Profit, HigherEd and Lessons on the Prestige Cartel

tressiemclogoProf. Beni Balak’s thoughts on how profit is killing higher education in the U.S. Timely and important. Bottom line: “So let’s start with what for-profits are broadly. Everyone likes to tell me the joke about how ‘aren’t all colleges for profit; he he.’ Trust me, I’ve heard that one. Yes, we all increasingly participate in profit seeking activities, but the difference lies in what one can do with that profit: it’s the difference between profit-taking versus reinvestment.”


My friend Aaron Bady (who may one day learn to spell my whole name!) had the foresight to publish his excellent analysis of temporality, future fetishization, and MOOC evangelism at his online home.

He encouraged me to similarly publish my talk.

Here’s the thing: I go off script. A lot. I mean, I go way off script.

Here’s the other thing: I rewrote this talk two hours before I delivered it because doing so has become my process.

However, I resent that every enticing web link has become a portal to a video. I despise watching videos and I am always hoping for text. To Aaron’s point about fair engagement and to my own fetishization of the written word, I’m sharing a version of the talk I gave at UC Irvine on for-profit higher education.

In this talk I tried to do two things that I often try…

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  1. Very good analysis.
    I am an engineer. I do not like for profits.
    But non profits should be run like a business as well. That is there should be some profit at the end to measure the success. But that profit is reinvested for the betterment of the college.


    1. Mgozaydin —

      Thanks for the response. Student work, generally, isn’t a profit generating activity. The way I view a university, its students are its product, and their skills and knowledge represents the quality of that product. “Profit,” in this model, comes from students giving back to their universities as alumni because they look back and see how much it gave to them. The real concern then is staying in budget — I have a LinkedIn colleague who just said that state support for his public university has been cut almost 50% over the last ten years and enrollment has gone up. This isn’t a regular business. These costs are passed on to students in the form of student loan debt, and the university isn’t necessarily to blame.


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