Yesterday’s post aimed to convince readers that everyone in the United States (nay, in the English-speaking world!) should be concerned about Purdue’s recent deal with Kaplan University. In today’s post, I will get into some of the nitty-gritty of Indiana’s higher education goals and policies in order to convince Hoosier readers that the Purdue-Kaplan deal is a bad choice for reaching Indiana’s stated higher ed goals.
The Big Goal: Indiana has set the goal that by 2025, 60 percent of the state’s adult population will have a two- or four-year college degree. In 2010, only 38.3 percent of working-age adults had attained these credentials. A Lumina Foundation report on Indiana noted in 2012 that “If the current rate of degree production continues, about 41 percent of Indiana’s adult population—1.3 million people—will hold a college degree by 2025. To reach 60 percent, Indiana will need to add nearly 633,000 degrees to that total.”
The state has made a number of decisions aimed at increasing the number of college graduates in the state:
Core Transfer Library: In 2005, the General Assembly created the “Indiana Core Transfer Library” to make it easier for students to receive full credit for previous college work when they transfer to a new institution in the state. This program creates a list of courses in 88 categories at public institutions in Indiana; links courses with the same content and learning outcomes so that it’s easy to see what are essentially the same courses, despite different course names and numbers; and obligates other institutions to transfer in the courses that correspond to their own courses in the transfer library.
Dual credit for high school students: Indiana law requires high schools to offer a minimum of two dual-credit courses, that is, courses for which high school students receive both credit toward their high school diploma and college credit. The statute governing the dual-credit system in the state (see IC 21-43-5-7) clarifies that courses may be offered by “(1) onsite instruction; (2) telecommunication; or (3) a combination of methods described in subdivisions (1) and (2).”
Statewide General Education Transfer: In 2012, the Indiana legislature passed a law to create a statewide General Education core, such that “After May 15, 2013, a student who satisfactorily completes the requirements of the Statewide General Education Core in an Indiana state educational institution and then subsequently transfers to another Indiana state educational institution will not be required to complete the Statewide Transfer General Education Core requirements at the institution to which the student transfers.”
Now let’s think about these Indiana policies with reference to the Purdue-Kaplan deal:
- Since this will be a “public” Indiana institution (whatever that means, given that state funds will not be appropriated to pay for the costs of New University), its courses will be included in the Indiana Core Transfer Library.
- Students who complete the General Education core online through the New University can transfer those credits to any Indiana university to complete their education (and possibly receive a diploma with a name other than “Purdue” on it).
- High schools in rural areas that are required by law to offer at least two dual-credit courses will find a fully online program that offers credits with the still-valuable-for-now name of “Purdue” to be much easier than the current system, which involves teacher certification and oversight from university faculty, who often have to drive significant distances to provide this supervision. Homeschoolers and charter schools, which have no particular stake in supporting truly public education, will also likely flock to New University offerings as a way of getting a head start on college.
Indiana universities can thus expect the arrival on their campuses of a large number of students who have already completed their General Education core through New University and think that they are ready for upper-level college work. Guess what! They won’t be ready, because Kaplan’s courses are currently taught (and will continue to be taught under New University) by an army of underpaid, untenured, sometimes inadequately credentialed instructors with high workloads and no job security. This is not an education model that will teach students how to think, question, and explore ideas, which is what they should be getting from their General Education experience. With these students, professors in upper-level classes will have to either (1) dumb down the material to be what they previously would have taught as freshman or sophomore-level material or (2) flunk lots and lots of students, which gives the university a black eye, leads to students leaving college with significant debt and no degree, and can lead to loss of funding because of the performance-based funding metrics instituted in Indiana in 2012. The Purdue-Kaplan deal is bad for Indiana.
To bring it back to readers in other states, pay attention! Just as Kansas shows us the worst path possible for “tax reform,” Indiana has been the crucible for the development and implementation of neoliberal education policies for a decade. With Betsy DeVos in the White House, expect other states to follow Indiana’s lead in dumbing down higher education by deals such as the Purdue-Kaplan merger in order to be able to brag about the percentage of citizens with college credentials.
Rachel E. Hile