The Tortoise and the Hare, Revisited

“We feel this is the watershed moment,” said Richard Garrett, vice president and principal analyst for Eduventures and the report’s author. “After years of endless growth, we’re definitely coming to more of a plateau situation.”

Mature Market for Online Education,” Paul Fain

I’ve said before that the online higher education system is, in part, driven by a race between the public and not-for-profit tortoises, slow and steady, and the more nimble private hares. The hares are slowing down. I taught at for-profits for several years but, after being laid off by the Art Institute of Pittsburgh Online Division last February, am now teaching exclusively for not-for-profit institutions. It’s not just my impression that the for-profits are not hiring; the facts back me up, at least in the study described by Fain in Inside Higher Education.

Another piece in the IHE (“More Selective For-Profits“)suggests that, while enrollment are down in the for-profits, they are not going away– at least, not all of them. In an emerging market, it’s a free for all because there’s so much growth; everyone can grab a piece of the ever-expanding pie. In a mature market, schools have to compete in a more or less fixed pool of students. The for-profits’ recent bad public press should make it easier for the not-for-profits, including public schools, to make some inroads. The hares could catch up.

The problem, as this debate in California shows (“Who’s in Control?“), is that many of the pubic schools are too mired in budget problems to take full advantage of the moment. The irony is that one of the City College of San Francisco’s main strengths, it’s (relative) reliance on full-time faculty, is under fire. The political temptation will be to balance the budget on the backs of part-time faculty. That should not happen; this is exactly the sort of selling point that public and not-for-profits ought to be using to attract students.

About Ray Watkins

I was born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, at Our Lady of the Lake Hospital. I grew up in Houston, as a part of what we only half-jokingly call the Cajun Diaspora. At a certain point during the Regan administration, I had to leave, so I served in the Peace Corps, Philippines, from 1987-89. I didn't want to return to the United States just yet, so I moved to Paris, France, where I lived for three years or so. I then moved back to Austin, Texas, where I had received my Masters Degree, and (eventually) began a Ph.D., which I completed in 1999. I spent a year at Temple University and then accepted a position at Eastern Illinois University where I worked until May of 2006. I now work exclusively on line (although that may change) for Johns Hopkins, the Art Institute Online, and I can be reached most easily via email: raywatkins [that 'at' symbol]

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