Thursday, May 01, 2014

Boola boola! DeVry! DeVry! DeVry! Rah! Rah! Rah!

Where would American education be without big time sports?

Nowhere, that’s where.

Just ask MIT.

Where would that quasi-community college be if not for their ultimate frisbee and hacky-sack teams?

And who’d want a Harvard or a Yale education if you couldn’t put on a raccoon coat and join the crowd for The Game, urging the Crimson on with cries of “fight fiercely, Harvard” and encouraging the boys in blue with full-throated chants of “boola boola”?

Oh, wait…

The problem is not, of course, the level of education and sports at most smaller liberal arts colleges. It’s the level of education and sports at the football and basketball factories, especially those with the most dismal of graduation rates. And especially those who let their “student athletes” get credit for not-taking non-existent courses.

Unto the breach of all this – at least on the football side – steps DeVry University, on of those for-profit institutions of higher learning that folks resort to when they think they can’t afford to go to “real” college.Or they’re working full-time and think that DeVry is the only game in town. Even when most towns have perfectly reputable community colleges, night classes at “real” schools, and extension schools – like Harvard Extension – where you can actually get an authentic Harvard degree which, while admittedly inferior to a degree from the actual undergraduate college, is worth something, and which exposes students to some pretty good teachers and fellow students.

But DeVry’s going all-in with the NFL.

The Downer’s Grove (Ill.) school has become the “official education provider” to Pro Football Legends, a group for players, coaches, and other professionals who worked for NFL teams. Under the terms of the deal, announced last week, former NFLers can enroll in DeVry University at reduced cost. Players’ spouses and dependent children are also eligible for discounted tuition. (Source: Business Week.)

This isn’t DeVry’s first embrace of the sporting life. They’ve also offered tuition breaks to Olympic athletes who are often training in remote areas where there actually are no real schools to attend:

Winter Olympians often live and train in snowy, mountainous parts, where DeVry’s online programs hold particular appeal. DeVry was particularly popular with U.S. lugers, many of whom live in sparsely populated Lake Placid, N.Y.

It’s, of course, understandable that a school like DeVry, which doesn’t have stadiums, or cheerleaders, or mascots, or bowl appearances, or big game days, to rally around, would latch onto sports.

Okay, it doesn’t give DeVry students a team to root for.

But, hey, they could end up in an online class with some guy who played a few seasons in the NFL and wanted to finish up his degree before the after-shock of getting his brains bashed in began impacting his ability to learn.

Plus sports = marketing, and pretty good marketing at that.

The article asks the $64,000 question – and remember when $64K was something other than the cost per year of a lot of the top colleges:

Assuming that the tuition discounts are enough to make the sponsorship a good deal for retired players, that leaves one obvious question. Whether he graduated or not, virtually every NFL player attended college—where many risked their good health and dedicated thousands of hours to football. Shouldn’t the “official education provider” of retired NFL players be the NCAA?

One would think so, wouldn’t you? After all, it’s these “student athletes” who’ve made a lot of money for their non-alma maters. And who are more than likely out in the “real world” after just a couple of years in the pros, where they more than likely didn’t make a ton of money, which was more than likely frittered away.

Now that so many colleges and universities offer online/remote courses, you would think that the least that the NCAA powerhouses would do would be to encourage their former students – those who left without a degree, without much by way of valuable course work – to finish up virtually, and even extend a free tuition offer to them.

But it looks like DeVry has beaten them to the punch.

Which is too bad, because I’ve got to believe that an online degree from, say, the University of Oklahoma, is more valuable than a comparable degree from DeVry.

But, then again, I’m not a big believer in for-profit education. (Or medicine. Or prisons.)

Boola boola.

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