On Still Working at a For-Profit School

On 27 August 2018, I wrote here about my continuing, asymptotic disentanglement from academe. As I did, I made the note that “I acknowledge that there are critiques to be levied at my employment by a for-profit institution. I may well address them in another post to this webspace; for now, they would be a bit of a distraction.” This is the “another post” noted, the one in which I make some effort to address such critiques, although I recall having spoken to the issue previously. I cannot recall where, though, so this will have to do, at least for the moment and partially. I cannot envision all critiques, after all.

Yep, this is where I do it.
Image taken from the DeVry website, used for comment and critique
It seems appropriate.

One such critique that comes to mind is that, in working for a for-profit institution, I am complicit in the exploitation of the (broken) student loan system in play in the United States, particularly regarding the (non-traditional, academically and economically disadvantaged) population the institution serves. And I cannot deny that I am somewhat culpable. I do the work I am asked to do, and I accept money for doing so; I am part of the system that makes such things happen. But I do not get much of that money–more I will also note that I came into the job when I had few or no other prospects; as no few find, certain clusters of letters at the end of a name make many job searches fruitless. For me, the job was something of a desperation play, a stopgap measure that has ended up being less temporary than I had thought it would be–but one that still serves to help me address my own issues of student debt. (And I attended second-tier state schools with significant financial support, so mine is less than many others’–but it is still no small burden to bear.)

Perhaps that is not sufficient justification. Better, though, is that teaching at such a school does help me to reach out to its students. Typically, those enrolled at for-profit schools are those who have not been able to enroll in more traditional programs. Much is made about such students being hand-waved through on their way to credentials rather than taught; I work against such things, treating those students in much the same ways I have treated students at more traditional institutions. I expect them to attend to details and think through their implications, and I challenge the ideas they present (as well as the forms in which they make the presentations, partly because I am paid to, and partly because the students need to be doing things by choice and deliberately, rather than flailing about). They can do as well as any other students, and they deserve the same degree of rigor and challenge as do other students–and while I cannot attest to what does or does not happen in others’ classes, I know they get them in mine.

Again, I know there are other critiques that can be leveled at my work, both others of which I am aware and more which I am not. But I flatter myself that I am making things at least a little bit better through the work I do at DeVry.

It pays the bills, but I can always use more!


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