Wednesday, April 24, 2019

State University Deliberately Failing Students?

By Professor Doom

     Time and again I’ve covered state universities where faculty were mandated to pass students in their class, regardless of student performance. Mostly these mandates are for lower level courses—nonexistent entrance requirements let hordes of kids who have no business on campus (not making judgements here!) have little choice but to take only entry-level courses. Failing these kids would get them off campus quicker (a good thing, actually), but doing so cuts into that sweet student loan money…quite often admin mandates to faculty an 80% pass rate, if not higher. Such mandates don’t come in writing but faculty “get the memo,” honest.

     A recent alleged scandal at Arizona State University is the reverse: supposedly admin wanted a certain failure rate, no more than 70% passing. ASU is denying everything, of course, but after years of denials of the bleeding obvious at other state schools like Penn State, UNC, and several others…I’m hard pressed to take a denial at face value, even if I support the “innocent until proven guilty” notion in general.

      In this case, despite the strangeness of the claims, I’m sensing some credibility here. The allegation comes from faculty:

     The first reason for credibility is circumstantial: the professor lost his job for making his allegation. I’ve seen many, many, professors fired for daring to tell the truth, and, ultimately, someone doesn’t make that kind of sacrifice for no reason at all. In today’s deranged world, the idea that a man might be willing to lose his job rather than support fraud might sound strange, but the alternative, losing his job to advance a lie at no benefit to himself, is even stranger.

The first accusation from Goegan is that students are forced to pay for an online service to turn in their homework so that the university could get money from the company.

      This first allegation gets a solid “And?” from me. Students are forced to pay for a wide variety of things at inflated prices (Hi textbooks! Hello dorms! Howdy recreation fees! Greetings parking tag! Goodness, this could go on for quite a while…). The university denies this allegation, of course, but it would just be business as usual if they did it. I wonder where they draw the line?

“In order to convince Cengage to give the Provost a large monetary grant, the department agreed to require all ECN 211 and 212 students use MindTap - a Cengage product. This deal requires students to pay just to turn in their homework,” wrote Goegan in his email.

     Wait, a grant? I actually have some familiarity with the company involved here, Cengage…I don’t think they work that way. I could see a bribe or kickback, mind you, but not a grant. What kind of denial does the university give?

The misinformation claims that…Cengage gave ASU a grant for using the program,  

     That denial seems….off. Did the professor really say there was a grant going to ASU? Let’s highlight the key part of the allegation again:

In order to convince Cengage to give the Provost a large monetary grant,

--emphasis added

         That’s not going to ASU, it’s going to the Provost. Reading between the lines, I can’t help but suspect ASU’s “official denial” has been carefully chosen so that when it comes time for a real court, they can say they didn’t lie…just used words to distract from the issue.

      Anyway, I’ve seen the like often enough, this allegation is hardly worth a denial, except our state schools just don’t like to admit how money-hungry admin are.

       The vast majority of admin are paid to make things worse on campus, and that often means doing harm to students. This little alleged bribe also is not much different than business as usual.

       Now to the real allegation, the one which should make students angry:

The second policy was put in place to ensure that the Provost's project was made to look good. All ECN 211, 212, and 221 courses were required to prevent at least 30% of students from passing the class. We were told that we needed to set a baseline against which the Provost's project could be compared. For many instructors, this meant setting students up to fail so it could seem like the Provost swooped in and fixed a problem that doesn't exist.

       We’re looking at 2nd year courses here, what qualifies as “advanced material” on our campuses today, which more and more focus on pre-high school level. By the second year, you’re getting “real” college students who study and care about their grades. There is an ocean of difference between 2nd year students and everyone before that level.

      To succeed as an administrator, you have to either grow the school (get more new students) or increase retention (keep students on campus).

      Trouble is, our schools have expanded to ridiculous levels, and already pull in most students right out of high school…there just isn’t more room for growth.

     To increase retention, well, the easy way is to mandate higher passing rates. But that’s what the previous Provost did, and the previous, and the previous, too. It’s why coursework has dropped to very little while the average grade has risen to A-. How to improve retention when you’ve already sold out the school every possible way? Be extra sneaky.

      So, based on this allegation, I speculate on what the Provost was doing here. He mandated a higher fail rate for a year or two. That was the start of the plan, but this professor exposed him before he could finish the rest of the plan.

     The rest of the plan? The Provost would give a speech to faculty or change the course in some way, and (off the record, of course) would eliminate the “fail 30% of students” mandate. Pass rates would rise, and the Provost could claim his “leadership and innovation” increased the pass rates. Brilliant!

      Faculty are pretty helpless against such machinations, because they know full well that if they complain, they will be fired. And, hey, this faculty member complained, and was fired.

      The university denies it all, of course, and instead says the faculty making the allegations was just a mean meanie-face. Again, I’ve heard the like many times, a faculty with a stellar record and top notch job evaluations suddenly was “a problem we worked with for years before finally letting him go,” and it always coincided with the faculty displaying integrity.

“They are blatantly lying about not requiring students to pay to turn in homework,” she said. “I have had to pay for homework for classes multiple times."

--it’s easy to find students willing to say ASU is lying. I couldn’t find any saying ASU is telling the truth, but I could have missed someone, somewhere.

      It’d be nice if, instead of their weird denials, ASU produced real evidence, such as widespread students saying the guy was terrible (ASU could find some unhappy customers if they existed in any numbers), or produced evidence that classes were not being forced to use Cengage product (via course syllabi, submitted to admin every semester), or produced evidence that pass rates didn’t mysteriously drop to 70% when this Provost came on board (pass rates are tracked very closely every semester, easy to track them down).

      All of the previous evidence should be easy to produce, if the faculty were lying and ASU was telling the truth. Instead, they’re going with:

We generally do not comment on the details of disciplinary matters related to faculty, and there are many reasons that a faculty member's contract might not be renewed, including when a faculty member resists course-correction of multiple shortcomings despite supervisory intervention.

     I’m not buying ASU’s denial here. They could easily produce evidence showing he’s lying, and instead are going with blanket denial and a firing, actions which will only prolong the scandal, instead of snuffing it out.

      I remind the gentle reader every other state school has treated faculty with integrity in this manner, forcing the truth to come out only after years of investigation, investigation against schools far too willing to use cover-ups and retaliation (like blanket denials and firings…) to prevent revelation of the truth.

      I don’t think this particular kind of scandal goes on at many schools, but the bottom line, our plundering administrators are running out of illicit ways to make themselves look “excellent.” I can’t help but suspect we’re going to see ever more imaginative plans, like the one alleged above, in the future.


Sunday, April 21, 2019

Children’s Games Of Yesteryear Prove Our Enstupidation

By Professor Doom

     “Enstupidation,” the act of making someone stupid, is an actual word. I remember, years ago, explaining to a group of Leftists how the process works. I got nowhere, of course—they couldn’t stop laughing at the word “enstupidation,” to learn anything. It’s sad that so many of our youth are so damaged they’d rather hoot and throw poo than learn.

     There have been many claims that we’ve been “dumbed down,” i.e., enstupidated, but I’m in the mood to talk about how we can tell that this activity isn’t simply the rant of an online conspiracy theorist…something has gone wrong here. Allow me to show it unarguably.

     When I was a kid, I loved board games. Computers, much less “computer games” hardly existed, and the early computer games were rudimentary, with line graphics and LEDs at best…I’m pretty sure I could sit down and code some of the ones I played as a kid, in a single afternoon.

       One game I played often was Code Name: Sector. A quick pic of the game:

--a laminate board, crayons, blinking lights, and some plastic bits. The slot at the left? That’s where you put the bits.

     The whole “computer” is about the size of a pocket calculator, but with a smaller display. The basic purpose of the computer is it kept track of a submarine’s hidden position (the plastic subs in the game are “trophies” which you don’t really use or need for the game…but look cool!). As the player, you controlled imaginary destroyers, whose location you plotted on the grid, with the crayons (you could have up to 4 destroyers at once, hence 4 different colored crayons). As you moved the destroyer, you’d get rough information on the sub’s location; if you got close enough, you could drop a depth charge and, hopefully, sink the sub, ending the game. It’s basically a solitaire game, but you could play with “up to 4” players if you really wanted to, all competing to sink the sub first.

     Certainly a fun game for its time, and quite cutting edge for 1977 when it came out. A key part of the game is plotting your ship’s location, inputting your speed and direction, and having the computer “calculate” your new location after a move. Then you’d plot the new location, and connect the two plots.

      This is the “hard” part of the game, where you plot two points and connect the dots. Now, the gentle reader might recognize “plot two points and connect the dots” as the key concept in graphing a line.

      So, what’s the recommended age for this game where the player would have to be able to graph a line? Ages 12 and up. I want to hammer this point home:

     In 1977, it was understood that a 12-year-old was quite capable of learning how to graph a line, simply by reading the game rules. Corporate America seldom over-estimates consumer intelligence, so they figured any 12-year-old could do it, and probably younger children as well. Twelve years of age is “definitely old enough to understand how to play,” and I point out again this is basically a solitaire game.

     Flash forward a generation, to 2019 (although what I say next has applied for at least a decade)…now how old do you need to be to understand how to graph a line? Well, let’s look at college, and find out. Here’s an excerpt from a typical college algebra course:

Recognize the equations and sketch the graphs of the following: Lines,…

     I assure the gentle reader, every college algebra course covers lines, I’m not cherry-picking here. But the point is, it’s understood that a college freshman, definitely a high school graduate and probably 18 years old (or older), will not only not know how to graph a line, but will need instruction by a professional with an advanced degree before he could possibly figure it out.

      I’ve taught college algebra many times, and I assure the gentle reader that I rarely managed to get much past 50% of the class to understand the concept of how to graph a line, at least when I was at open admissions schools. I would spend about a week on the concept, incidentally…and nobody spends a week learning how to play a board game.

     Now, anyone could buy that game, just as anyone could stumble onto campus. So, in 1977, any 12 year old could figure out how to graph a line on his own in a few minutes, while in 2019, much of our population can’t figure out how to graph a line with professional help and a week of effort.

     We’ve been enstupidated, clearly. But perhaps I’m using too obscure a game to make this point.

     A game everyone knows about is Monopoly, which has a fascinating history. Most people find the game incredibly complicated, particularly two calculations: the penalty for un-mortgaging a property, and the cost of income tax (the latter dreaded both for the penalty, and for the “work” of calculating it!).

     “Income tax” in Monopoly is either 10% of all you have, or $200. Most folks just pay the $200, because they can’t figure out how much to pay in the former option. There’s a page explaining how to do it, and there are even special Monopoly calculators just for folks who need additional help.

      But...the hardest calculation in Monopoly involves calculating 10% of a number. Now, Monopoly was patented in 1904 (although versions existed in the 19th century)…well before the age of calculators.

      It’s for ages 8 and up—they clearly haven’t updated their age scale to account for the enstupidation of our citizens, or just assumed even little kids can use cell phones for the Monopoly calculation app.

     What has happened to us as a people, that a century ago it was understood that even a child could, say, calculate 10% of $200 without much effort, but now adults use hundreds of dollars of electronics to do such a thing because they just don’t know how?

    There was a time when a child could graph a line or calculate 10% of a number, as these games show. But now we cannot expect such of our kids. There’s one obvious explanation:

     We’ve been enstupidated. Clearly.



Thursday, April 18, 2019

Penalize Colleges For Bad Student Loans?

By Professor Doom

     One of the biggest problems with the student loan scam is colleges have no skin in the game—the schools can suck the student in, drain all the student loan money, and spit the student out with no penalty to themselves. That’s pretty much the business plan of half or more of colleges in our country today, and it’s often suggested that we should penalize the schools who engage in this exploitative business practice.

     For the most part, I think risk-sharing between the college and student is a good idea, but a recent article argues against it:

     Strangely enough the author isn’t a college administrator (i.e., of the caste who’ve profited mightily from the student loan scam), but a professor, in philosophy, no less. Philosophers don’t merely question the nature of reality, sometimes they handle more prosaic issues:

Risk-sharing has the potential to improve the outcomes of students from schools, typically for-profit institutions, that fail to help students graduate and find viable careers. However, as a researcher who studies the ethics of debt, I also see significant limitations.

     Absolutely, there are moral concerns with debt, but our current situation where fifty million people have student debt, and many millions of those have utterly no hope of paying it off (and most have little hope), I sure hope her concerns about possible risk-sharing are weighed against the problem we definitely have right now.

      There are a few ways to handle risk-sharing. Let’s start with the first:

In the simplest versions, all colleges and universities would be required to pay a penalty when former students default in order to help offset the cost of that default to the government.

     This is utterly stupid. We already have a similar penalty with the Pell Grant scam—if the school admits too many fake students, it has to pay a penalty. The problem is, this fraud is most heavily practiced at state community colleges. So, here’s the basic structure:

1.    Admin admits a huge number of fake students.

2.    Admin gets massive pay raises and bonuses for “growing the school,” while punishing any faculty who try to stop the fraud.

3.    The school gets caught, and pays a fine. This fine comes from tax dollars; the admin walk away free—their salary won’t even be reduced, though it was raised via fraud.

4.    Faculty are denied pay raises…no money, you see, because the tax dollars were spent to pay the fines.

       Now the more expensive schools don’t really use the Pell Grant scam, but they’ll do something similar. At best, they’ll just raise tuition to cover the “penalty” if the student can’t pay it back.

More complex versions would require that such penalties only be paid after a college’s graduation rate falls below a certain level, or if the student loan repayment rate among former students falls below a certain threshold. There could be a sliding scale, so that lower graduation and repayment rates trigger higher penalties. Some versions would even give bonuses to schools for enrolling needy students and improving completion rates.

     I’m not a big fan of adding complexity but I concede that schools aren’t always 100% responsible for a student being unable to pay back the loan, so allowing some small percentage of students to default without penalty to the school is fine. And, sure, if the school serves the needy, that percentage could be raised although…why not just give the needy scholarships and eliminate the complexity?

      “Improving completion rates” is irrelevant, what matters is paying back the loan money. Any school can just print degrees, after all, it’s part of what got us into this problem in the first place.

If implemented well, risk-sharing could…

     Yes, under the assumption it’s implemented well, it could work well. That’s…a bit circular, eh? So what’s the problem, exactly?

While risk-sharing would shift some of the costs of providing student loans from the government onto colleges and universities, it’s not known whether and how much risk-sharing would lower overall debt levels – or individual debts of borrowers who default – and ultimately lessen the negative impacts of that debt upon borrowers and the economy.

     Yes, we don’t know how much this will lower debt levels, because it hasn’t been tried on anything resembling a large scale. We have a huge problem right now, and risk-sharing or otherwise holding schools responsible for burdening students with unpayable debt has a decent chance of reducing that problem. “We don’t know the full effects…” isn’t a counter-argument, the author needs to indicate why risk-sharing would make the problem worse.

Some economists have suggested that the revenue from risk-sharing be used to give bonuses to institutions that do a good job of serving low-income students. On the other hand, a student advocacy group has recommended that a portion of the revenue be used to provide “much needed and justified borrower relief.

    Wow they’re already looking to spend the “revenue” that hasn’t even arrived from the risk-sharing programs which haven’t even started yet! It’s this kind of thinking which got us so deep into debt in the first place. Economists clearly aren’t educators, so of course they’d want that money to go to “the institutions” (more accurately, the administrators); an educator will immediately tell you this money should go to debt relief. Period.

      I’m still waiting to hear what the problem is with risk-sharing…

Seventy-four percent of millennials with student loans experience elevated anxiety, depression, sleeplessness and other symptoms linked to the persistent stress of carrying high levels of student debt specifically. And the weight of student debt is preventing more young adults from taking risks and pursuing dreams, for example by starting new businesses. Student debt even contributes to the problem of rural “brain drain,” because many recent graduates find that they must move far away from their preferred communities in order to find jobs that pay enough to enable them to pay off the debt.

      The above are certainly all problems with the current system. Only in the very last paragraph of this essay is “the problem” finally addressed:

These harms, to individual borrowers and ultimately the economy, are not addressed by risk-sharing proposals.

      Um, what? If we stop slamming every deadhead into college debt—the primary benefit of risk-sharing--we’ll have far fewer of the problems addressed above, because we’ll have far fewer kids with student debt. I’m scratching my head at why this isn’t obvious here, though I concede philosophy isn’t my best subject (though I have covered a few courses when the professor had a heart attack).


Monday, April 15, 2019

The Collapse of America’s Largest University Isn’t Good…It’s Great!

By Professor Doom

     It really is a wonder what makes a news cycle. A few dozen Muslims get killed by a Leftist lunatic in New Zealand, and it’s all over the US news, and they can’t even get the political affiliation of the self-proclaimed terrorist right. Meanwhile, about a dozen Christians are killed every day just for being Christians…and not a peep.

     Stumbling over to higher ed, I want to talk about the nation’s largest university: University of Phoenix. These guys used to be relentless with their ads, although they still advertise on TV quite a bit (as an aside, I wonder if the next generation will even know what “TV” stands for…”a streaming service where you can’t completely control what you watch or when you watch it? No way it existed!”).

     College enrollments have been falling nationwide. Most of this drop is at the for-profit schools, and for good reason: while degrees in general are grotesquely overpriced, for-profit degrees are extra excessively expensive. Revenues at UoPhoenix are down about 60%, leading to many firings of teachers and staff (unlike state schools, a for-profit will actually fire staff when revenues fall).        

      Before moving back to the media silence on this “catastrophe,” I want to explain a bit what’s happening at University of P.

      One of the problems of schools of this size is the economy of scale when it comes to cheating. Back when classes were small, it was tough to find someone to do your homework for you, particularly in the advanced courses. I mean, sure, you could someone to do “College Algebra” easily enough, and Calculus 1 wasn’t so bad…but by the time you get to multivariate calculus or third year statistics? Well, the people that could be tutors for that are either teaching, or working jobs in the real world. To hire them to do your work, you’d have to pay real money and plenty of it, because the work your class has assigned only applies to the people in your class…labor intensive for an already established professional, and he’ll charge for it.

     But UoPhoenix standardizes everything, so now you’ve got a thousand or more people taking a class, the same class every semester with the same assignments. One guy can do the work, and sell it to dozens of students, lowering the cost…assuming it’s not just PowerPoint/multiple choice stuff. I’ve seen sites selling the answers/coursework for the entire UoPheonix catalogue for amazingly low prices.

      And here’s what happened: the whole point of UoPhoenix was to supply degrees so people could get better jobs. Noble enough, and it happened. But now management, with such degrees, knows those degrees are bogus, and warns their own employees away from them, as well as doesn’t hire such degrees.

      University of Phoenix made quick, massive, bucks from the student loan scam, but because they prioritized profits over integrity, quantity over quality, they’re now imploding, bringing down other “for-profit” schools with them.

But there is no story, so far, in the news about the collapse of America's largest university, because confirmable information is difficult to obtain. The University of Phoenix media room does not return calls or emails. And the culture of silence at the school prohibits the truth from coming out.

      To be fair, the “culture of silence” is hardly unique to University of Phoenix, as the constant stream of scandals from our other universities, revealed after years of protection via silence, indicates.

     But in any event, this is our nation’s biggest university, and it’s failing, failing hard. It was founded in 1976, before the student loan scam became integral to higher ed, but once that student loan money became available it engorged itself more than any other school (and that’s not a low bar by any means!). It’s now dying, and the gluttony which allowed it to reach such size is as much a factor here as it is for a 600lb human dying of heart disease.


     It wasn’t just the fraud which killed it, as the very loose rules which allowed student loans permitted the school to enroll basically anyone with opposable thumbs, raking in the student loan money from “students” who had no interest in academics and no chance of ever completing a degree program.

In a scheme called “The Matrix”, enrollment representatives were rewarded for meeting enrollment numbers. And with that, enrollment representatives would do almost anything to get asses in classes.  Apollo Group’s CEO Todd Nelson took the school to its highest numbers. But these numbers would come at a cost. The school faced enormous pressure from federal and state agencies.

     I again point out UoPhoenix is hardly alone in such a business model.

     The Federal government is now dimly aware that there’s something wrong with the student loan scam, and I’m confident it will soon be squinting at quite a few other schools with identical business practices.

     This is what worries me about the media silence here. Yes, University of Phoenix was the 600lb gorilla, and it’s now dying. But across the country we have plenty of schools, not just for-profits, not just for-profits disguising themselves as non-profits (an ever more common tactic…I don’t think it’ll work), but even state-run schools, which did and do many of the same things University of Phoenix did and does.

      If there was a bit more coverage of this collapse, perhaps they’d have more chance to straighten up their act. I know, that’s foolish, as the people looting our schools and student loans will probably just take golden parachutes rather than suddenly develop integrity…but I think the effort should be made, nonetheless.

I got an Associates Degree in IT, focusing in Web Design, through their Online classes. My degree isn't worth the paper it is printed on. I didn't learn anything really useful, and when I got my degree is when GoDaddy got really big within the next year, so I wasn't able to get a job making websites.

I wondered why some of my classmates were still in school. I had one group project where one group member literally copied and pasted his entire section. He didn't see anything wrong with that. The other group members said to leave it even though it was a group grade. I redid his section before submitting it, letting the teacher know what happened. The student was not kicked out or even suffered anything more than a bad grade on that one assignment. Many classmates couldn't use the spell check built into the class board, even though the first class, which was mandatory, was showing how to use everything including the spell checker.

      Yes, the above comes from a ‘Phoenix student but…plenty of students at other schools can tell similar stories, and I’ve been at schools where, absolutely a student who cheated at this level would barely have a penalty for being caught. The reason of course, is teachers who punish cheaters get penalized, as I’ve documented before.

     When America’s largest university shutters its doors, we’ll have yet another big mess…why does it need to be such a surprise to the American people when this happens?



Friday, April 12, 2019

The Abysmal Rabbithole of Higher Ed Corruption

By Professor Doom

     I’ve written before the college paper writing scam, where a significant portion of college papers are written by ghost writers. Every few years, one of these ghost writers “spills the beans,” exposing just how easy this is to do.

      Back when college classes had 25 students or less, when faculty weren’t teaching half a dozen or more such classes a semester, it wasn’t nearly so easy to do this. Faculty had time to ask for a few “in class” writing assignments…a student who was barely literate in class will have a hard time explaining those eloquent papers submitted from home. Now that classes are huge and workloads heavy, a professor really doesn’t have time to assign much writing, and certainly doesn’t have the time to call students in for private conversations about the material of the papers they’ve submitted.

     This isn’t just at the undergraduate level; I’ve seen quite a few PhD-holders, English as their first language, who can barely compose a coherent paragraph…I suspect the problem is common enough that this is the reason I never see a campus faculty message board.

       Anyway, a few years have passed, and so it must be time for another ghost writer to come forward. Gentle readers, I introduce to you Jaimie Leigh. I don’t completely buy everything she has to say…but nevertheless I’ll add some details:

I think a lot of people seriously have no idea how thoroughly the system is rigged. I spent several years as a for-hire writer who couldn’t afford to turn work away. This means I accepted a lot of jobs I feel icky about now, but it also means that I’ve seen firsthand how this all shakes out.

     The for-hire paper writing business isn’t just for college, high school students also need “help,” particularly when it comes time to submit writing samples to those few campuses with admissions requirements.

See, getting little Asshole McGloatyFace III into Harvard is just the first domino en route to prestige and pedigree.

     She’ll refer to McGloatyFace often in her rant, and tries to make it a racial thing. It’s really a money thing. As long as there are limited resources (in this case, college admissions), the wealthy are going to use their advantages to get more of those resources.

The richest of rich parents get him there by donating a library collection or buying a building.

       Now, I don’t think it’s unfair the wealthy hiring tutors for the kids, or buying them extra books, or even by making a large donation to the school. The ranter here disagrees, but, if the school managed those donations wisely (instead of admin pouring the money into their own pockets), it could easily provide scholarships to the poor-but-qualified kids. This is, in fact, how things often worked in higher ed in times past, when schools were run by educators. Today’s admin don’t think like educators…because they aren’t educators.

       Please understand, to some extent we’ve always had this system: rich-but-unqualified paid tuition, poor-but-talented got scholarships. The student loan scam killed that system, since the loans went “to everyone,” which sounded fair. Like the rich were going to take out loans…

The lowly rich hire people like me to write their kids’ essays and letters, pull together their resumes, and figure out how to make years of abject mediocrity sound good. And they don’t only hire people like me. They also hire special tutors and test prep gurus to teach their kids to hack the tests. They pull strings to get their kids special accommodations they don’t need, so they have more time to get all the math problems done on the SAT. They get interview coaches who teach their kids what to say when they go for their appointment.

      The author lumps all these “advantages” together, and some of these are fraud, while others? So what if they hire an interview coach, there really is always going to be something the rich can buy which the poor cannot…it’s what makes the rich, rich.

When Asshole McGloatyFace is in school, his parents hire people like me again. Want to know how many papers I’ve written for undergraduate students? Graduate students? I couldn’t even tell you. It’s a higher number than I can remember offhand. Need a magic paper to save your grade in the class you’re failing? Need to save your half-assed thesis? I’ve done it all. I’m a better-than-average writer and I made my clients look good.

      We really need to ask some hard questions about a higher education system where the professors simply don’t know their students well enough, not even at the graduate level, to tell when a paper has been ghost-written (allow me to distinguish this from plagiarism).

       Of course, there’s more to it than that. I was punished for catching cheaters, and I’m hardly the only faculty who’ve gotten the memo. You can’t fail a cheater, you see…he’ll trash you on the student evaluations, and admin gets rid of faculty with low evaluations. You can’t remove a cheater from your class, because admin isn’t about to reduce the number of sweet, sweet, student loan checks coming in.

      Bottom line, faculty don’t dare catch cheaters, and admin doesn’t want them caught. In a system like this, how is it a surprise that cheating is rampant?

      Past this point, the author rants about how once McGloatyface leaves college, he continues to buy advantages, using his wealth to generate more wealth, which he then spends on his children to repeat the cycle.

      And this is where I stop buying her story. See, there’s considerable evidence of turnover in the upper/middle/lower classes. The bulk of CEOs (70%), even at huge corporations, don’t even come from the Ivy League. Yes, the wealthy have an advantage…but it’s not insurmountable. The bulk of our professional athletes sure didn’t come from the Ivy League, either.

      I should also point out: all the money the wealthy spend on coaches, mentors, tutors and whatnot? That’s employing our middle class.

       But the fact remains: we really need to re-examine our higher education system which allows such a professional class of cheaters to exist.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Chinese Hackers Target Research Universities

By Professor Doom

Admin: “Please be aware we had another phishing attempt on our servers, do not respond to e-mails in the following format…”

--I get phishing/hacking e-mails on my institution’s account about every week or so.

     Like most folks, I get many “phishing” attempts on my e-mail. Some are quite good, but many have a weakness which exposes them. English is a ridiculously complicated language, you see, and a non-native speaker, even one very fluent, often reveals himself as such with a phrase that no American would ever use. For example, you can buy “hot water cylinders” (legit site, but clearly not American despite the English language), but in America we just call them “water heaters,” even though, yeah, they’re usually cylindrical.

     Earlier I feel like I came off as an apologist for China, in addressing hysteria over that country’s establishing little fiefdoms on some of our campuses. To be more clear, those fiefdoms aren’t the real issue, so allow me to cover something far more sinister being done by China, though pretty much common to every country on the planet:

     Before moving on to the issues in the article, I want to point out that while most of our campuses are drowning in ideology and corruption we still have universities, particularly “research universities,” where we investigate far more relevant things than the number of possible human genders, where we invent things far more useful than new personal pronouns like “xhe” or “xhim.”

      This vastly more important research doesn’t make the news, because it’s not supposed to be common knowledge. It’s sad that this knowledge must be classified as “military secrets,” but the fact remains, other countries, including China, would like to have that knowledge as well.

Chinese hackers are ramping up their efforts to steal military research secrets from U.S. universities, new cybersecurity intelligence suggests.

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the University of Hawaii, Pennsylvania State University, Duke University and the University of Washington are among 27 institutions in the U.S., Canada and Southeast Asia to be targeted by Chinese hackers, The Wall Street Journal reported Tuesday.

     Hey, want to know where to go to get involved in real research that will matter? Well, you can bet if China is interested in it, it’s probably worth something, so the serious student should look carefully at the list helpfully supplied above, to get some ideas of real graduate schools (where the research is done) worth applying to. Do carefully note how few of those schools have time for race riots…

     The primary target, this time, was undersea technology. Our oceans represent a vast source of resources, and the country best able to control/explore/exploit the seas has been the dominant country on the planet for several centuries now, it’s reasonable to think the undersea will be the next big frontier.

     One school is absent from the list:

One wonders why Harvard wasn't on the list of targets. Maybe it has something to do with this?

"The fact that Bo Guagua was a couple months from his Harvard degree has sparked interest in the number of so-called princelings—the offspring of powerful Chinese Communist Party officials—attending elite U.S. universities... But there are people far more important than the children of Chinese party leaders attending Harvard and other elite U.S. universities: Chinese leaders themselves... Carefully vetted officials—a selection of some of the regime’s rising stars—were sent abroad to study in specially designed programs at some of the world’s finest universities. The first crop was sent to Harvard...

     It’s certainly an interesting theory, and I rather believe it to be true. We have an analogue here in the U.S. Most of our higher education system is corrupted or outright fraudulent, but each state still generally keeps one school, the “flagship university” mostly legitimate. Why? Because the political leaders need a place to send their kids. They can’t all go to Harvard, after all…

     Again, a hidden takeaway: if you’re looking for a legitimate university to send your kids, see where the political leaders of your state send their kids. It’s not a sure thing mind you, but it’ll increase the odds of getting an education.

China is not the first country to target U.S. universities with a coordinated cybercampaign. Last year nine Iranian hackers were charged for their role in a phishing scam that ran from 2013 to 2017 and attempted to steal the passwords of hundreds of thousands of professors.

     Yeah, no kidding. While I don’t want to underestimate the legitimacy of this kind of threat, there’s a slant to this article, expressed in two ways.

     The first way is from the above, the “nine Iranian hackers.” Yeah, sure, but that’s not Iran, those are hackers who happen to be from Iran. I get hit with phishing attempts from foreigners on a very regular basis, you don’t need a government to do that sort of thing. Why didn’t the article go ahead and mention the Nigerian scam as well? I mean, at least a dozen people have died there, leaving me tens of millions of dollars, after all.

     The second? What moron thinks the United States government doesn’t do much of the same, at least when we can’t get their Secretary of State to simply just sell the secrets off her private e-mail server (like many countries did with us)? I respect our government is going to do that sort of thing, and thus we should not be so quick to anger when other countries do unto us as we do to them. We should be quick to guard our secrets, of course.

It is "just inevitable" that research universities will be targets, Wheeler said. "The open culture of universities make us an enduring target."

      Jeez, these people. I’m sorry, criminals and thieves have always been a big part of society, and while universities are certainly targeted by them, so is every business, and I daresay every human being on the planet with anything worth taking.

      That said, yeah, we need to safeguard things we value…but no harm in letting them take all they can from our converged campuses.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Another College Dies, Stranding Students And Enriching Admin

By Professor Doom

     Before the days of the student loan scam, universities were renowned for their endurance. The oldest university in the world is over a thousand years old, and even “abandoned” universities like in Timbuktu still endure, because they were collections of scholars…not institutions devoted to siphoning off student loan money.

     Despite the money pouring into higher ed, we’re starting to see school closings, either due to fraud, or horrific plundering and “mismanagement” by a caste of looters far more interested in personal gains than building an institution to withstand the test of time.

      At some point, we need to ask questions, and a recent article comes close:

--yeah, it’s the New York Times…just because they print much fake news, doesn’t mean it’s all fake, though I’ll be dissecting this piece.

     It’s funny that the title says the student loan cash “disappears,” as we all know that’s impossible. Every dollar is tracked, when I was reimbursed for a tank of gas at the community college, I assure the gentle reader the forms were filed and signed off in quintuplicate. So there’s a question here in the title, but does the NYT bother to answer it?

     So what happened at this school?

When the Education Department approved a proposal by Dream Center, a Christian nonprofit with no experience in higher education, to buy a troubled chain of for-profit colleges, skeptics warned that the charity was unlikely to pull off the turnaround it promised.

…Barely a year after the takeover, dozens of Dream Center campuses are nearly out of money and may close as soon as Friday. More than a dozen others have been sold in the hope they can survive.

     Great, more questions. So, the sleazy for-profit sold out to the non-profit. Was there really no expertise left at the school? One of the reasons “old” universities survived is because the leadership and the faculty were the same people—the only way to kill the school was to eliminate all the scholars (hi Chairman Mao!), but past that it was basically impossible. That’s not the case at many schools, especially the for-profits, where the people running the schools have no education or interest in such, and so all the faculty are just temp workers. You get rid of the “leadership” at these types of schools and you indeed do have nothing.

      So when Dream Center bought this school, they had nothing but a name (besmirched by being for-profit), and no expertise. They couldn’t really hire anyone, either, because all they could get would be more plunderers.

     This is no one room schoolhouse, either:

The affected schools…have about 26,000 students in programs spanning associate degrees in dental hygiene and doctoral programs in law and psychology. Fourteen campuses, mostly Art Institute locations, have a new owner after a hastily arranged transfer involving private equity executives. More than 40 others are under the control of a court-appointed receiver who has accused school officials of trying to keep the doors open by taking millions of dollars earmarked for students.


     So they’re already ripping it into smaller pieces and selling the most profitable bits off. You can bet the teachers at those profitable bits will get absolutely nothing for their work.

Now its students — many with credits that cannot be easily transferred — are stuck in a meltdown.

      One of the main original purposes of accreditation was to facilitate transfer students. The schools got together and decided what kind of education a student should receive, so that a student moving from one school to another could do so without “losing” years of credit for education at the former school.

      Accreditation has been debased into a pure money-sucking scheme of no relevance to education whatsoever, as my line-by-line analysis of accreditation regulation reveals.

     Similarly, higher education was never supposed to be supported by a massive student loan scam, though that’s mostly what it is today. Schools are now massive endeavors filled with students loaded up with irrelevant coursework.

     Even if a school collapsed in the time before the student loan scam, you didn’t have thousands of students stranded with nothing to show for it, and you didn’t have billions of dollars supposedly “vanishing.”

 On Wednesday, members of the faculty at Argosy’s Chicago and Northern Virginia campuses told students that they had been fired and instructed to remove their belongings. In Phoenix, an unpaid landlord locked students out of their classrooms.

      The students were fired? I suspect a typo in the article here (it is the NYT, after all). Anyway, about that money?

The fall accelerated last week when the Education Department cut off federal student loan funds to Argosy after the court-appointed receiver said school officials had taken about $13 million owed to students at 22 campuses and used it for expenses like payroll.

     Most students never see their student loan money—it goes directly to the school, and anything left over after tuition goes to the student. Tuition is now so high that it only takes a few students to pay for the teacher of the course, the rest just flows into administrative pockets.

      Think about what the above says: the people running the school stole the tuition money and paid themselves off first. The people running the schools are clearly not educators.

      Note also, “the fall accelerated” when the student loan money runs dry. Most schools are so bloated with plundering administrators they simply cannot survive without all that cash flowing in.

     For-profits have a vile reputation for good reason. They clearly cooked the books to facilitate the purchase:

Almost immediately, the organization discovered the schools were in worse shape than expected, with aging facilities and outdated technology. The universities “were, on the whole, failing without hope for redemption,” the receiver wrote in a court filing last month.

Dream Center had anticipated a $30 million profit in its first year, Mr. Barton wrote in a recent legal filing. Instead, it was facing a $38 million loss.

     “Aging facilities and outdated technology” is hardly a unique description, many schools fit that mark. I remember when I was at a state school in the late 90s, and my computer was a bit, well, dated. When I asked for one with a CD-ROM drive, the department head could only give me a blank look: she had no idea what one of those was.

      Still, isn’t anyone curious what the $38 million was spent on? That’s quite the loss. The NYT isn’t curious, but I am. About 300 admin could burn through that much on their salaries in the first year, and one admin per 100 students is quite a low ratio (1 admin per 6 students is not unheard of).  Such an easy question, too bad the article doesn’t ask it…but I really think there was plundering here.

     While Argosy students have little hope of getting back money they paid out of pocket, the Education Department said the federal loan debt of affected students would be forgiven for this semester. If the schools close, students can seek help under a program covering school shutdowns.

      It’s good that there’s a program for helping students trapped in a school shutdown…but none of this was necessary before the student loan scam. Shut it down already.