David Fleming
It's All Academic   www.davidflemingsite.com   
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January 10, 2017

Those of us in the higher education business have been fully aware of Gainful-Employment for many years now. Gainful-Employment (frequently referenced by its acronym GE) is a litmus test developed by the U. S. Department of Education to assess the likelihood of a credential leading to a job.  In its simplest manifestation, if your degree program can't be aligned with Gainful-Employment, then financial aid may not be available.

Today, in The Chronicle of Higher Education, two stories covered the latest revelations by the Department of Education about Gainful-Employment.  Apparently more than 800 programs across the country failed the basic standard for GE: will a graduate make enough money in the program's field to offset the costs of attending that program at that institution?  At a separate link, The Chronicle, shares a table listing all of those programs, as well as providing a list with the full report, allowing us to see what institution's programs "passed" the standard, or are in the "zone," meaning potentially at risk to "fail," along with the ultimate "naughty list," programs that failed.

There's a lot of rather depressing information in all of this, but there are some other fun observations one can get from this list.  As many of us who were David Letterman fans know, he loved to take potshots at his GE (General Electric). In the spirit of Letterman and that GE bent, I give you

Top Ten Advertising Slogans For Today's GE

10) Shave and a haircut?  Not even two bits?

Sort the Median Annual Earnings category from lowest to highest and you get the barbering certificate program for Shear Excellence Hair Academy producing $0 as a median annual earning.  It doesn't get much better for your budding barber.  Go to the middle of Michigan, to the Flint Institute of Barbering, and you might make $85 as an annual median earning.  $85!  That won't even buy one of those barber shirts.

9) My beauty college has a first name.  It's baloney.

I am amazed by the number of beauty/massage/hair institutes and colleges that are your next-door neighbor's name, probably like your local nail salon. Look through the list and you can find Lorraine's Academy and Spa (not in Jersey, as one might have guessed); Mister Wayne's School of Unisex Hair Design (I think the unisex is redundant with the Mister Wayne); Nicholas Jay Salon and Spa Academy (the middle name adds so much more professionalism, doesn't it?); Toni and Guy Hairdresser Academy ("Guy" might be a general noun, not a name, allowing for new Toni partners whenever needed).

8) Ten out of ten doctors have nothing to worry about.

Not a single doctorate program is listed in the gainful employment failures.  I don't know enough about the methodology to know if they are consciously not included, but it doesn't take long to wonder why not, given the glut of graduate programs and the dearth of positions specifically tied to that degree (especially in the world of academia). 

7)  With a name like Harvard, it doesn't have to be good.

Harvard, Johns Hopkins and University of Southern California all get nailed for at least one program.  Overall, 16 not-for-profit institutions, an incredibly small percentage of all named institutions, show up on the list.  Granted, the programs cited with these institutions are almost entirely in the arts.  Harvard simply needs to eliminate its graduate certificate in Drama/Theater and it is off the list.

6) What happens here. . . can't even get you anywhere.

USC's "failed program" is in musical technician, a grad certificate. Man, if you can't find a decent-paying job in Southern California after taking that program, then none of us should think about offering that program.  What hopes would a Arkansas college have in offering that certificate?

5) X marks the spot . . . to avoid.

You would think having a clever college name that begins with an X would make you stand out.  However, in at least two scenarios, I have now learned of such colleges because of their Gainful-Employment woes.  Xcell Academy is proudly touted as a "Paul Mitchell School," and yet its cosmetology certificate program is a failure by GE standards equal to its failure for the illogical name. However, nothing seems as illogical as Xenon International Academy III (I assume the third generation matters). This Colorado school, also nailed for its cosmetology certificate, shares nothing, as far as I can tell, with the noble gas its name references.

4) Got Work?

After the various beauty-inspired programs, the next group of overwhelming GE un-friendly programs are all in the arts.  This can include cinematic-based programs, music-focused degrees, generally anything that has already been gutted by our secondary school system in its efforts to please the pinheads from government over the years.  We get what we don't pay for, don't we?

3) Not always there with a pinch. . . or a prick.

Who would have known there would be so many acupuncture and oriental medicine programs across higher education and at a Master's Degree level?  It makes me wonder what undergraduate degree is expected to lead into it.  Pre-Ack instead of Pre-Med? Apparently your graduate will make between 10K and 16K a year as an acupuncturist.  Will the destruction of the Affordable Care Act allow these specialists to start charging more?

2) Like a good neighbor, Michigan is there.

Needless to say, based upon where I live, I wanted to see how many local institutions or programs were on this naughty list.  Indiana had 14 institutions with multiple programs for many of them, leading to about 25 specious program choices south of the Michigan border. Amazingly, only one Michigan institution with one program (the above-mentioned Flint Institute of Barbering) is on the list.  I say "amazingly," not because I think Michigan is the land of ne'er-do-wells among colleges and universities (we have our rightful share) but just because one is amazingly few.

1) Pay more. Expect less.  And that's not easy to do.

So at the bottom of the sorted list by median annual earnings is Florida Coastal School of Law's "first professional" law degree. I don't even know what a "first professional" degree is but it sounds like something a bunch of lawyers would come up with. More shocking is the fact that a graduate could make 46K and still not have enough to pay back his or her loans in the way GE expects.  Wow!  What is tuition like there at FCSL (which doesn't exactly roll off the tongue)?

All in all, a fascinating list to review when one isn't on it, either as student or as institutional employee, who both would be yelling, "I've fallen and I can't get up."