CSU's Doctorate Tuition Dropped...

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by sshuang, May 3, 2007.

  1. Mundo

    Mundo New Member


    Jacob and dlady, thank you for your thought provoking and balanced posts. It is very refreshing to read intelligent and coherent opinions that stimulate our minds and present a more profound picture of education and its intricacies.

  2. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    I don't know about well balanced...

    But I do know that I'm human.

    Those of you who are real economists are probably laughing at my little faux pas above. I meant to say "arbitrary price floor".


    I'll just take the whole argument a step further to explain why adding more and more providers should be good for society as a whole and each learner individually.

    I sometimes use the terms "monopolistic competition" and "perfect competition" synonymously. Doing so is not technically accurate and is NOT standard practice. You can slap my hands now if you like.

    I see monopolistic competition as a step towards perfect competition where perfect competition is the utopia of competition in which there are infinate buyers and infinate sellers. In this case, the infinate sellers will begin supplying goods at or just slightly above cost. Some sellers may over charge and be driven out of the market by having no sales. Other sellers may under charge and go out of business by not meeting their cost structures. Effectively, under perfect competition our educators will all become non-profits.

    The situation is similar under monopolistic competition wherein you have infinate buyers and infinte sellers again but they are trading "stuff" that is so widely waried that collections of sellers and buyers have a lot of say over the price of the good at auction. In the short-run overcharging somewhat will not immediately cause a drop in demand for the product because of brand loyalty, contracts (i.e. negotiated learning agreements that are already in place), and other factors. In the long-run all the other providers will see UoP racking up the profits by vastly overcharging the market and they will all do the same. Additionally, if one seller tries a marketing gimmick that works, every other seller will do the same. For instance, your Charles Sturt University's of the world sell degrees for intensive thesis of 100000 words or more and everyone else is willing to do the same.

    Thus in both cases, the school will earn zero economic profit (that is, profit after factoring in what the operators of the school could be doing besides selling degrees).
    ---I do hope you realize that I'm not talking about degree mills here, I'm just discussing the underlying financial considerations that will impact long-term higher education---

    Here's the thing that I see...From the point of view of societies and governments, education is in perfect competition. We have a very large number of programs in the world with a very large number of buyers of education. The educational services are NOT intrinsically heterogeneous. On the other hand, they are all the same. A masters is a master, a phd is a phd. The only differences are in the trappings like, which specialization, and how many books do you need to write...In the big scheme of things educational services are homogeneous - easily replaceable (as we can see when we watch our fellow degreeinfo denizens swap programs like dresses on prom night). To us as buyers, each program is unique (this gives the sellers a little more power in negotiating price) therefore pushing....

    You know? I'm wrong. Education isn't in perfect competition at all. It should be though. I'd love it if the schools were the price takers - being forced to accept going rate for their educational services.

    The way things are going however, we're headed in that direction.

    I was trying to argue that from a macroframework point of view the educational services are completely interchangeable. I believe that to be true in essence. If I found a PhD program that met my price point and a few other factors, I'd jump on it today. The thing is that currently the sellers have the power in the marketplace meaning that they are in monopolistic competition.

    By building online educational systems and by destroying the concept of tenure higher education is inadvertantly making the production factors highly mobile. MIT proved it by starting the project to put all of their courses online (they should be done sometime later this year possibly early next year - they already have 1300 courses posted). The next logical step is the atomistic step in which because the factors of production are so mobile it will be a virtual cakewalk to start a university. We already have an accreditation system which standardizes the processes of each school making the work output more and more similar (like cute cookie cutter PhD programs). Because each college and university advertises online each firm has access to all prices set by each firm making for very good information. Each student can comparison shop before committing.

    Unfortunately there are a couple of things that will get in the way of perfect competition in the classical definition: accreditation and other regulation act as barriers to free entry and because the educational services are heterogeneous to the consumer little cartels of consumers get together to boycott "bad" universities and little cartels of schools get together to charge a certain rate...These are at least two things that I can think of to destroy the nice little picture forming in my mind.

    Either way prices will tend to come down to cost in the aggregate and the addition of new entrants due to the number of people seeing the UoP's making hand-over-fist and trying to join up for the education "gravy train" will see to it that the market is so totally diluted that I might just get my inexpensive PhD by the time I'm 80 or so.

    Anyway. Sorry for the confusion. Non Confundar, En Eternum!

  3. dlady

    dlady Active Member

    I think a key to creating a model to understand the market is to figure out how many products the market has. I believe a safe assumption is that there is only one type of consumer, the student, for lack of a better term. But I think this is a two product market, with product A being a commodity called a “credit” and product B being NOT a commodity called a “degree”.

    I think generally we are confusing these arguments, and I believe monopolistic competition is possible for credits, but the Oligopoly more accurate for degree’s (although how do you quantify ‘few’ sellers?). The challenge with wanting education to approach perfect competition is that it requires eliminating the barriers to market entry, which starts to look like removing accreditation, which starts to look “less than wonderful”.

    Another interesting theory would be that of an Oligopsony market (or conspiracy IMHO) to use things like GMAT tests to restrict the number of consumers but not the number of sellers.

    I do think the US based education is some kind of collusive government regulated market, but I don’t know enough about it to figure out if this is a bad thing or a good thing. What I do know is that if I am willing to donate a decent amount of my hard earned money, I can sit in my spare room with a computer and achieve any level of education I am capable of, which can’t mean that things are all bad.
  4. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    Smart Thinking...

    You're good at this kind of thinking dlady. Thanks.

    Alright, I'll tenatively subscribe to your theory of a conspiracy to cut down on the number of buyers while maintaining the number of sellers. This behavior would allow the sellers to sell at a higher price than if the number of buyers were to increase to some critical mass point at which the buyers can "set" the price. I like that. Of course, we can extend the argument to accreditation in which we look at decreasing the number of sellers in the marketplace by means of regulation. If we do that then we find as Rich put it a truly self-regulating system in which the accreditors keep the number of schools down, the GMAT and GRE exams keep the number of new students down, and they can all charge higher prices.

    Not bad thinking!

    Now the "credit" versus "degree" thing...That's some serious stuff you're bringing up. If we keep going down this line of inquiry we might just overturn the entire theory of modern education. I agree a credit is completely interchangeable (given some nominal exceptions in transfer rules) and therefore is a commodity. I agree as well that if you view the degree as one of possibly hundreds of thousands of different degrees it might NOT be a commodity.

    My concern is that most of these degrees are interchangable too. If I was hiring a Director of Training and Education, I'd look for a PhD in Education or a PhD in Training Development, or a PhD in Project Management but if I had problems finding one of them in my price range I'd hire a PhD in Ancient English Literature who also has several decades of experience in a training development career field. If I was looking for say a computer network administrator, I'd look for a BS in Network Administration but I'd accept a BS in Computer Science or a BS in Technology if the applicant had some extra qualifications on the side. I think that ultimately the degree shows the type and quantity of work you are capable of performing therefore an AS would be trusted with running one part of my vineyard while a BS and an MS and a PhD would each be given more and more responsibility in my little kingdom.

    Ultimately though, I have to agree that degrees are not yet commodities (but they're getting close) and so that shoots my nice wonderful theory down...

    I don't know, more sellers doesn't have to mean less accreditation or lower standards. That kind of thinking is what makes "normal" society look at distance degrees and laugh. At least until they read my thesis or see me taking care of business for them, that is.

    My suspicion is that with the highly liquid factors of development (i.e. professors, textbooks, curriculum, etc) we are coming very close to being able to start regionally accredited universities in extremely short periods of time. I know that the accreditation process takes time and that schools must operate legally without this accreditation for a while before they are granted the olive leaf and are allowed to operate legitimately. I kind of think that the time thing is a way to keep schools under the accreditor's thumbs and believe that part of the process to be unethical but I'm not out for accreditor blood here. I think that since professors and courses are commodities, anyone should be able to set up a fully licensed and accredited school if they try. Maybe I'll take the UoP idea (I guess you know I don't like the UoP because of their horrible cost) and write up a franchise plan which I can resell to thousands of little schools...

    My plan would sound something like this:
    Buy 2/10 of one professor of English to handle a maximum of 30 papers per semester.
    Buy 4/10 of one professor of Technology to handle a maximum of 10 papers per semester plus 40 student requests.
    Buy 1/10 of one bachelor holder to process paperwork and schedule meetings.
    Mix with a little care and devotion from your sales staff (6/10 of a master of business development to handle 100 cold-calls per day and 20 follow ups plus 3 angry students per semester)
    To create 15 PhD's in Technical Writing each semester after the first 3 to 6 years, 10 PhD's in Technology, 5 MA's in English, and 15 BA in Technical English as well.

    If only I cared enough to build that business plan and flesh it out according to real rules on graduation rates and workloads, I'd be richer than Creosote.

    You're right, education has to be a dirty market because without governmental regulations we'd have too many smart people teaching too many other smart people and that would just cause chaos. Seriously though, it's the way it is to help protect us from fish-oil or snake-oil salesmen that we got hammered with during the early half of last century, they're just too much for our civilization to take.

    For me though, it's like the chicken or the egg. Do I earn the money to go to school or do I go to school to earn the money to go to school or do I earn the money to go to school to earn the money??? Like most rational beings my mind just shuts off when it encounters a fatal exception caused by a recursive call back to the beginning of the program (or was that the end of the program?). This explains why so few people actually rule the world with great wealth and pomp and circumstance and so many people want to do so.

    Anyway. Good thinking dlady. If I had some hard earned money, I'd donate it so that I can sit behind a computer and learn everything in the world...

    Just joking...I've been reading too much Terry Prachett.
  5. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member Staff Member

    Which PhD degrees do you think qualify as "professional doctorates"? Usually "professional doctorates" are tagged degrees, e.g., DBA, EdD, DMin, PsyD, etc.
  6. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    Good question...

    If you're opening the floodgates on DBA, DPA, EdD, DMin, PsyD, etc...

    It is only a matter of time until you won't be able to tell the difference between a "professional doctorate" and an "academic doctorate" without going into some detail about the candidate's dissertation.

    And this is fine because as it has been said here on degreeinfo many times, "People should be hired based on their experience".

    I say, on the other hand, "We weed people out using their credentials but plant them due to their experience."

    Maybe it's because I'm not an academician, but I don't see the big deal about handing out actual PhDs instead of fake doctorates in business or ministry of psychology. I understand conceptually the distinction but was using another forward looking statement to discuss the inevitible blurring of the lines between the two types of doctorate degrees.

    Hopefully this answers your concern.

  7. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Ditto. I really wonder about the economic utility of the NA doctorate more than the tuition cost. Note that Columbia Southern's DBA Tuition is $295 per credit hour.

  8. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    I don't know...Distance Learning is better than B&M anyday...

    I don't know that the economics have really presented just yet. What's likely going to happen is a dramatic lowering of rates as more and more vendors get into the mix selling degrees. And compared to Walden, UoP, Capella, and just about anyone else out there in Distance Learning, $295 is a good deal.

    Can anyone find better rates whether they are RA or NA? If so let us know, I might investigate the program for myself (or I might just take Dave Wagner's suggestion to get a second and third masters degree).

  9. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Not my term. That's DETC's usage.
  10. jmetro

    jmetro New Member

    Mea Culpa...

    It's ok Rich, they were just discussing my loose phraseology and not disputing your use of the term. It is agreed that there is currently a distinction between a professional doctorate and an academic doctorate. My assertion is that they will merge over the next 30 years back into one device. Whether that device is a PhD or not is still in dispute. It is entirely possible that the PhD might become the "super" PhD I've been talking about assuming that a large number of "professional doctorates" are minted swamping the market. The thing I don't like about the DETC definition is that it prevents the school from asking for an original contribution to the body of knowledge in the student's area of expertise. I would fully expect myself to generate new knowledge even if it this knowledge does turn out to be mere philosophical ramblings.

    Again, the DETC is being used to experiment with the concept of the "under" PhD which is the doctorate for the active professional as opposed to the "super" PhD which is the doctorate of the scholar. If they are rolled into a regional accreditor (which would be good for distance learning), it will only be after they prove that they can manage the process of minting doctors up to and possibly including PhDs. This should start here over the next 7 to 10 years and should end with DETC becoming as respected in academia as a regional.

    This is a funny thought but they are all under CHEA, right? That makes them all equal in definition as far as the DoED goes. If that's the case, then why the cold shoulder to distance learning?

  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    No. They're not "all under CHEA." And what CHEA does or doesn't recognize has no bearing on what the USDoE recognizes.

    Each, CHEA and the Department of Education, maintains a list of recognized accrediting agencies. While those lists have a large overlap, there are agencies recognized by one and not the other. And if CHEA chooses to recognize an agency, that doesn't mean the USDoE will automatically do so, too.

    A more likely cause for the regionals to eye national accreditors with suspicion is the length of time these agencies have been accrediting degree-granting schools. For example, in 1980, DETC accredited just two schools offering the bachelor's (and none offering the master's): Grantham and LaSalle Extension. (LaSalle went out of business soon afterwards.) That's it. Now we have national accreditors like ACCICS, DETC, and TRACS accrediting hundreds of schools offering degrees through the doctorate. I'm not surprised that the regionals have been slow to recognize degrees and credits from these upstarts.

    Also, if you were a regional accreditor, wouldn't you want to know why the schools accredited by these agencies didn't go for regional accreditation instead? Why does anyone need national, institutional accreditation by these other agencies? Any school accredited by DETC, for example, could be accredited by its respective regional. Unless, of course, DETC has lower standards that these schools can meet--and the RA's have standards these schools cannot. There is some evidence of these. We've seen several schools who operated for a long time without any recognized accreditation decide to pursue DETC accreditation, not RA. Why? And we've also seen just one school operating first with DETC accreditation go on to RA. (APUS/AMU) Why? Finally, we've seen several schools open, then pursue both simultaneously, with DETC accreditation always coming first. (OUSA, for example.) Why? Why is DETC faster?

    When DETC started accrediting degree-granting, academic programs in a big way, there was some resistance from the regionals to such schools. (But we saw many become regionally accredited anyway.) Now we have totally non-residential schools and programs at all levels accredited by the regionals. Why do we need DETC to do institutional accrediting at all?

    I don't see DETC becoming the 7th, "virtual" regional. Instead, it needs to become the nation's expert on accrediting distance programs, creating value that the regionally accredited schools would want to obtain for their DL programs. The DETC-accredited schools should, then, stand on their own an get accreditation from their respective regional associations. And consumers (students and employers) should be buoyed by the DETC stamp of approval on DL programs offered by RA schools. That would be a future I'd like to see.
  12. David Boyd

    David Boyd New Member

    Not always. If a California institution operates a law school, the law school must be accredited by the California Committee of Bar Examiners before WASC will even accept an application. Since the Committee of Bar Examiners only accredits classroom based programs, it is impossible for any distance learning law school to meet this standard. And since WASC is an institutional accreditor, it means that any other programs offered by such an institution would also be excluded.
  13. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    When it comes to doctorates, I don't think that accreditation matters very much. What matters is a program's reputation in its field. Exceptions would be regulated professions where licensing is a consideration, and perhaps some situations where doctorates have become generic, like adjunct teaching in high demand subjects.

    But nobody in molecular biology is going to have any questions about a Ph.D. from Rockefeller University, despite the university not being RA. Why? A dynamite research reputation (and a clutch of Nobel Prize winners).

    So I think that whether or not DETC gets its recognition expanded to Ph.D.s is probably less important than discussion board opinion thinks. An unknown program with invisible academics isn't going to generate very much excitement on the research-degree level no matter who accredits it.

    If DETC (or ACICS or whoever) are really serious about this doctoral thing, then they need to be pushing their members who have future doctoral aspirations to start being more productive right now. Create some research units, publish, get cited. If professional peers are taking notice, then DETC accreditation won't be a big problem. If they don't, it won't be very much help.
  14. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Intriguing...! So perhaps RA schools would voluntarily seek DETC to add quality and prestige to their programs. Traditionally, the DETC brand hasn't occupied this perceptual space but it could very well do so in the future with some hard work.

  15. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Yes, but the exception hardly disproves the rule.

    Also, I've seen at least one RA school with a non-accredited law program--National University. But National was RA when it acquired the law school (since divested).

    One might also contest the relevance of DETC accreditation to law schools, despite DETC's willingness to accredit them.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Many non-academic employers will require degrees from accredited schools, even the doctorate.
    Exception noted.
    But this is contrary to the purpose of the "professional" academic doctorate, which often culminates in the dissertation-like project that, while valuable, doesn't add new knowledge to the field. (Admittedly, many "professional" academic doctoral programs require dissertations that do, making them almost indistinquishable from Ph.D. programs.)
  17. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    I was addressing the distinction between what the discussion boards call "RA" and "NA". My assertion is that this distinction is less important on the doctoral level than people often think.

    That's why I cited Rockefeller University. This school, along with the Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, are accredited by the NY Regents, but they aren't regionally accredited. Nevertheless, I don't think that graduates of these schools have any more difficulty than graduates of RA schools in finding positions. Probably less difficulty in some cases, since these are both prestige schools in the context of the biological sciences.

    My point is that there's no real reason why DETC or ACICS schools can't do what these NY Regents schools have done. They could generate big-time academic reputations of their own.

    If they had the reputations, then the fact that they were DETC/ACICS rather than RA wouldn't matter a great deal. But if they don't have any kind of academic reputation, then blathering on and on about how their accreditors are recognized by the Dept. of Education isn't going to accomplish very much.
  18. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    I'm still not understanding the economic utility of upcoming DETC doctorates. Presumably, they would have no teaching utility in the RA system in North America. Correct? If so, what could / should / would a prospective student hope to achieve?

  19. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I expect they could be useful for teaching in other countries or at nationally accredited schools. They might also be useful for consultants. Some might attract students who are in it for personal satisfaction rather than professional advancement.

  20. Dave Wagner

    Dave Wagner Active Member

    Good points, Steve, but if the teaching options are so limited, then why pursue the NA doctoral degree at all or as a substitute to an RA doctorate? A doctorate could be somewhat useful in consulting but it is not required or even largely understood for that purpose. I suppose that personal satisfaction is not a strong enough primary motivation to sustain one's self through earning a "real" doctorate, if that is what the NA doctoral programs are going to require.


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