For profit universities try to sweet talk us

I found this story from the Chronicle of Higher Education via a piece on Marketplace.

How did the for profit college industry respond when Tom Harkin took to the senate floor in February of 2011 to deride their shady recruitment practices and the disproportionately high rates of students at those institutions withdrawing from their classes and defaulting on their loans?  Did they make fundamental changes to their practices?  No, of course not.  But they did come up with a plan to alter the language they use when talking about their business so as to seem more in line with traditional universities.

By Any Other Name: For-Profit Colleges Watch Their Language by Goldie Blumenstyk from the Chronicle of Higher Education, Mar. 11, 2012

Would that which we call a “parent company” seem worthier if it were a “university system?” Would it impress Congress if student “re­cruiters” were called by any other name? “Coun­selors,” perhaps?

It seems so—at least to those in the for-profit-college industry’s main trade association. For at least a year, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities quietly pursued a campaign, called “Project Rose,” whose goal was to change the vernacular of the sector to de-emphasize its retail-grade jargon.

I guess this can be seen two ways.  On the one hand you might see this as simply these academic institutions getting in line with the lingo of the academic world they’re are a part of.  Or, if you’re more cynical, you can see this as for-profit companies attempting to obfuscate their shady practices by misappropriating the language of the more legitimate educational community.  I lean towards the latter interpretation.  Note: this is not to say that I don’t see as shady many of the things that traditional universities do–that is, of course, fodder for a whole other post.

This table from the Chronicle of Higher Education highlights the linguistic changes the organization hoped to make:

A “How We Talk” chart shows terms the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities proposed changing as part of a campaign for new ways to present the sector to the public.

Brands Institutions
Parent company University system
Starts New students
Call center Enrollment-assistance center
Write some business Accept applications
Phone script Appointment set outline
Recruiters Counselors
Career college Private-sector college or university
Mom and pop Family owned
Market presence Regional campuses
Teachers, instructors Faculty, professors (where appropriate)
Open enrollment Equal opportunity




One Comment on “For profit universities try to sweet talk us”

  1. Photos close to home says:

    I also seldom agree with Sen. Grassley, but I’m with him all the way on his opposition to these predators.

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