degree food chain

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by obecve, Aug 3, 2003.

  1. obecve

    obecve New Member

    After several months on this forum, I continue to watch the same chain of events play out repeatedly. 1) It is argued that generally recognized accreditation is needed, RA or DETC, or the foreign equivolents in England, SOuth Africa, Australia, etc. 2) Everyone seems to agree degree/diploma mills are bad 3) Arguments occur about different state licensing, but in general there seems to be agreement that California approval may be better than nothing because some professions allow licensing in Califonia, but no one would actually "want such a dgree because of its limitations" 4) then the arguments start about DETC, it is legitimate, but just not as good as RA, "so why would anyone pursue that option with its limitations when RA options exist" 5) Then there is the argument about foreign equvolents which are really great, but again"so many limitations" why would people pursue them 6) this is followed by "yes it is RA, but it such a poor program and its really 4th tier, so it really has too many limitations, so with all those limitations why would you pursue that school?" 7) this is then followed by well yes it is RA, but because it is DL, academia may not accept it "so with those limitations" why would you pursue it?

    If we keep along this path, the next logical step will be "well yes it is RA, but it is only 4th tier, or it is only 3rd tier, or only 2nd tier, which means it has too many limitations" WHy would you go to a school except 1st tier, this argument can be followed by it is not in the top 20 or not in the top 10, so why..........

    My concern is that this is supposed to be about legitimate distance options. I think we all come to the forum knowing there are limitations and working for a brighter future with greater acceptance, but I think the ongoing scurge of any thing that is not HArvard or YAle, adds to the limited utility of DL. I am of the opinion if the program is legitimately accredited, retains its accreditation, it has some utilitiy. The more the programs gain acceptance over attack, the greater utility they will have over time. I am aware of circumstance 10 years ago where people with degrees Nova, Walden, Saybrook, Fielding etc could not get academic jobs or promotions based on their degrees, now this has changed substantially because of all the work towards accrediting and legitimacy. DETC and foreign equivolencies hold the same potential. I remain concerned that if DL people continue to make these attacks, how can non-DL people ever get on with understanding the value of DL. Just curious how other members of the forum think.
  2. obecve

    obecve New Member

    OOOPS! I forgot TRACS. It is probably somehwere around DETC, not as good as RA, based on the representations of the members of this forum
  3. plcscott

    plcscott New Member


    You make some very good points, and I think sharks that have a frenzy over anything that is not RA do hurt the success of non traditional programs. There are certain people who post here that contribute to the forum, and genuinely try to help people in their pursuit of education. Then, there are others that are constantly looking for an argument to get into, or a way to put others down.

    I have found it best to learn who is who here, and not to pay as much attention to some. You will find some that you may not agree with much that you can have conversations with. You will find others that it is best to just ignore. This is a place for valuable information, and I personally have learned a lot here. So, hang in with us.


  4. cehi

    cehi New Member

    Dr. Mike O'Brien,

    You have expressed excellent points that I totally agree with. To me, the bottom-line is that individuals need to know what the heck they want to do with their degrees because If you don't know what you want, someone will create what you want for you. I believe that Knowing what you want would enable you to seek the legitimate (subject to interpretation) channels for getting that missing link. I think the most important point to know is the limitations of the choice and also, to know if one is willing to live with those limitations without any unnecessary embellishments. I believe independent degree programs is here to stay. It is just a matter of time. Hey, I am now a strong believer of independent study(ies). Thank you.

    [email protected] New Member

    obecve writes:

    > If we keep along this path, the next logical step will be "well
    > yes it is RA, but it is only 4th tier, or it is only 3rd tier, or only
    > 2nd tier, which means it has too many limitations" Why would
    > you go to a school except 1st tier, this argument can be
    > followed by it is not in the top 20 or not in the top 10, so
    > why...
    [...] I think the ongoing scurge of any thing that is
    > not Harvard or Yale, adds to the limited utility of DL.

    Hmm. If we keep along this path, we'll be advising people to take the best courses available.

    So lots of people will be taking courses from Harvard Extension, which does offer DL courses. To stay in the market, other schools will have to show how their courses are as good as or better than Harvard's. We'll have a nice competitive market, good for the students.

    How does this "add to the limited utility of DL"? Perhaps you meant "adds to the utility, which is currently limited". :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 4, 2003
  6. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Since this rather genteel flame of Michael's seems to have been generated by my comments about DETC on the other forum, I'll repost the reply that I made to him there.

    There have been at least 150 posts on this board arguing about DETC in the most inane and repetitive manner possible. I simply tried to name a few names and state a few specifics. "RA" or "DETC" are simply abstractions, they are collections of real-life schools that are busy doing (or not doing) real things. It's ridiculous to try to argue about the relative value of studying at DETC and RA schools without even making an effort to look at the schools that provide the education.

    Has anyone denied that?

    USNews is just an imperfect and often misleading way to identify stronger and weaker programs. But the fact remains that there are any number of things that makes university programs stronger, and those things are valuable.

    Go back and look at my SFSU post:

    If a program is producing successful graduates, that says something about the credibility of the program.

    If a graduate program is producing research that catches the imagination of a whole discipline, that's valuable.

    Teachers winning professional recognition for their teaching suggests that teaching is probably decent.

    Research facilities are important in many graduate programs.

    Giving graduate students publication opportunities can be tremendously important.

    Faculty authors say something.

    Creativity, innovation and unusual programs create intellectual excitement.

    Participating in and hosting professional meetings and conferences indicates participation and productivity.

    Research collaborations. Holding offices in professional organizations. Awards. Grant funding.

    OK, I accept that not all graduate students need all of those kind of things. I graduated from a fairly weak program myself. It met my needs rather well, and gave me an accredited piece of paper that may or may not have some value in my life down the road.

    But it is a mistake to let well-meaning political-correctness lead us to conclude that none of these indicators of a strong graduate program have any importance or that graduate programs that offer little are just the same as those that offer a lot.

    I have never suggested that DETC programs are worthless or that they lack utility to their students. I never suggested that (any? many? most?) DETC programs are worse than the weaker RA programs. (The newsgroup pinheads have put that in my mouth and have me saying it, but in reality I've reached no conclusion on that matter.)

    All I've done is suggest that few DETC programs seem to offer the kind of advantages offered by some of the stronger RA graduate programs. I don't think that anyone can successfully dispute that point.
  7. maranto

    maranto New Member

    Dear Michael,

    Excellent points! I generally try to stay out of the “hierarchy of utility” debates, because in my mind, they often miss the point. What I believe we sometimes lose sight of is the idea that many individuals are seeking an EDUCATION, not just vocational training or credential padding.

    Education is often where you find it. We all learn via different styles. We all have different expectations for our lifelong educational journeys. And we all have different life constraints that factor into what paths we explore.

    While I realize that the notion that everyone should go to Harvard or take a Harvard extension program is made tongue-in-cheek (especially since in my mind Harvard isn’t even in the top 20); I think we all have to realize that nothing is further from reality.

    While my views on higher education are not strictly egalitarian, I do think that individuals who have the intellectual capacity, the motivation, and the self-discipline to undertake higher education, should be allowed to do so in whatever form they choose (now, there is where the competitive forces come into play).

    With that I’ll end with two of my favorite quotes:

    “I am not impressed by the Ivy League establishments. Of course they graduate the best; it’s all they’ll take, leaving to others the problem of educating the country. They will give you an education they way the banks will give you money: provided you can prove to their satisfaction that you don’t need it.” Peter De Vries

    “Socrates gave no diplomas or degrees, and would have subjected any disciple who demanded one to a disconcerting catechism on the nature of true knowledge. G.M. Trevelyan

    Tony Maranto
  8. c.novick

    c.novick New Member

    Dr. Mike

    Thank you. :)

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. Not everyone can go to Yale or Harvard. Because life has a strange way of happening, not everyone can go to UCLA or USC.

    If you want a good education, and you go to a legitimate college to learn you shouldn't be looked down upon.

    Thank you again.

    Mike... going for his B.S.

    [email protected] New Member

    Let me repeat something I posted earlier:

    I did first year at an Ivy League university (Cornell). I learned calculus by doing excercices out of the Swokowski textbook. I then transferred to a public university (University of Alberta). I learned calculus by doing excercices out of the Swokowski textbook. No difference.

    If you're an undergrad, no matter where you go, you'll learn by doing the same exercises out of the same textbooks. If you're a grad student, what matters is not the quality of the school, but the quality of one professor there, your supervisor.

    Is there any advantage to going to an Ivy League university? Well, yes, you may make some friends from rich families. But in terms of formal education, not.

    So, when I say "Take the best course you can" (for whatever definition of "best" works for you), I'm not looking down on anyone. I'm saying that certain factors that were important in the brick-and-mortar world, such as geographical convenience -- and to a large extent, good grades for admission -- no longer operate in the DL world. Come the DL revolution, everyone can have the "best"! And thanks to competition, the "best" will become not only more widely available, but better.
  10. cehi

    cehi New Member

    [email protected]: "If you're a grad student, what matters is not the quality of the school, but the quality of one professor there, your supervisor."

    Cehi: I agree with this comment if it pertains only to your personal interest, and without generalizing for all others. Granted, graduate education has helped me advance in my professional, non-academic employment. I did not pursue a masters degree nor a doctoral degree because of the quality of the supervisor. I just wanted to have a Ph.D because I had the capacity, nothing else doing at the time, and ofcourse, someone else was paying for it without any monthly payment on principal and interest. In no way do I care about the quality of my supervisor. This does not mean someone should not care.

    Some people pursue an advance degree because they want to teach and some people do it because they like the word Ph.D (I am an example of such an initial interest, but right now, I do not even worry about the word any longer). My point is that the individual must know why he or she is pursuing a degree program and also, that our interest or rationale for higher degrees are different. I respect individual interests, but I will express my opposition when an individual interests are used to represent the interests for all.

    Thank you.
  11. mcjon77

    mcjon77 Member

    Hi All,

    I thought that I might contribute something to this thread. The whole debate regarding the hierarchy of schools and the utility of their respective degrees. IMHO, what one should do is ask themselves a few questions:
    1) What type of education do they want to receive from the program? If they are only concerned about getting the paper as quickly as possible, and not gaining additional knowledge, this will definately effect the school choice they make. NOTE: For some people, getting a degree solely for the credential is a completely valid reason. I can imagine situations where a person has been performing their job excellently for years, and a new requirement comes down from management stating that they must have a college degree/certification/license to keep their job.

    2) What do they plan on doing with their degree, i.e. what doors do they want tol open up as a result of having the official degree?
    This is where it gets sticky. If one has NO plans on using the degree as fullfillment of some job prerequisite, and is only getting the degree for personal enrichment, then any degree, even non-acredited (as long as it fulfills their personal enrichment goals) will do. Example: I am considering, after finishing up the masters program I am in now, enrolling in AMU's master's program. To be honest, I could care less whether it is RA because I would be taking the program only for my own personal enrichment. The classes just sound really fun, and from what I have read about the school, the profs are very good.

    Now if you are planning on using the degree for something (getting a job, getting into a graduate program) this is when you really need to take a cold hard look at things like acreditation, and reputation. A school's reputation has a HUGE effect on the job opportunities avalible to you. This happens in many ways, from a network of fellow alums who give you the inside track, to certain companies only recruiting from certain schools, to simply having an edge over an equally (sometimes more) qualified person who didn't go to an as prestigious school.

    3)What MIGHT I want to do with this degree?
    The last question is one a lot of people don't ask. While one type of degree may be fine for your needs now, it may be insufficient, or even a hinderance, to future goals.
    EXAMPLE: In reading the Harvard graduate school handbook, it has come to my attention that as a general rule, they give preference to people who do not already have a PhD or its equivlent, for entry into their PhD program. Northwestern won't consider your application at all if you already have a PhD.
    I know this may seem like a bit of a reach (how many people go for more than one PhD) but if you think this might be an issue for you in the future you may want to consider it. There are better examples out there (some Graduate programs specifically state that they require a regionally accredited Bachlor's degree). The point is that one has to keep all of these things in mind.


  12. Tom57

    Tom57 Member

    DETC vs. RA

    Sorry if this belabors points made elsewhere. I apologize if my point has already been made, responded to, or defended against.

    I'm not sure what Bill Dayson's comparison shows, other than an elaborate examination of apples and oranges. Of course, SFSU looks vastly different from a typical DETC-only school. SFSU is an institution that's been around for 100+ years. Thirty thousand students, plus faculty and administrators go to work there every day. It will, of course, have a different "footprint" than a relatively new institution that exists largely (entirely?) in a DL setting.

    I think most, if not all, of the browsers on this site realize this and can make appropriate decisions for themselves regarding the differences and how important they may or may not be personally.

    What Bill's comparison neglects are the time and evolution aspects. That is, how institutions change over time - how their "footprint" changes over the years. Of course, we can't look into the future and know how DETC schools will evolve. However, it might be instructive to think about SFSU, say around the turn of the century, when it was San Francisco State Normal School and had only a handful of students - a vastly different footprint for sure. No doubt that 1903 graduates must have learned something too, despite the puny footprint.


    BA, UC Berkeley
    MSc in progress, UoL, External
  13. BillDayson

    BillDayson New Member

    Re: DETC vs. RA

    It shows any number of things:

    1. Successful graduates.

    2. Work that's recognized by academic and professional peers, let alone by the media.

    3. Research facilities where appropriate.

    4. Collaborations.

    5. Awards.

    6. Publications.

    7. Participation in professional meetings and hosting same.


    True. That's why it often takes programs considerable time and effort in order to develop a vital intellectual life, to create opportunities for their students and to build academic reputations.

    But it's certainly possible for new schools to do very well. American Military University shows many of the kinds of factors that I listed above, and it's a DETC school that's only a few years old.

    How did I neglect that?

    Are you trying to argue that because virtually any weak program might conceivably grow much stronger in the future, we shouldn't say that it's relatively weak today?
  14. Tom57

    Tom57 Member

    Re: Re: DETC vs. RA

    Tom: no not at all. I'm only pointing out that virtually all schools start off as "weak", or shall we say, immature, and that until they build a kind of academic "critical mass" the kinds of comparison that you are making can be problematic. You're comparing institutions that are in vastly different places in terms of their evolution. Are you trying to argue that any institution that is "weak" today should be evaluated as though it will always be weak? I suspect not, just as I am not arguing that we should assume that all DETC schools will turn into MIT in the future.

    The bottom line is that I don't think potential students should necessarily evaluate DETC schools, or any other DL school, for that matter, by measuring the school against long-established B&M schools. If they do compare favorably by that standard, then fine. Not all will, though, and it's not necessarily a sign of "weakness", as you say, but can be a sign that the school is still evolving.
  15. Guest

    Guest Guest

    I think most people would argue here that you make the best choice when you have considered all of your options. There are limitations with almost any choice. NOVA may be a 4th Tier school, ORU may be a second Tier school but ORU has a little more name baggage, etc.

    My impression here is that in general folks here try to point out the pit falls. Yes, there are those who try to inflate the value of unaccredited degrees or pump up mills and those folks are going to have to put up with being taken to task. There are also those who falsely assume that DETC degrees have no value, etc. As a consumer I am not confused as I attempted to understand the differences and have managed a fairly good understanding. There are those who say RA or nothing, or NA is this and that. Personally, I try to be discerning and recognizing the limitations. There are places where an NA degree will be seen on equal footing for employment with an RA degree (my work place is one) and there are others it will not. There are schools (increasing number) that will take an NA degree for admission to doctoral work and a larger number that will not. People just need to be aware.

    I chose a Nationally Accredited doctoral program (60 credit hour) with full realization of limitations. Were I to have attended Capella/Walden/ORU (accepted to all) or UIU I would have realized the possible limitations in academia of these degrees. In all cases you end up with an accredited doctorate with varying degrees of utility. You have to weigh cost vs outcome and determine if it is acceptable to you.

    The ranking of things is natural and likely unavoidable. Minot State University may be a great University but is probably not going to get the recognition that University of Texas (Austin) a Top 50 National University is going to get or that University of Michigan would get, etc. American Christian College and Seminary is a good accredited school (hopefully stays that way.......but I digress) nonetheless I would be an idiot to try and assert that it is Dallas Theological Seminary (the Evangelical Harvard) in terms of perception/utility/etc.


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