I work in an office building complex about twenty miles north of downtown San Diego. The biggest tenant in this complex is Bridgepoint Education, and I'd always just assumed that they were some bullshit, D-list university. It came up in casual office conversation last week, so I had a quick run through Wikipedia etc. and felt validated that I'd reached the correct conclusion; of course, if you go look at that article yourself, you won't see much other than breathless prose ripped from their PR department. To find anything more about Bridgepoint, you'll be stuck in The Google for a while looking for dirt.
Of course, it turns out the joint was founded by a marketing executive, some University of Phoenix people, and an "online education" person. Frankly, I'm kind of frightened at the existence of "universities" like UPX and Bridgepoint: they are huge, for-profit corporations that seem to do little other then spend a lot of money on marketing (there are huge UPX billboards around San Diego that say I AM A PHOENIX, for example) in order to sell "educations" to people who weren't able to get an education anywhere else. Is this a good thing? I don't know. To be honest, it seems to me that the reason these students weren't able to get a "traditional" education is often because they're either not that bright or don't have a solid academic background that would actually make further training stick. Every time I go get a coffee here at the office, I stand in line with Bridgepoint "students" - and wow, are they ever stupid. It's not just the paying with credit cards (takes forever, costs an extra 50 cents) that gets me: it's what they talk about. I've never once heard one of them talk about what they're theoretically learning; instead, it's all about the club, the show, the shiny new car, etc. And I watch them whip out their credit cards to spend $1.50 (plus 50 cents) on a muffin and think, man, you are so not going to make it in the real world once you get out of here, are you?
Plus, I've seen enough résumés from UPX students and even interviewed a few: without fail, a UPX degree was a huge red flag (again, in my experience only). Remember last summer when I interviewed a candidate for a job at Quality Cell? The one who wanted to work as a test engineer but didn't know what TCP/IP was? The one that my boss wanted to hire because he had an engineering degree (unlike me)? That was typical: if you throw enough money at them, they will give you a degree regardless of whether or not you know a damn thing about what the degree you're buying.
I suppose what I'm really saying here is that I'm tired of folks showing up with flimsy, expensive degrees from academically marginal for-profit "universities." It seems like a scam (as opposed to a legitimate academic endeavor); are any of their students learning anything? Or is this just an elaborate way to make lots of money by getting Federal student loan money and charging inflated rates for a bunch of Webinars with barely-qualified professors who farm the grading out to God knows who? It's gross.
[Cars, from left to right, in Bridgepoint Education's three reserved parking spaces: a Porsche 911 Carrera 4S, a BMW X5, and a Mercedes-Benz E class.]