Wednesday, January 7, 2009

What is a Degree Worth?--part #5

Alternatives to a "regular" college education have cropped up all over. They appeal to a number of frum people as a way to cut the costs of an education. But what do they really give you? A "case study" is offered below.

YWN sent me an announcement about the Rutgers--Barrington Educational Programs. It was the first time I had heard about Barrington so I got curious and did a little research.

Spend some time snooping around the Barrington site and you get more confused, not less.
Below are some statements from the advertisement and from the Barrington website and a few of my observations/comments.

Rutgers-Barrington CBA Overview
Attend courses anytime, anywhere. Online components are available 24 hours a day; 6 days a week and can be accessed via Internet from anywhere in the world. With this level of learning flexibility, busy lifestyles, Yeshiva schedules, and family responsibilities can be better managed.
One-On-One Rutgers Faculty Advisor
Every C.B.A participant is assigned a Rutgers Faculty Online Advisor (for the online components) who has practical business knowledge and expertise. The advisor works one on one with every student, in a personal non-intimidating manner to assure the students goals are successfully accomplished. (Someone want to translate this for me into intelligible English?"Personal, non-intimidating manner"? As opposed to all other teachers, who are impersonal and intimidating? I'll admit this language was a first for me--haven't seen it in any other advertising/catalog put out by any institution of higher learning. Just what type of student are they aiming for that being "non-intimidating" is a selling point for?)
Student - Centered Learning
Each person has their own style and approach to learning. The C.B.A online components offer text for reading, audio for listening, printing options for notes and exercises to encourage (Encourage rather than require?) application. Students can learn using the method that best fits their own learning style and priorities. (So students get to pick and choose how they will learn, and therefore what they will learn? Sounds like the inmates running the prison to me.)
Live Seminars/Conferences
Once enrolled in the Rutgers Barrington C.B.A. program, you will have the opportunity to attend live seminars given by established business leader such as, Steven Stralser, author of the bestseller "MBA in a Day" . This full day seminar provides time-efficient, focused, and in-depth coverage of business concepts and strategies that MBA students study in graduate business school programs. It will be held at a tri-state conference center and is based on availability and enrollment. First, note the last sentence; this all day conference may or may not be held. Again, there is no mention of any seminars given by Rutger's faculty.

Internship Program
Gain real world valuable experience by interning at a participating business corporation. Students will partake in all aspects of the day to day business and responsibilities of the corporation. Many interns turn the temporary position into a long-term career.

Basic Skills Training
Based on an assessment, applicants who lack basic skills such as fundamental computer and writing skills (emphasis mine) will be offered courses prior to the C.B.A curriculum which will assist them in these areas.

Also taken from the YWN advertisement: "The Certificate in Business Administration, with a concentration in either management, finance, or marketing, is the ideal MBA alternative for individuals who want to gain employment in the business world or advance their current careers without attending traditional college. The entire program can be completed within six months and can be worked on online from anywhere in the world." Note that they are advertising this certificate as a substitute for the MBA. However, on their web site they also refer to this program as substituting for a college degree as well. That's right: six months and you have all the knowledge you would get in the 6 years it would take you to earn a BA and/or a MBA.

Professional Skills Courses
Designed to support your organizations employee training needs Employees can take these courses on their own time and from the comfort and convenience of their home or office. They'll get continuous classroom access, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Each course is carefully designed to be hands-on and effective—enabling professionals to rapidly acquire crucial new skills. All they’ll need to access these courses is an Internet connection, an e-mail address, and a Web browser (such as Internet Explorer or Netscape Navigator). (Given their target population, particularly in the Lakewood area, that's a very big "all." Since when did the Internet suddenly become kosher in this area?) We're sure you'll find our selection of affordable, instructor-facilitated (There is a world of difference between an instructor-facilitated course and one that is given by an instructor online.) online courses truly exceptional. So from now on, when you think about professional development, retraining, or lifelong learning, think of us!
These courses are not affiliated with Rutgers. (Emphasis mine.)

Rutgers-Barrington Certificate in Business Administration
The C.B.A has been developed through a partnership with Rutgers and Barrington to serve the time –pressured individual seeking a prestigious education in business. The C.B.A offers all the benefits of a traditional costly college degree in a more convenient method. (Emphasis mine.) [Does it offer "all" the benefits? Government figures show that those with the MBA earn substantially more over a lifetime than those with only a BA or a high school diploma. Are there any figures available that will show lifetime earnings for those with this certificate?]You will have the opportunity to participate in focused and essential business courses, highly interactive instruction and valuable internship programs. Our goal is to provide you with the necessary skills to succeed at all levels of business. We ensure that the program is indexed to market demand so that you are sure to attain a competitive edge. Participants of this program have the opportunity to tap in to the finest education available; [So, Barrington is going to be teaching those students who lack them basic skills in English writing? Perhaps they could themselves learn about the correct use of a semicolon first, nor is this the only "English" error in the ad and website. Is this an example of "the finest education available?]and can access it in the most convenient way. My Note: This is followed by a link that is titled "Speek with Enrollment Advisor." Done much "speeking" lately? Is speeking even a legal activity? Why do I have my doubts about a "prestigious education" coming forth from this place?

Please note that this is a CERTIFICATE as opposed to a DEGREE. The site says that it can be completed in 6 months in the comfort of your own home for "only" $4000.

The site repeats what the ad says: "Every C.B.A participant is assigned a Rutgers Faculty Online Advisor (for the online components) who has practical business knowledge and expertise. The advisor works one on one with every student, in a personal non-intimidating manner to assure the students goals are successfully accomplished." Note that it does not say that you will be taught by Rutger's faculty. In fact, nowhere on the site does it say that. In fact, nowhere on the site is a single Rutger's faculty member mentioned by name.

"Based on an assessment, applicants who lack basic skills such as fundamental computer and writing skills will be offered courses prior to the C.B.A curriculum which will assist them in these areas." For how long and at what cost? And are Rutger instructors giving these remedial courses? If not, who is?

I was particularly taken by many of those who gave testimonials for this program. The general gist was that they were so busy with learning in yeshiva and their families that they didn't have time for a regular program. This program could be worked around their schedules. So how many hours does that leave them to complete this program that can be completed in six months? And forget the Barrington's claim of completion in six months for a moment. What do those six months translate to in terms of hours needed to complete the program? Not visible was any mention of student assignments and papers and tests and exams. Nor was there any mention of grades being given out to students enrolled in this program.

If Barrington wants to call this a training program introduction to the world of work for those who have no idea what that entails then fine. But please, this is not equivalent to an MBA. For one thing, those applying to MBA programs already have to have "real" work experience before they are accepted. For another thing, certificates and degrees are not the same thing. Those in the target audience for this advertising may not know this. They are being told that the certificate equals the degree or is as good as the degree. What they do know is that a degree from college is what opens doors to the type of employment that brings better salaries. Frankly, I know what Barrington's interest in being linked with Rutgers is. What I don't understand is Rutgers' interest in being linked with Barrington.

My interest is piqued enough that I'm going to contact Rutgers to find out what the real scoop is as to their involvement. Is this certificate actually going to read Rutgers on it? And here's the question I want to ask them also: would Rutgers accept a holder of this certificate to PhD study in business? Does Rutgers itself consider this certificate as equal to the MBA? Would a student in the Barrington program be considered for transfer credit should that student decide to go to a Rutgers' program instead? Would students from the Barrington program be considered as admissible to Rutgers? And just what personnel from Rutgers is involved in this program and precisely how? If Rutger's personnel is involved in some actual way, are they regular, tenured instructional staff or are they graduate student adjuncts? And yes, I might just ask Rutgers if it knows how Barrington is advertising what it sells and if Rutgers approves of the language. I understand why Barrington wants/needs Rugers' name attached to its programs. What I want to know is why Rutgers "needs" Barrington? What are they getting out of the association?

I'm not opposed to training for those with no business experience as a means for entering the work world. But if what is being offered is a certificate in practical training in the specifics of business, then be open about that. By constantly linking itself to college degrees and the MBA, Barrington is not being honest about what it is selling. Their target audience is too unsophisticated or unknowledgeable to pick out the wheat from the chaff. The Barrington certificate is an alternative for those who can't/won't/don't go to college or graduate school; it is not a college education nor its equivalent. Please, don't try and sell me dehydrated bean protein labeled as hand-fed veal.


Zach Kessin said...

One thing that I noticed was that the web site for this organization is a .com not a .edu,

Anonymous said...

What is Rutgers relation to this program? Can you spell m-o-n-e-y? I'm sure that money is changing hands here and Rutgers is getting some. I just don't understand why. Rutgers is a highly ranked university. It's not like Fairleigh Dickinson which needs every student it gets and doesn't care about all the diploma mill type of degrees it gives out. Let us know if Rutgers gives you any answers to your questions. Should be interesting to see how they get around some of them.

Anonymous said...

Saaw this ad on a few other blogs and didn't pay much attention but I did think it was for some legitimate college program because of the Rutgers name attached to it. I guess that is what they are counting on.

Anonymous said...

Only going to take a second to go from "I have a Rutgers-Barrington certificate that is just like the MBA" to "I have a Rutgers MBA" when it comes to shidduchim. yet another thing that people will have to watch out for.

Anonymous said...

Is the Rutgers name proprietary? Is this Rutgers University putting its name out here, or is it Mr. Joe Rutgers?

G said...

For one thing, those applying to MBA programs already have to have "real" work experience before they are accepted

Sometimes yes, sometimes no...depends on the program.

Anonymous said...

I'm very curious about what is Rutgers' connection to this nonsense.

As someone who has friends who did the BS, worked for a few years, and then pursued an MBA, I find this certificate laughable.

Why not offer a 6 month JD certificate? It would be perfect for people with poor reading, writing, and logical thinking skills (of course remedial coursework is available to correct these shortcomings). Over 6 months you will: read the constitution and bill of rights, read over 10 landmark cases, read a real contract, see the inside of a courtroom, and speak to a real lawyer who has been practicing for more than 10 years! The program only costs $10,000 (a savings of over $100,000 from typical JD programs!) and takes only 6 months as opposed to 3 years! Note: Under ABA rules, JD certificate program does not qualify one to sit for the bar.

Anonymous said...

I finally found an "about us" buried on the site. It says"Barrington is an educational firm that offers a variety of programs and services to both individuals and organizations. Barrington`s Institute for Advanced Studies` objective, is to make superior educational programs accessible by considering the unique needs of the community it services. To accomplish this, Barrington has forged partnerships with established educational providers and universities, and has modified their programs so that they will be more flexible and accommodating." Still no mention of who the people are who are involved with Barrington.

And just what is an educational firm as opposed to a college or school?

Anonymous said...

See today's question posted in the Yeshiva World "coffee room" that's relevant to your last several posts:

Dave said...

I have a request in to Rutgers to ask the extent of their affiliation with this program.

Anonymous said...

As my mom well knows, I have a degree from Rutgers and I'm floored at their agreement to participate in what looks very much like educational shenanigans. In the past I've gotten alumni letters from the school of business to get certificates in business administration, but those specifically outlined that they were straight from the business school, not through some other company. I'd hate to think my alma mater (which is definitely no joke as a university) sold out for a buck, no matter how bad things are financially for them because of state budget cuts.

Knitter of shiny things said...

I think it would be interesting if you could talk to employers, see what they think of the certificate (assuming they have even heard of the program), whether or not it's enough to get someone hired or a raise in salary, or whether there's anything useful about it at all. Actually, maybe you should "speek" to them.

I wonder what kind of skills, if any, this program provides their graduates with.

Orthonomics said...

The conversations at YWN that tesyaa points out is so sad. Here is a young man who has taken the shortcuts we are chatting about, can't advance because of them, and now the "blind are leading the blind" and recommending even more shortcuts.

I don't get in on the conversations at YWN's coffee room, but it is sad that not one person has suggested it might be wise to get a degree done in a relevant area the old fashioned way. It stinks to have to rewind when one is already encumbered by family and responsibility. But ultimately, enrolling in community college and transferring on up, likely has a better success rate than chasing after CLEPs and elusive credits and what have you.

Dave said...

The initial response I got back:

"After contacting graduate admissions for the Business School, they are not aware of this program"

(This was via the Rutgers information web page, still waiting for a response to an email query)

Dave said...

Rutgers is now actively investigating this program, and I have been told that they should have an answer by early next week.

ProfK said...

Thanks for keeping on top of this. See the addendum to this posting that went up this morning.