Dear Commons Community,
Kevin Carey, Director of the Education Policy Program at New America has written an essay entitled, The Creeping Capitalist Takeover of Higher Education. He sets the stage for his piece by discussing college affordability, student debt, and other serious issues facing the academy. His solution as he has written about in the past is online education. He laments while most colleges have become active providers of online education, financial savings have not accrued to students. This is because many colleges don’t actually run online programs themselves but instead outsource them to online program managers or OPMS. Much of the remainder of the essay focuses on the OPMs. Here is a quick excerpt:
“Colleges outsource much of the work to an obscure species of for-profit company that has figured out how to gouge students in new and creative ways. These companies are called online program managers, or OPMs, an acronym that could come right out of “Office Space.” They have forgettable names like 2U, HotChalk and iDesign. As the founder of 2U puts it, “The more invisible we are, the better.”
But OPMs are transforming both the economics and the practice of higher learning. They help a growing number of America’s most-lauded colleges provide online degrees—including Harvard, Yale, Georgetown, NYU, UC Berkeley, UNC Chapel Hill, Northwestern, Syracuse, Rice and USC, to name just a few. The schools often omit any mention of these companies on their course pages, but OPMs typically take a 60 percent cut of tuition, sometimes more. Trace Urdan, managing director at the investment bank and consulting firm Tyton Partners, estimates that the market for OPMs and related services will be worth nearly $8 billion by 2020.
What this means is that an innovation that should have been used to address inequality is serving to fuel it. Instead of students receiving a reasonably priced, quality online degree, universities are using them as cash cows while corporate middlemen hoover up the greater share of the profits.”
The essay provides good history and examples of OPMs that support Carey’s positions. If you are interested in learning more about OPMs, this is a good place to start.