Friday, March 28, 2014

Tenure Versus Integrity…Or Lack Therof

By Professor Doom


Many is the time I’ve mentioned what tenure has turned into at many of our institutions of higher education. Tenure used to be a reward for scholarship, a seal that the professor was a legitimate researcher, and that he should have protection, so that he need no longer fear repercussions against whatever his research might find.

I’ll grant that “job for life” on paper sounds like a huge potential for a person to take advantage of things to just sit on his butt and do nothing, and I suppose it’s happened. But, back when tenure was about research and scholarly activity, this wasn’t a huge concern—the kind of person that devotes a decade or more of his life to studying minute esoterica isn’t simply going to stop just because he’s guaranteed a job in a subject he obviously loves. While this fear of “dead wood” faculty is often played upon to justify the elimination of tenure, the bottom line is it just doesn’t work that way in general.

I ask the gentle reader to think of something he’s loved doing for the last ten years…would the reader really stop doing what he loved just because he got permission to do it for the rest of his life? “Job for life” might sound great, but do realize the pay can still be very minimal, especially if the faculty member really isn’t doing anything.

I’ll grant that elimination of mandatory retirement laws have factored into the “deadwood” issue, and there are elderly tenured faculty around that probably should have retired years ago…but that’s a question of bad retirement law.

Nowadays, of course, administration has put a stranglehold on tenure. Instead of tenure being about research, it’s more about administrators awarding it to each other while leaving scholars in the cold (the most egregious example would be the president of Penn State getting a $600,000 a year tenure position in a weird department of no economic value, but I digress). Again, it’s not tenure that’s the problem there, it’s administrative plundering of the system—administrators with tenure were dead wood long before they got tenure.

 Last year’s tenure shenanigans at public Kean University illustrates what tenure is for faculty members today: a lie and a deathtrap. See, some faculty were up for tenure, but no longer is tenure about faculty determining if the scholarship is worthwhile, instead tenure only flows from administration…it’s a stranglehold by those that probably shouldn’t be in that position, any more than they should be in control of any other part of higher education.

“..Farahi argued tenure, which is essentially a lifetime job guarantee, is "not an entitlement" and should not be given out lightly at the public university. But members of Kean's faculty union said most of the fifth-year professors up for tenure this year have spotless records and the unanimous endorsements of their college and department tenure committees.”


Now, tenure has lengthy rules about how it is to be rewarded. Administrators could follow those rules, but, that would require integrity. So, spotless records and unanimous endorsements are simply not going to cut it. Note the change here: scholars’ endorsements are irrelevant to scholarship now, it’s only up to the whims of administration.

I know of institutions that have done extraordinarily scummy things when it comes to promotion; the article I’m quoting from above is not really mentioning anything exceptional, compared to what I’ve seen with my own eyes.



What’s really neat about this is faculty that are denied tenure are fired. Hmm, an administrator can fire faculty with spotless records and unanimous endorsements, and then replace those faculty with minimally paid adjuncts, indirectly putting the difference in salary into his own pocket. President Farahi is shocked, shocked that anyone would consider such a possibility:


“…Farahi has denied faculty union allegations that he is using the tenure process to replace tenured professor positions with lower-paid adjunct professor posts…”


Oh, well, there it is, then. He says it’s not about the money he’d make. Naturally, for this denial to stick, he would have to be otherwise very popular, renowned for integrity, or in a position of absolute power no matter how corrupt he is.

Let’s talk popularity:

“Kean's faculty union announced the results of a "no confidence" vote in the university's office of academic affairs. Of the professors and librarians who participated in the largely-symbolic vote, 96 percent said they had "no confidence" …The vote is the third "no confidence" vote at Kean in recent years. The faculty union previously voted "no confidence" in Farahi and the board of trustees.”

Ok, so it’s not that the Poo-Bah is popular and loved. Even the worst U.S. presidents don’t get approval ratings of 4%, and manage to keep approval that low for sustained periods. That’s quite an achievement, but not one that leads me to believe I should suspect this guy just has the occasional disagreement with actual scholars.

Let’s talk integrity:

Ok, that’s just the entire athletic program, and lots of schools are completely corrupt in this regard. I’ll have to talk athletics at some point, I guess. Maybe he shouldn’t be held responsible for that.

Perhaps academic integrity is good?

Ok, academic integrity is garbage, too. I again concede a great many schools are bereft of integrity nowadays. Maybe he shouldn’t be held responsible for that either.

How about his personal integrity? Well, there’s a discrepancy or two on his resume:

“…The résumés in question were submitted in 1994, 2001 and 2008 for routine accreditation reviews of the university’s public administration program.

Farahi said he has never claimed to have been acting academic dean at Avila College in Missouri. Nor has he boasted of publishing "over 50 technical articles in major publications," as the résumés state.”


Actually, there are numerous fictional claims on the resumes; he blames underlings, and so shouldn’t be held responsible for that, either, but I can’t help but be confused. This guy is responsible for a gigantic institution, but can’t make his own resume? Why would you trust something like that to underlings you don’t know, as Farahi claims?

Perhaps his administration has integrity? Again, no, there’s a plagiarism scandal in the administration, too.

Instead of being protection for scholars, tenure has turned into a method to get rid of faculty and replace them with marginal adjuncts. The only thing keeping this from happening is the integrity of the people running our institutions.


So, he’s not on top through popularity, or integrity…could it be that other thing I mentioned?

I maintain that scholars and educators, and not professional administrators, should be running institutions of scholarship and education. I’ll grant that it wouldn’t be a utopia, but how could they do a worse job than the plunderers we have now?

Think about it.


Wednesday, March 26, 2014

A Business School Sells Out

By Professor Doom


For the most part, my blog focuses on the schools most everyone goes to: state and non-profit schools. Yeah, I’ve tossed a few bombs over at University of Phoenix and the like, but I just can’t help pointing out obvious issues there. I’m still reeling from the knowledge that UoP spends hundreds of thousands of dollars a day on internet advertising…, and over a million dollars a day for advertising in general. Because accreditation is such a joke that anybody can just grab an Education degree and be qualified to teach anything in higher education, for-profits have no trouble finding faculty willing to work for peanuts; past that point, it’s just a matter of finding suckers to sign up for the loans, then squeeze them dry and spit them out. As I wrote before, the profit margin for this “business” is huge, once you get the students signed up.

“…my wife decided to get an MA in Educational Psychology with a Gifted Education focus in my school’s College of Education.

The horror. The horror.

Some classes have a few legitimate assignments, but even these are designed to be gradable by a robotic “rubric,” lest any actual thoughtful evaluation or feedback occur. Most classes are driven by silly multiple choice quizzes, obviously written by a textbook company robot…Really. It would be embarrassing were it not so criminally lazy….

…Students do more reading, research and writing in one of my undergrad classes than these distance-learning grad students do in a semester (--by this, the faculty member means,” three or four graduate courses in Education”).

 I don’t understand how this program got approved or accredited…

--seriously, every faculty member that looks at what is going on in Education sees those programs are ridiculous. This guy never looked at accreditation to see that accreditation is a fraud, and that’s why he doesn’t understand how the program got accredited.


University of Phoenix claims to be mostly a business school, and they certainly give their students the business. I reckon they chose the name “Phoenix” so as to generate confusion with a legitimate business school, the Thunderbird School of Global Management. In the past, Thunderbird was the top tier school for students wanting to get an MBA.

Prestige is as big a deal in business as in academia, and Thunderbird commanded a high tuition. Thunderbird also gave real results, and its alumni occupy many key roles in today’s corporatocracy.

Alas, the administration at Thunderbird went into full plunder mode, and the school went from having a massive bank account to losing millions, year after year. Now, businesses are about making money, so when a business school isn’t making money, that reflects very poorly on the school. Thunderbird went from being a dominating top school, and went all the way down to #2. I guess losing money isn’t as bad a thing in business as it seems…but it’s still tough to lose the top spot.

Anyway, prestige is everything in business, everything to a business school that is competently run, so the president of the school had to have a response to this loss of prestige:

“With bold plans for global growth on the horizon, I am confident Thunderbird will reclaim its place at #1.” –Thunderbird President Penley responds on March 11, 2014 to news that Thunderbird dropped to #2 in the US News International Business Category after holding the top spot for 18 years.

--Ouch. He wants growth, not prestige. A typical administrator. Sucks to be a Thunderbird Alumni right now.


With finances in a complete shambles due to horrible mismanagement (over 20 million dollars in cumulative operating deficit since 2000), the school is looking to sell. The only buyers for a non-profit school, apparently, are for-profit schools.

Why would a for-profit school want to buy a losing, non-profit school? That’s easy. If the non-profit school has accreditation, the for-profit can buy them out, and then run that school into the ground, plundering the impotence of accreditation in exchange for the massive profits of the student loan scam.


“My passing grade is due to all those years I spent at Sylvan Learning Center.”

--Every student I had that went to Sylvan said it was worthwhile…granted, it’s been a long time since I’ve had a student mention Sylvan.


In this case, the buyer looking to plunder is Laureate. Don’t recognize that high-falutin’ name? That’s because Laureate used to be Sylvan Learning, before getting bought off into a private company. Laureate owns many online schools, with reputations varying from very shady, all the way up to shady. They’ve bought other non-profit schools, with results that  weren’t that good.


The business model is simple:  use the leveraged buy-out (LBO) model and crony relationships to acquire poorly governed private institutions, often against the wishes of donors and alumni.  Then, lower admissions and academic standards while dramatically increasing enrollment by tapping into millions of dollars of government-guaranteed and taxpayer-subsidized loans.

--this is the same model less scrupulous non-profits use, I might add. Naturally, the alumni sense a conflict of interest in the mismanagement, as the mismanagers stand to profit nicely in the sellout.


Laureate’s obvious plan here is to buy Thunderbird, then use what’s left of the prestige of the school to funnel its own students to Thunderbird, scrape every last dollar of student loan plunder from them, then laugh all the way to the bank.

It’s a standard issue plan, and I’ve seen the like before in non-profits as well, but there is something different here. See, Thunderbird was, at one point, a real school, which means its graduates have legitimate degrees, and they have some influence now. Those alumni are trying to spread the word, and have the skills among them to expose the shenanigans going on here; they’re unaware that what they’re exposing is actually standard practice in much of higher education nowadays. Their website, freethunderbird, is just loaded with the straight up facts of what’s really going on.

This debacle highlights another class of victims resulting from the corruption of higher education today. It isn’t just the students, who are being destroyed in droves by the student loan scam. It isn’t just the faculty, forced to work as marginal adjuncts to support an ever more uncontrolled administration. It isn’t just society, forced to support this corrupted system by wasting ever larger amounts of tax dollars.

The class of victims I’ve only touched on before is the alumni, those that went through higher education when it was legitimate, but now see their degrees turned to worthlessness as the schools that were once so prized get turned into yet another worthless scam school of no consequence.


“Previous generations of Thunderbird administrators and trustees occasionally navigated the school through rough economic and fiscal patches.  What they did is what any Thunderbird MIM or MBA [used to] learn to do:  you focus on your unique brand and value proposition; and keep the spending in line with revenues… 

Fellow alumni, it appears that character and management prowess has left the building at our little desert alma mater…” 

--“character” is another word for “integrity.” It’s something that’s distinctly missing in administration, as I’ve commented on once or twice before. Thunderbird is hardly the only school to be victimized like this.


I’ve often complained of the “Math Education” “History Education” “Art Education” and “Whatever Education” degrees that have diluted the usefulness of having a degree in a legitimate subject, but at least the degrees have different names (even if administration can’t tell the difference), and at least the school where you got the degree still counts for something. This is different, as now all the alumni of Thunderbird are paying the price for the greed and lack of integrity of administrators that came to plunder long after the students had graduated.

Should the alumni have some influence in stopping the degradation of the degrees? And how should they have it?

Think about it.



Friday, March 21, 2014

Sexual Abuse on Campus Ignored Again

By Professor Doom


The Sandusky Affair, as it is called nowadays, is, I hope, as sordid as it gets in our hallowed halls of higher education. Regrettably, it’s not the only serious sexual misbehavior on campus. It’s just so bad that others are overlooked. I want to highlight another “affair”, to reinforce, yet again, how corrupted higher education has become today, primarily due to the new caste of administrative titans controlling the system. Consider a story from February of this year:


So, the story starts out as “just another pedophile sex scandal,” one that might have happened anywhere else. The next line in the article clarifies that higher education’s current status has much to do with the horrors here, since outside of academia (and, I concede, churches), public accusations of horrible crimes get investigated in a timely manner:


“The allegations concerned conduct that had apparently gone on for years, …”


Sigh. It had gone on for years.

Further in, the article states the rumors and allegations started “by 2003.” Over a decade of this sort of activity, and only now, in 2014, does admin think maybe something should be done about a predator on campus (keep in mind, most campuses have high school students on them, so this sort of allegation requires a response, at least by people that don’t advocate taking advantage of the young). Recall in my essays on administrative corruption that only the most egregious acts are ever revealed, and then only after many years. The article from Insider Higher Ed continues:


“…prompting the university to commission an outside law firm to determine whether the university had failed in its responsibilities.”


What does administration do first when there’s a predator on campus? Well, hire an outside law firm to make sure “the university” wouldn’t be in any legal trouble.

Yeah, “the university” might be in trouble. That’s what administration is afraid of, so they’re protecting “the university.”

It’s not the university that’s being protected here, it’s the administrators, since “the university” has no chance of going to jail over this. It’s so funny be told, year after year, that’s there’s no money for faculty pay raises, no money for lightbulbs for the projectors, even, but if an administrator’s neck is on the block, then millions of dollars suddenly become available to hire an extra law firm (reading between the lines here: the university’s on-retainer legal counsel, probably the cheapest they could get, was good enough to protect the university, just not good enough to protect administrators).


But enough about the administration’s sudden ability to find money when they need to protect themselves, let’s get back to how much of a threat this predator was:


“Miller's reputation was such that upperclassmen took to warning freshmen and sophomores about his "creepy" behavior.”

--everyone on campus knew about this alleged human being. Understandable, after a decade of complaints in various forms (including formal). This is important to understand: administration cares nothing for the students on campus, so warnings about a dangerous predator must come from the students, not from the insanely overpaid administration.


In this blog I often give, or pass on, eyewitness testimony from myself or colleagues, so I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my only direct observation of something similar. On one campus, there was one teacher notorious for hitting on basically every female student there. At the risk of dating when this was, the lecherous faculty’s MySpace page was the internet equivalent of a cringe-worthy “love trap,” and students regularly complained about him. My advice on the matter was asked, and actually heeded (this was before the school became accredited, after which faculty were considered no more than wastes of institutional resources).

I said we really shouldn’t keep the guy, but I didn’t see any other cause for action. Yes, he called students and said “I love you” to them (a student played such a message for me)…but the legally adult students kept giving him their phone numbers, and there was never even an accusation of anything illegal. His targets were all of legal age, and while he propositioned many, there was never any claim of follow through. At the time, we didn’t have any underage people on campus, but there was no evidence or indication that he didn’t have that modicum of discretion.

He was just creepy.

We used him as an adjunct until we could finally fill the permanent position (but by that time faculty no longer had influence, and it was filled by an educationist instead of someone knowledgeable in the field).

Much like with Miller, the whole campus knew about this guy, and students with sense avoided him. I guess a case could be made the students that DID associate with the campus creep had it coming, but shouldn’t admin do what they can to protect minors, and even barely high school graduates, from this sort of thing?

Back to the story:

“The report found "numerous instances" of violations of university rules and policies…in which Miller provided alcohol to underage students, took students to his vacation home after being warned by his dean not to do so, showered with students at his health club, and went into a hot tub naked with students.”



Now, I grant that students might get together and complain about a faculty member (especially one boneheaded enough to actually check for cheating, since that can easily catch half a class), so it’s possible admin investigated (stop laughing!) and just never found any real evidence. I’d totally respect that. Alas, it wasn’t just students reporting this guy, and administrators received official documentation:

“Robert F. Miller is the same one who taught at Whittier Junior High in the late 60’s in Fairfax county, he is a pedophile. He is responsible for molesting several 7th and 8th grade students…”


Admin allegedly investigated this, and still found nothing; another e-mail detailing what Miller was (allegedly) doing was also insufficient to set off any alarms by (effin’ clueless) administrators. If it flirts like a pedophile, acts like a pedophile, and copulates with children like a pedophile…only an administrator could not finish that thought.

Still, with so many accusations and documentations, it was clear to admin that they had a predator willing to prey on and exploit the underage for personal benefit. Since administration was satisfied that Miller fit this description, they had only one proper way to treat someone who would ruthlessly exploit the innocent:

They promoted him to administration.

I can’t make this stuff up, so I encourage the reader to consider this from the article:

“…appointed Professor Miller special associate to the dean for the 2011-12 academic year…The university confirmed, however, that Professor Miller’s salary for this period did, in fact, reflect that he received the full salary, including the supplement, associated with this position."


I’d like a pay raise, too (in this case, a supplement of $10,000 a year), but I’m unwilling to engage in the run-of-the mill exploiting of children that is basic administration activity, much less the things Miller was (allegedly) engaged in.

Many of my colleagues have lost their positions for having standards and integrity, because administration doesn’t want that. I presume administration doesn’t want pedophiles on campus (hey, it’s possible), but it’s clear that given a faculty member devoted to education, or a faculty member devoted to seeking out minors to have sex with, administrators very much prefer the latter. I’ve shown before that tenure can be denied for faculty that have even minimal standards, whereas on the other hand even active pedophilia doesn’t preclude someone from administrative duties.

Alumnus: At my alma mater, a small, private college, there are 350 faculty members, 67% of whom are contingent labor and 4% of whom are tenured. There are 2200 students and--wait for it!--1300 administrative positions. What in the world can ever explain those numbers?

Many point to the bloated ranks of admin as a sign that something is very wrong in our institutions of learning. I tend to agree, but for now I’ll point to the literal promotion of pedophilia as the largest signal that there is something fundamentally wrong in higher education today. What larger signal could there be?

Think about it…and if you have an answer, let me know.



Tuesday, March 18, 2014

The Pell Grant Scam, Part 2

By Professor Doom


 So last time I discussed an article on the Pell Grant scam, where students can register in college after college, getting a new Pell Grant each time, and taking home whatever is left over from tuition.

Somehow, the colleges don’t keep records on students, and so that’s why students can keep “stealing” money like this. And the article just glosses over this weird lack of record-keeping.

Note that the college gets their cut first, so there might be a tiny conflict of interest here in enrolling students for that sweet Pell grant loot. A college that acts with integrity (supposedly important for accreditation) would check, but a student “denied” his grant would cut into the money the institution would receive. That the money is illicit is irrelevant. Apparently.

How did the system get set up so that the scammer could walk on campus, sign up for a Pell grant, run off with the money, and then repeat the process a few months later elsewhere in the same state? That…really seems like a natural question to me. I am positive that if I tried that with a house, car, or appliance loan, I’d have a tougher time doing it the second time around, especially if I go to a place just a few miles away.

What the article never even comes close to touching is administration’s role in all this. Let’s go over that, because this scam has much to do with administration in higher education:

  1. I received a $5000 grant for my education, too, many years ago. I used it for my education. See, to get that grant I had to win a national award, have a great GPA, do well on the GRE…the kind of person who does that is, not so coincidentally, the kind of person who will use his education money for education. The Federal government set up the grant money to go to everyone, not just people that actually had an interest in learning things. The government just assumed that accreditation and integrity (hah!) would prevent much in the way of scamming. Administration controls accreditation, so there was nothing to stop them from turning the free grants into a system of plunder. This type of fraud is very common now, but it was rare (if it existed at all) thirty or more years ago, when grants only went to people that showed  interest in education, and when higher education was controlled by educators. Nobody throws away ten years of study in exchange for a small check.
  2. Now, the colleges are on the hook for the stolen grant money, and that’s bad, since the institution has to come up with the money to give back to the Federal government. Administrators don’t care because they’re not the ones paying it back. See, admin only cares about growth, and every campus policy, no matter how corrupt, is made with that goal in mind. So, yeah, the institution gets a fine, but the administrator gets a pay raise for all the new “students”; even if it blows back to him, the administrator can just transfer to another institution because of his success at “growing” his previous institution. The guys at the top don’t care what happens to the institution, what matters is how much the guys at the top get. These fines can easily run into the millions. If paying all the money back causes the institution to go into the red, well, that bill will just be passed on to the taxpayers—isn’t it hysterical that taxpayer money can cause an institution to head towards bankruptcy, which taxpayer money then bails out? How am I the first person to see something is very wrong here?
  3. The article mentions that there will be a “crackdown” on this type of scamming. Good luck with that. At best, administration will form a new department/fiefdom, filled with more administrators, to check up on students. The administrators at the top will get pay raises for having more administrators under them. They’ll be highly motivated to make sure this new fiefdom is run as incompetently as possible (since if it were run competently, that would cut into growth); i.e., this fiefdom will be run as productively as most other fiefdoms on campus. None of the proposed fixes in the crackdown suggest the obvious solution to the problem: make administrators personally responsible for signing up the scammers. Go figure.
    These are three very clear points that should have been mentioned in the “news” that there are Pell grant scammers. But all you get from the article is “there are scammers stealing Pell grants”. Some of those scammers are “students” I readily admit, but the biggest scammers are the administrators who sign up those people, make sure there is no record keeping (it’s NOT an accidental oversight, I promise you), and use these suckers to launder the Pell money so the administrators can get a fat “legitimate” salary. That taxpayers will be on the hook for this stolen money is irrelevant.
    Change the rules so that administrators (not the institutions) are personally responsible for the grant money being stolen, and I bet the fraud would clear up quite a bit, and very quickly. Just make all administration, from the Grand Poobah down to the Registrar, even Deans, jointly and severally responsible for the fraud they allowed to happen, and I bet they’ll take it seriously. Keep on fining the institutions, while letting the thieving administration walk free, and the fraud won’t ever stop.
    I know, that change sounds pretty draconian…but if an administrator ends up giving up his entire salary due to the fraud he allows at his institution, does he really deserve that salary? Of course, if institutions focused on education and research (like they swear they do), instead of growth, it wouldn’t be a problem. Sure, there might be one scammer, but this sort of scam is much harder to pull off at a small school…the only kind of schools there needs to be.
    More realistically, institutions should just go back to the policy educators used, which was only giving grants and scholarships to students that demonstrate an interest in learning. That would take integrity, however, so I don’t see it happening.
    Any critical reading of the USAToday article would have led to the questions I’ve raised. Too bad there is no comments section so that readers could be better informed as to the true nature of the scam.


Sunday, March 16, 2014

MSM Misunderstands the Pell Grant Scam

By Professor Doom


     In times past, getting into an institution of higher education was no freebie—there were entrance exams, standardized tests to take, possibly even community service the would-be student must perform before, possibly, getting an acceptance letter (for the young reading this, an “acceptance letter” is an antiquated concept, where the university would send the would-be student a letter saying that, yes, he would welcome to come to the university).

Student: “You have to pass me. I’ve failed all my other courses, and if I fail any more I won’t get my scholarship money!”

--it used to be “scholarships” were awarded to good students, or students that performed well. Now “scholarship” has been defined down to merely having a pulse.


A good student could often get grants and scholarships, but now, Federal Pell Grants (up to $5,500) are available to just about anyone that can show some sort of minimal economic need…in these bizarre economic times, that’s all but the 1%.

Now, such money only goes to schools with accreditation, a fairly bogus form of regulation. When a school opens, the first thing it does is hire legitimate faculty to look good for accreditation purposes. Once it gets accredited, such faculty are flushed away (much like I was)—accredited institutions self-report their legitimacy, which is why utterly bogus institutions have little difficulty keeping it no matter how outrageous their violations.

Mainstream news doesn’t touch the incestuous relationship between institutions, accreditation, and the fat loan/grant checks.  Occasionally, however, it sort of glances at what’s going on. For example, let’s see what it has to say about the Pell grant scam:


Thousands of Michigan residents have collected Pell Grants without attending classes in the past year…

--from USAToday, the nation’s newspaper, as mainstream as it gets.    


While the USAToday article is focused on Michigan, the problem is actually country-wide.

 I’ve heard of some campuses where over half the students are bogus, just there for the check, never to return, and I’ve taught a few classes where it was clear 30%, perhaps more, of the names on the roll had no intention of learning anything. While a few students never show up, most are clever enough to at least attend the bare minimum of classes so that they can claim they at least tried to learn (and thus it was the professor’s fault for failing them), so they won’t someday have to give the money back.

For cheaper institutions, to its credit the article points out how these grants are really just a form of income for the more desperate among us:


“…fraud is particularly pronounced at community colleges because of their lower tuition rates. A student can sign up for a full load of classes for as little as $700 per semester at some Michigan community colleges and then pocket the leftovers from the $2,750 maximum grant.”

--that’s an extra $500 a month, just for clicking a box that admin will hand anyone a pen to click. Weird, it seems like an obvious loophole to me. Wonder why admin never noticed a problem here? At least a student can only get away with such robbery once, since our highly paid and numerous administrators are more than competent enough to keep records, right? Read on…


The article focuses merely on the few students that never show up at all, with no mention how it’s quite possible the majority of the students are actually scammers just there for the money. A student that attends but a few weeks of classes, even if he does no assignments or anything isn’t a “scammer” as far as the institutions are concerned. Again, it’s strange how the article doesn’t hint that there’s more to the scam than just not coming to class, because bogus students represent a very significant proportion of students in higher education today…the scam is much bigger than the article implies.

If that were the only thing missing from this news piece, it would just be run-of-the mill weak journalism, but there are so many missed details here I feel the need to fill things in.

The article at least bothers to hint that the scam is probably pretty big:


No one knows exactly how much these Pell scammers are costing taxpayers because central record-keeping is spotty at best and often out of date.”


--Seriously? You need a central planner to add up the reports of fraud from, what, 20 institutions in a state? Actually, I guessed at 20. The real number for Michigan is 43; it took me 30 seconds to find that information, and this still doesn’t strike me as too many phone calls to make to see just how many billions are being thrown away. Administrators get $100,000 or more a year, minimum, which I guess just isn’t enough money to spend an afternoon making phone calls. Oh wait, that assumes admin actually cares about billions being stolen...


That’s right, folks, the Pell Grant money is being tossed away, and, well, gee, there are just no records, and ain’t nobody got time to make a few dozen phone calls. I’ve been on campuses with a full-time accountant for every 100 students, where faculty expenditures of $40 need to be signed off on by four different administrators on forms filled out in quintuplicate…but the Pell money that pours into administrative pockets? Nah, no record keeping on that. It really seems like a journalist would ask “How is it that you guys with your huge staffs and massive salaries aren’t competent enough to know where the Pell grant money goes?”

Now comes the real incredible (as in “not believable) zinger for how ridiculous this scam is:



Think about how positively unbelievable this line is; the reporter was clearly not using any critical thinking here, but let’s go with the flow: we now have “student nomads” wandering from campus to campus, registering for, and grabbing, Pell grants semester after semester. A dedicated “student” can clear $6,000 a year this way, more than that if he thinks to register at two (or more!) campuses a semester.

Wait, what?


Admin: “Please make allowances for students that haven’t purchased their books and lab materials yet, as the checks will be delayed for at least two more weeks.”

--I’ve had students need to wait a month to get their books because they won’t dare spend their own money on education. In the interim, they use their very expensive phones to just take pictures of the relevant pages in my book. My classes only need a book, but how can lab courses be legitimate when students literally can do nothing for the first month?



Aren’t these Federal Pell grants associated with a student’s name? Social Security number? Address? Nothing at all? Seriously, no records at all of who is getting these checks? These checks aren’t stamped in a matter of seconds, it takes weeks for them to get printed, distributed to the college, and then after the college takes their cut, the remainder passed to the student. There’s plenty of time there, if administration gave a damn about the legitimacy of these grants, to check the student’s info. If I buy a handgun, my name and records can be checked nationally in far less time than it takes to get these checks to the students. But nobody has time to make the 43 calls so a student can’t repeat the scam in the same state.


Why does the reader think there just happens to be no records here?

Think about it….but next time I’ll discuss the easy answer to shut down this scam in no time at all.








Saturday, March 15, 2014

My book.

Many of the essays posted here are from a book I wrote, Why Johnny Can't Read, Write, or Do 'Rithmetic Even With A College Degree. I'm no great self-promoter; the book is the result of my investigation into higher education after starting to suspect that most of what goes on is fraud.

It's not expensive, and if you find it tedious to look through my blog (or, if you want to read it "someplace else"), plunk down $8 and get it while it's still in print:

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Why Did Sunrise Semester Fail?

By Professor Doom


Last time around I reminded the gentle reader of a problem with the online craze in education, beyond the simple fact that most of it is, obviously, fraudulent. Sunrise Semester, college courses via tv programming, had everything online coursework does, but wasn’t anywhere near as successful.

What does the internet have to offer that Sunrise Semester did not? The latter had books, offered the student to watch the lecture whenever he liked, and to work at whatever pace he wanted much like online courses….and yet the internet is so much better, at least when it comes to attracting students to take the course, and passing students as well.


Me: “I see I was rated a 4 in a category where I can be awarded either 5 points, or 0 points; either the book does, or does not count. How is it a 4?”

Admin: “The committee’s consensus was that you get 4 points.”

Me: “Can you tell me the voting?”
Admin: “Sure. There were 5 members, and the votes were 5, 5, 5, 5, and 0.”

Me: “So the consensus was 5.”

Admin: “No, the consensus was 4. That’s what it averages out to. You math people should know better!”

Me: “Consensus and average aren’t the same thing. You can’t use average for this because one person can just vote 0 on everything and control the process, a real problem since I need 80% of the total points over all categories to qualify.”

Admin: “Consensus and average mean the same thing.”

Me: “Can you please look in the dictionary and see that policy is not being followed here?”

Admin: “No. You’re not being collegial.”

--Sigh. It literally took years and pages of careful explanations and polite requests to just look up the words before I had no choice but to give up…I never did convince anyone in admin that the words really do have different meanings.


Administrators spew endless edubabble over why online education is a big deal now, but because they aren’t trained to think all that much, they aren’t aware that similar strategies have been tried before, and failed. Allow me to explain the three things that make online coursework so much more successful (sic) than previous attempts at using the new technology:

  1. The Federal student loan scam. In the past, it cost money to take college courses, and that was a big deal, even when most colleges didn’t charge all that much. Now, students can actually “make” money by getting loans for more than just the tuition, giving them an economic reason to take the course. Yes, it’s a loan, but most students don’t care—“I’ll gladly pay you back in 20 years in exchange for money today” is a sucker’s deal, but the Federal government will make the loan, since it’s not really the government’s money, it’s the taxpayers’. There was no loan scam in the past, and this is a big factor why you didn’t have tens of thousands of students clamoring to sign up for correspondence courses.
  2. The student as customer. Higher education is backwards today—rather than try to give students skills that would make them of value (to employers, or humanity in general), higher education today is all about convenience and ease and making the college look like it’ll be fun for the student. Again, correspondence courses and Sunrise Semesters required just as much work, if not moreso, than typical college courses, so you didn’t have many people all that interested in it. Nowadays, online courses are very light, and institutions are motivated to make them lighter, and lighter, the better to please the customer.
  3. The ease of cheating. Because correspondence courses and Sunrise Semester courses only had a few students, it just wasn’t economically viable for someone to sell his services to student cheaters. Supposing I wanted to “help” a few dozen students taking a correspondence course, and supposing I took out an ad…I couldn’t charge them enough to make a living, and I’d certainly lose my position if I got caught.
    Now, with so many online students, and the ease of advertising to find students interested in cheating, it’s quite economical to do so. A Google search of “take my online class for me” reveals a number of places where you can hire someone for that purpose:,,,,,,…seriously, this is ridiculous, and the ridiculousness is further enhanced when you realize that not only is the federal loan money being used to pay for the online class, it’s being used to pay to hire one of these sites to take the online class. It’s a simple matter to check that the number of hits these sites receive are many multiples of the number of online students. It’s obvious who their customers are. Because content is so light and courses no longer prepare for anything, a student that subcontracts his coursework like this is at no disadvantage later on in his “education”.
    Now, in the past, cheating was a big deal, but now administrators punish faculty for catching cheaters. Faculty all get the memo not to catch cheaters (at least, those who intend to last more than a year or two in higher education).
    The Federal/taxpayer money doesn’t just pay for the online class, it pays the site to help the student cheat in the class, AND it pays for the administrator to encourage the cheating.
    Maybe it’s not so much of a fluke that administrators never stop to think about why online courses are so successful now?
    Take away the Federal loan scam and online education will shrink, but there will still be plenty of students willing to take easy courses. Take away the “student as customer” paradigm and online courses will shrink further, but there will still be students with the money to burn to hire someone else to take the course for them. Take away the encouragement and promotion of cheating, and online education will shrivel down to the same level as the fads of yesteryear.
    Until these changes are acted upon, online education will grow and grow…but sooner or later, someone will look behind the curtain and see what a sham it all is.