I wrote this and then forgot to post it. Here it is, better late than never.
I attended an e-learning strategy meeting on 6/16/08 at the MnSCU system office. In attendance were various representatives from throughout the system of 32 campuses, as well as union leaders and system staff. Part of the conversation centered on comparing and contrasting MnSCU to the University of Phoenix. There seemed to be wide agreement about how U of Phx caters to a very different student than we do, and that we are there to educate the masses and the masses can’t afford the price at UofP and similar for-profits. This article at Inside Higher Ed is a step toward calling that point of view more of a myth than a reality. There are 100,000+ students at the 2-year arm of Phoenix (called Axia) paying $325 per credit hour – largely because the Axia way fits their lifestyle better (2 classes at a time for nine weeks). The idea that we are the ones serving the underserved is challenged by this statement, “Phoenix, much like community colleges, has built a reputation for serving a diverse pool of students who are otherwise underserved in higher education.” To top it off, they (Axia) have only been in business since 2004 – so they probably haven’t really found their market share yet. Not everything in the article is all rosy for Axia, that’s for sure, but a couple of the traditional higher ed types who are quoted in the article sound downright foolish when they talk about how the students attending Phoenix/Axia just probably don’t know about the public higher ed opportunities in their communities. These people have their heads seriously buried in the sand.