‘Follow the money’ in online education, faculty warn

In just the past year, several high-profile companies have taken a vested interest in online education.

AT&T donated $2 million to an online master’s degree program at Georgia Tech. Pearson signed a seven-year deal with Rutgers University, and forged partnerships with community colleges.

The for-profit University of Phoenix announced a plan to partner with more than 100 community colleges before the year’s end.

The paper shines a particularly bright spotlight on online institutions like the University of Phoenix, as well as MOOC platforms like Coursera and Udacity.

These entities often partner with non-profit universities, but their end goal is just the opposite, the report said. Indeed, Coursera recently announced it had made$1 million in profits from its signature track courses.

In June, Michael K. Clifford, a longtime powerhouse in the for-profit college industry, launched a website offering 27 MOOC-like courses. While the program, called DreamDegree, is not-for-profit, it is unaccredited and charges $299 per course.

“To state a fact we too often forget, online higher education is neither philanthropy nor social activism,” the authors wrote. “It is big business, not significantly different from that in any other industry.”

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