MARKET TESTS HAVE STEEP GRADING CURVES. The dean at Anonymous Community reflects on a restructuring at a proprietary technical institute flying the college flag.
During the late 90's boom, and even for a little while after, the rhetoric at [a competing proprietary] was a capitalist version of Khruschev's “we will bury you.” Rapid expansion, and rapid rises in the parent company's stock price, contrasted strongly with continued struggles among the public colleges. The narrowness of curricular focus – if it won't get you a job, we won't teach it – was touted as a breakthrough. (Those of us in the evergreen disciplines were always a little uncomfortable with that, but it came with the gig.) Nobody ever asked of PU's grads, “what are you going to do with that?” The tuition was considerably higher than at the nearby publics, but the job-market payoff for students was obvious, and that carried the day.
As, at one time, corporate downsizing, which followed corporate raiding, which followed corporate conglomeration did.
A couple of years into the crash, [the proprietary's] signature programs clearly weren't hot anymore, it wasn't so obvious anymore what the next hot thing would be. That made it hard for [it] to decide what to teach, and made it hard to justify the premium tuition to prospective students. The unapologetically utilitarian bent of a [proprietary] education meant that, when the market winds shifted, the cost was suddenly a lot harder to justify. So the cost-cutting began, and the employee-blaming, and the layoffs. From what I've seen and heard, [it] still hasn't figured out what the next hot thing is going to be.
Perhaps in two or three thousand years of elaborating on the trivium and quadrivium, we've gotten a few things right.

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