Tuesday, November 2, 2010

It's Time to Rage Against the Higher Education Machine

As a member of the media, I often get pitches for colleges trying to boost their enrollment. I am repulsed by colleges' marketing practices because they try to be perceived as beneficent institutions rather than businesses that only care about profit, yet they hide the crucial consumer information: for example, how much growth in critical thinking do average students derive, what percentage of students graduate in the expected time, and the percentage of graduates that are professionally employed within a year of graduation.

Today, I received a pitch from a college that I found particularly odious.

One of NYU's PR/marketing firms, G.S. Schwartz & Co., sent me a marketing pitch for their art business certificate (no degree) program. The teasing subject line: "Art Business a growth field for workers chasing their passions- case study available."

It turns out that the program consists only of 19 total class sessions (the approximate equivalent of one regular college course) yet costs $2,000. The pitch invited me to interview a student in the program named Dean Harmeyer who landed an internship at Christie's. (I append the NYU pitch at the end of this blog post.)

I shook my head in derision. I've had so many clients who hold far more than a mini-certificate (for example, a BFA, MFA, or MBA in art business or other similar fields) who never earn enough to pay their student loans let alone make a middle-class living using such a degree. Yet a brand-name school like NYU descends to trying to seduce students into its program using a pitch whose rigor its own professors would dismiss as utterly invalid (a cherry-picked anecdote of one student who got an internship) to make students believe they'll likely have a real arts career if they complete the program. Of course, even when I then reviewed NYU's web page for the program, there's no information on the graduation rate, let alone the percentage of graduates are earning a middle-class income in an art-related field.

It's high time we recognize that higher education is not a beneficent national treasure but just another business and an often sleazy one at that. It's time to rage against the machine, the Higher Education Machine.

Here is the pitch I received from that PR/marketing firm hired by NYU:

From:Keith Campbell [mailto:Kcampbell@schwartz.com]
Tuesday, November 02, 2010 8:33 AM
Subject: Art Business a growth field for workers chasing their passions- case study available

Dear Marty:

The current unemployment crisis has seen many American workers refocusing their career plans. In many cases, recently laid off workers are reassessing their past jobs, and whether they were in fields that they were passionate about, or just showing up to cash a paycheck. In the pursuit of their passions, many people are looking to the arts, the business side of which is a booming industry.

I would like to offer an interview with Terry Shtob, coordinating chair of the Department of Liberal Studies and Allied Arts at New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and oversees programs in Arts Business, including professional certificates in Arts Administration and Art Appraisal. Terry can discuss the opportunities open to art lovers with business skills in the field.

I can also put you in touch with Dean Harmeyer, a student in both the NYU-SCPS Art Business and Art Appraisals programs who is currently interning for Christie’s. Dean can describe his transition from the music industry, which was floundering even before the global economic crisis, to the world of art business, and how he sees the prospects much brighter in the business of fine art.

I will follow up to gauge your interest in an interview with Terry and/or Dean.

Keith Campbell
For New York University School of Continuing and Professional Studies
Tel: (212)725-4500 Ext. 318


Anonymous said...

I share your disgust, but that's the free-market at work. Buyer beware!

Anonymous said...

What's really sad is that this is a bargain by NYU standards--a 3-credit course there would set you back $3,348!

Desktop Strippers said...

Great to share.

Jazzie Casas said...

The financial aspect in being a single mother is enormous and the demand and pressure of that unexplainable urge to give everything that you can just for your kid to have a good future.

Returning to college can be a well recognized and controversial topic, the president of the United States would like single moms to go back to college. The belief is that when single mothers return to school they’ll get the training they have to have to come back to the employed pool. More mums that enter in the workforce raises spending and from this investing of dollars the economic system will increase.

Anonymous said...

Agreed. This is disgusting. Have you read James Twithchell's Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld?

It was quite an eyeopener on how today college/university is more about money making than education.

Anonymous said...

It is nothing like a free market. It is a government sponsored bubble ready to burst.

Lightning Bug's Butt said...

Way to expose the unethical practices of NYU!


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