Warning: The “Student-Centered” Promise

The term “student-centered” is being used to advertise some college programs like a damaged tire sold on eBay. The shady seller knows you need a tire, but he doesn’t want you questioning the actual condition of the faulty tire he’s selling. He simply wants you to purchase the tire without questioning its true condition. The corrupt seller’s goal is for you to blindly trust his fabricated picture of the tire and be swayed by the “100% Safe!” message shouting from every corner of his eBay page.

Similarly, some shifty  academic institutions and organizations are advertising their programs and services as “student-centered”, but they are not defining that term with particulars, examples, references, or proven metrics. Such fallacious institutions are hoping the term “student-centered” registers in your psyche as a positive influence for enrollment. They are hoping the prospective student will quickly interpret “student-centered” as, “This school will have my best overall interests at heart. This is most certainly the place for me!”

In reality it is the brand that is front and center at such institutions, not the students’ best interests. It's important to separate the faulty institutions from the illegitimately ethical ones. When considering a college to attend, take a look at the amount of revenue allocated by the institution for marketing and advertising their “student-centered” promise, and then compare that to the percentage of revenue allocated for student and faculty services. If the college is true to its promise, a much larger percentage of its revenue gained from tuition, fees, and federal loans will be allocated for student and faculty services and resources.

I recently saw an advertisement for a college that read “Student Centered. We are focused on the best interests of students.” Looking into the structure and business of that college, I noticed that they are an open-enrollment school that does not screen students for academic preparedness, requires only a high-school equivalency for enrollment, pushes at-risk students to begin courses without remedial resources in place, maintains a graduation rate around 18%, has a high employee turnover in the enrollment department, and is under investigation and scrutiny by various states attorneys as well as the Secretary of Education. The fact that such institutions are not transparent upfront and do not disclose their problems to applicants discredits the fraudulent claim “We are focused on the best interests of students.” I will not disclose the name of the institution just mentioned, but it is one of many that fit this profile, which is the reason why it’s essential that we understand how a university defines and demonstrates "student-centerdness".

It is also equally important that we pre-establish our own definition of the term “student-centered.” If a friend said to you, “I am ‘you-centered’. I will have your very best interests at heart,”…how would you interpret that? Discovering your friend was dishonest about the heart-felt claim, intending to exploit you for personal profit, would probably upset you. You might even fall into the trap of self-blame after dealing with such deviousness; criticizing yourself for believing the lie. A good comparison would be the exploitation of students by the Corinthian Colleges. Many of those students, though very upset that Corinthian Colleges did not have their best academic, professional, and financial interests at heart, were also notably embarrassed that they invested time and money into Corinthian’s promise to do everything possible to ensure a quality and affordable education. Those students found out, after accruing a lot of student loan debt, that Corinthian Colleges did not have their best interests at heart before, during, and after the enrollment process. Corinthian Colleges demonstrated that they were not “student-centered.”

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