 401(k) match to workers paying off student loans, even if those borrowers aren’t saving in the company retirement plan. In a summary of the bill, they state “The idea is that employees who are overwhelmed with student debt may not realistically be able to save for retirement, and thus are missing out on available matching contributions.”

What the WTF? So instead of addressing the multiple issues and corruption in the student loan industry, the source of the problem, they’re going to concentrate on the symptom of being “overwhelmed by student debt,” and let the company contribute to a 401(k) that I’m sure the government, via Navient, et al, will garnish later (if you weren’t aware our cowardly judicial system will enforce garnishments on wages, tax returns, social security payments to collect on student loans that were fraudulent to begin with).

Congressmen – listen to your own bill! “…employees who are overwhelmed with student debt may not realistically be able to save for retirement.” Why are they overwhelmed with student debt? Because of bogus efforts like this that do nothing to fix the student loan scam you (i.e. Congress) created for the American people. Holy shit. How crooked can our politicians be?

Two different people, two different parties, two different states. You know politicians don’t drink public water there so it has to be the air in those old buildings. They’re probably breathing in a mixture of their own hot rhetoric combined with skin microparticles from hundreds of years of old white men.  Their brains, and their souls, are gone.

#corruption #altraged #dirtypolitics #business #studentloandebt #highereducation #highereducationleadership #innovation #blm #womensrights

Tell Me Joe…

By Alan J. Yeck, Founder, AltRaged

This is not about who you are voting for or who you should vote for – vote for whoever you want. This is about the irreputable, verifiable, criminal student loan scam our government continues to operate like a shell game on 42nd and Broadway. Tell me Joe. Tell me what you’re going to do for the 40 million Americans with student loan debt?

Joe says he’s going to eliminate student debt if I come from a family making less than $125,000 (but only if I went to a public university).

Joe says he’s going to wipe out my loans if I went to a historically black college/university or private institutions that are minority-serving.

Joe says he’s going to make sure everyone gets $10,000 knocked off of their student (because of economic hardships the pandemic has caused).

Joe says he supports Liz Warren’s bill to reinstate bankruptcy rights for student loan borrowers. Joe says a lot of things, doesn’t he? Let’s talk a bit about what he’s not saying, shall we?

Joe doesn’t mention what he’s going to do to help the 10 million Americans that are currently late or in default because of a criminal, rigged system. The system is structured to facilitate defaults because there is more money to be made.

Joe doesn’t mention what he’s going to do to address the tremendously inflated costs of higher education. The cost of a degree has gone up 400% in one generation without any valid reasoning.

Joe doesn’t mention that in 2005, he was one of the many politicians who voted for a bankruptcy bill that stripped student loan borrowers of their rights, which in turn has become one of the primary causes for the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis we have today. They removed a safety valve that would have helped correct the market but in doing so has made billions of dollars for a small group of greedy FFs (Fuck Faces).

Joe doesn’t mention how much money both political parties have received from Super PACs (Navient, Telnet, et al…) to keep the broken, corrupt student loan system status quo. His changes at best, are superficial, proposed to an uninformed public for votes. He’s not helping you, or me, or students or the country. Of course no one else is either. Oh, and the shell game…doesn’t matter which walnut you pick, you lose.

Vote. Vote for the corporation of your choice but vote.


But not the prices.

-Alan Yeck, Founder of AltRaged

Trigger Warning: Strong language; swear words

I read a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal ( about another higher education scam. It may apply to every institution, but it’s not the exception.

Let’s start with this. There is no reason, other than fiscal negligence, for the absurd costs of a degree today. $40,000 for a bachelor’s degree at a state institution is insane and frankly, you’re insane for paying it. Move to the nonprofit, private, liberal arts sector and you can easily triple, quadruple that amount. Our political leadership has yet to reign in these institutions because frankly, they are making money themselves off of the ongoing mismanagement of higher education.

I had a conversation with a college president and some board members last May about their responsibilities to the students who are in their care at their institution. It was not well received but knowing how higher education works, the internal wirings including the large storage rooms located on every campus containing years of fuck-ups they hide from parents and the public, I wasn’t surprised.  Because of COVID19, this residential, liberal arts campus went from classroom instruction to 100% online the following Monday. This institution, for the last few decades had ignored (fought) online education as a viable medium for instruction. Now, it was embraced by administration, and accepted by faculty (like geese accept being force fed to later become foie gras).

While online education has been a proven delivery method since the late 1990s, for those that have never taught it, or have never been on the learning end, it isn’t like moving from an acetate overhead projector to a whiteboard. There is a solid, developed pedagogy behind both ends of the internet that the school had no idea about. Those colleges and universities that welcomed this use of technology for instruction have depths of research and networks of curriculum developers. They have dedicated administrators and tech support, continuous improvement and evaluation of the systems (beyond the individual courses) to make certain the online teaching and learning experiences for both the professor and the student would be as rigorous as what the student could receive in the classroom. They also provided in-depth instructions, videos, articles…to the students on ‘how to take an online class.’  Faculty at these institutions are certified, normally an internally developed program, to teach online. They must understand the capabilities of the Learning Management Systems in use as well as the pedagogy behind them. They must understand how to take a classroom course and move it without damage to the online environment. All of this is again evaluated on an ongoing basis against industry best practices (new developments in technology are daily but the tail of tech can never wag the academia of the dog). Change or adaptation in academia makes land turtles look like jaguars chasing down a gazelle – which is why it’s important to plan, execute, evaluate, improve, repeat. That’s not the norm in higher education and especially in the private, nonprofit, liberal arts, honkey campuses.

This institution moved forward, students struggling, teachers struggling, coursework succumbing to the attitude ‘better than nothing.’ To be fair, the same thing was happening across the country so they weren’t less than ethical as other colleges and universities that were being less than ethical. Some students did fine. Others not so much and they wanted to withdraw without penalty; no grade and they wanted their money back. It’s not what they signed up for. Students have rights and must be educated on those rights and then use those rights – many just accepted the grade, cost, poor quality, and finished the term. Others fought and some won. The compromise I suggested to another college was to award an incomplete “I” grade without any restrictions on when it had to be used. This allowed for the students who did poorly to retake the class at no penalty without having to pay for it again. Seems fair, right? This other institution thought so and that’s exactly what they did.

Part II of this are the dormitories. Housing students is big business on campus with an average cost of about $12,000 a year (on top of the cost of their degree). Now, let’s cut to last month and senior administration’s decision to return students to classroom instruction, on campus, dorms filled. Brilliant move – talk about the care of the students and cash the checks as quick as possible. Then when COVID19 starts making it’s way around, move to online education again – but keep the dorm money.

It’s amateur hour on campus with few administrators ever having any leadership mentoring, which is clearly seen in how any crisis is handled but especially today. Arrogance on the other hand is a choice – a disastrous choice – and its consequences have moved beyond financial and accreditation to life and death scenarios. 

  • Demand accountability for how an institution is handling COVID 19.
  • Demand accountability for how an institution is spending their money (your money).
  • Demand accountability from the elected officials receiving millions in PAC and Super PAC donations from the student loan industry to keep the status quo.

Higher education teaches ethics. Maybe senior administration and board members should be required to take the course themselves – it’s not like they are fooling anyone on their own campuses. I mean if you’re going to screw the students, at least give them a free sweatshirt.