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March 25, 2016

higher education naming inflation

This is something I didn't realize until I read this piece: it's not that there are more universities, but rather that more institutions are calling themselves so:
...the practice of applying the term "university" to organizations that are not universities or only slightly resemble them has a long history. The University of Phoenix was originally the Institute for Professional Development. The for-profit DeVry Technical Institute, originally DeForest Training School, became DeVry University. The same conversion happened at Grand Canyon College, Strayer College and Kaplan College -- today, for-profit universities all.

Elevating colleges into universities is also widespread among traditional public and nonprofit institutions. In the 19th century, states created hundreds of "normal schools" to train women to become public schoolteachers. Most are still in business today, and still prepare most new teachers. But nearly all have followed the same path of naming inflation: from normal school to teachers college to college to university. If you see a public university with a compass point or city designation in its name -- Northern State University at Anytown -- there's a good chance it was once a normal school.

Some of the more heinous for-profit universities are cited in the above, but the jumping-off point of the piece is the recent notoriety of Trump University (which was forced by the NYS Attorney General's office to rename to the less-confusing Trump Entrepreneur Initiative), so it's important to make the distinction: For-profit universities are slimy and mostly make money by getting dupes to take out federally-guaranteed student loans (for which loans said dupes are on the hook for the rest of their natural lives—read Maria Bustillos for more on this), while (formerly) Trump University was a more straightforward con, kinda like selling some sort of nerve tonic that would make you big and strong and then browbeating you into singing praises before you realized that you were not big or strong. What they both have in common is that they rely on a bit of bait-and-switch when it comes to advertising the outcomes of an "education" as it relates to job prospects, good fortune, etc. And that they are slimy.

But a salient point, the thing that I hadn't noticed until it was right in front of my face, is that yes there are in fact more universities now than there were when I was university-aged, and the reason for it is that advantages were seen in the lack of regulations preventing institutions from overstating their practice by calling themselves a "university."

Shorter, the reason for it is that people are greedy and will dupe the gullible at every turn.

Posted by mrbrent at 10:13 AM