What's better: PhD from a .com school or a DBA from a B&M?

Discussion in 'Business and MBA degrees' started by SurfDoctor, Aug 14, 2010.

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  1. Anthony Pina

    Anthony Pina Active Member

    Not all "for profits" operate alike

    CYBER: “...the main reason why online PhDs (that only require paying of high tuition) will never be ranked alongside traditional PhD programs at B & M Schools. To compete, online PhDs must require publications, conference presentations (as is the the case with majority of UNISA's PhDs, for example); but we know doing this will be antithetical to the very existence of "for-profits" (enrollment will reduce, so would the money)… Otherwise, except grads of online PhDs engage in publishing, and in presenting at conferences, on their own after earning the degree (stuff that should be part of their doctoral training), then they are being sold a bad product (worse for those who are just now getting those online PhDs”

    RFValve: “This is the bottom line of the problem. Traditional PhDs are really demanding so you see only few people taking such programs and not many working full time do them. I have seen academics doing distance PhDs but they have the summer offs, conference money, etc that make them good students for this type of programs. If for profit schools start asking demanding requirements, they will have no students so they keep the minimum requirements to remain accredited but not enough to make their graduates competitive enough.”

    To My Esteemed Colleagues:

    As someone who worked in non-profit (public and private) sector of higher education for 21 years (and private sector/”for-profit” for the past three), I have had direct experience with the “business” end of both sectors. I am always amused (and disappointed) when I read that only one sector (for-profit) cares about enrollment and income, when I know that the V.P.s at non-profits are every bit as concerned about the bottom line and that non-profit schools routinely put into place the same strategies used by the for-profits. I am also disappointed when sweeping statements that lump all private sector colleges and universities into a single unsavory bag--such as those above--are used by people who I have come to appreciate as thoughtful, intelligent folks who should know better.

    Case in point: I am currently working on a large scale research project with three of our Ph.D. students (interestingly, comparing the Ph.D. & DBA at over 600 universities). We have just submitted to present our research at a national conference and will be authoring at least two articles for peer-reviewed journals. The Ph.D. students will be full authors of the presentations and journal articles. Other Ph.D. students and faculty are working on different research which will result in similar outcomes.

    We do not have the intention of having 400 Ph.D. students in our program (we have less than a tenth of that). As one of the members of the Ph.D. admissions committee, I have had to participate in the rejection of numerous applications of students who either did not meet the academic qualifications or the experiential qualifications for admission. Sure, admitting them all may have made sense if short-term profits were the only motivating factor (as some appear to think). However, admitting students who would not be able to succeed in a research and theory-based Ph.D. program is not how one builds an institution that has been around for 50 years and wants to be around another 50. Our recent site visit from SACS to examine our Ph.D. came back with no “finds” or “recommendations,” which is the cleanest bill of health awarded by our accrediting agency.

    As was (correctly) pointed out earlier, our degree is not for people who aspire for their first job as full-time tenure-track faculty members; our students all come from industry and want to be able to generate new knowledge, research and ideas for their organizations. Some intend to teach as adjuncts, while most plan to stay with their organizations and/or serve as consultants.

    Not all “for-profits” operate alike.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2011
  2. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Fair enough. There are many people that every year get doctorates from online schools and the enrollment seems to be increasing.

    The question is, what is the motivation for this? What are the real value of these programs?

    You mentioned that these programs are not meant for people looking for academic careers but for people looking for adjunct careers, personal growth or improvement of professional career prospects.

    Not too long time ago, an MBA was more than enough to teach as an adjunct. What has changed that now you need to go for a 3 year online program to get the same job? Are adjunct positions now more demanding? Or is it that MBA programs are so dilluted that now you need a Doctorate just to be able to teach accounting 101?

    Many of the online courses are canned and require less knowledge of the content than before so is it really a doctorate required to teach them or just an accreditation requirement that really does not add much value to the student?. Aren't we just inventing products to keep people busy and make some money? How different is an online 3 year part time program different from the old good Master of Science program that was more specialized. Aren't we just rebranding the same thing with title "Doctor" just to give a more prestigious title for a sum of money?

    These are few questions that come to my mind.

    The reality is that if you look at the tuition fees, Doctoral programs tend to have the highest fees so it just makes sense to rebrand Master's program as doctoral programs to justify the increase.

    If research experience is all these programs sell, there is nothing that prevents you from publishing and attending conferences with only a master's. At the end of day, you are not going to be a tenure track faculty so there is no need for a formal doctoral qualification.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2011
  3. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    Actually, UNISA PhDs are as demanding as any on ground PhD from a British or SA B&M School. I applied once to the PhD in Quantitative Management and the program required research proposals, presentations, publications, etc. If you notice, most PhD UNISA holders work as academics in Africa.

    We have talked about UNISA during years in this forum but how many people really managed to finish a PhD from UNISA? I haven't seen anyone. This is just as indication that the program is not exactly created to be a money maker but to train academics. The program might not be ideal for people looking for tenure track in the US but it has worked for people working at African schools.
  4. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    Your entire post can be summed up in two words: Credential inflation.
  5. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    So basically, because many people are getting a doctorate, we should try to get one because we don't want to be less competitive.

    This is good for the education industry but I wonder if one really needs a doctorate to teach a canned online introductory course in accounting. It seems you don't need it but need to put one in your resume so you can get hired, if this is the case, it seems that the value added of an online PhD is only a piece of paper that helps to boost a resume but the actual knowledge you get is irrelevant.
  6. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    That's what leads to the proliferation, I say. For adjuncting at many schools, the canned curriculum pretty much means that the degree is little more than something needed to satisfy accreditation agencies.

    I know someone who took an online class from a state university, and he had several hundred students in the class with him. Graduate assistants did all the grading. I wonder---what exactly did the instructor do?

    In academia, if schools can get away with demanding a doctorate, they will demand one. It's easier to satisfy accreditation agencies that way. "Look, we have faculty with terminal degrees teaching all these classes!"

    IMO, the only reason that we don't see DBAs as standard in industry is the dissertation. If a coursework-only DBA could be completed, you'd see middle managers galore with newly-minted DBAs.

    For adjuncting, you don't see push-back because the only option is not to adjunct. If someone refuses to get a doctorate, there will be 5 more who have doctorates who would be willing to teach, probably for less money.

    It's absolutely ridiculous. Why would a university want someone who has demonstrated the ability to do original research only to administer a canned curriculum?
  7. Bruce

    Bruce Moderator Staff Member

    This is one of those times that I wish we had a "Like" button for posts.

    As I've said before, I dare anyone to say with a straight face that no one is making a profit at "non-profit schools" (perhaps the biggest oxymoron since "military intelligence").
  8. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    One reason is that there are more students in Master's level programs, and accreditors make schools hire faculty members with terminal degrees for those courses.
  9. Koolcypher

    Koolcypher Member

    Hey hey now, I recent that statement, :naughty: I work in military intel. Now I have to get back to work, I have to figure out how to turn my computer doo hickey thingey :ponder:
  10. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    I can say, with a straight face, that non-profit institutions typically price their educational product below cost. The difference is made up by government subsidies (in the case of public institutions) or by charitable donations and endowment returns (in the case of private non-profits). So they are, in general, unprofitable.

    Many non-profit schools reject many or most of their applicants; for example, MIT's rejection rate is 90%, even though most MIT applicants are highly qualified. If you want to enroll and pay tuition at MIT, there is a 90% chance that they will refuse to take your money. The reason they reject so many potential customers is because they lose money on each one, so there is a limit on the number they can afford to take.

    Could you explain, with a straight face, exactly who you think is making these profits at non-profit schools ?
  11. StefanM

    StefanM New Member

    To be fair, there is a difference between an elite non-profit and a lower-tier non-profit.

    At the top, the schools can have as many students as they want.

    At the bottom, schools compete for tuition dollars. These schools tend to have (much) smaller endowments, and tuition revenue is much more important.

    If you look at degree completion and online programs, it's even more pronounced. Non-profit schools want revenue as badly as for-profit schools do. They just want it for different reasons, such as building facilities, funding salaries, etc. For-profits want revenue in order to provide profits to shareholders. And, of course, there are shady dealings in non-profits, too---sweetheart contracts with "preferred" vendors, etc.

    (As a side note, I'm sure Bruce's heart just skipped a beat when reading that I am making this point.)
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 6, 2011
  12. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    All non-profit organizations, whether they are schools, churches, municipalities, hospitals, etc. need some form of revenue in order to survive. But that's obvious to everybody.

    So at for-profit schools, profits go to the shareholders. At non-profit schools, any extra revenue goes back into the maintenance and growth of the school. But that seems like a pretty significant difference.

    It's certainly possible that at some non-profit schools, some employees or contractors find ways to manipulate the system for their personal financial advantage -- just as sometimes happens with other non-profit organizations, like churches or local governments. But again, that should be obvious to everyone -- no one is going to argue that all non-profit institutions are completely free of corruption.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2011
  13. Shawn Ambrose

    Shawn Ambrose New Member

    ACBSP requires the terminal degree if you have an MBA program. ACBSP recognizes the JD as a terminal degree. CPA's are also recognized as terminal degree holders if the faculty member holds a MS in Accounting or similar degree.
  14. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I know that not everyone here teaches accounting but it just makes more sense to do a CPA than an online PhD from an online school. It is a lot cheaper and it also has a lot uses besides teaching online canned courses.
  15. Randell1234

    Randell1234 Moderator Staff Member

    Are the classes you teach canned? Do you modify them if they are?
  16. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    I don't teach much online now but all the online classes that I taught at online schools were canned. This means, the content was already designed for you, assignments were ready and many times solutions were also given to you. The online instructor was just expected to moderate discussions and grade work.

    This just makes sense from the cost perpective, it is just cheaper to develop one course that can be reused multiple times. The questions is why you would need a PhD just to moderate a canned class? If the job is mainly moderation, wouldn't be enough to have a Master's degree with online moderation training?

    It seems that new online PhDs sell the idea that you can become an adjunct with this degree, the problem is that you did not require this to become an adjunct before but now because they exist it seems that employers expect you to have one.

    You can argue that online PhDs can also help you to do research in the corporate environment. However, last time I checked, very few companies have a business research department that conducts research studies in business.

    It seems that credential inflation is required to keep the business going. We can argue that now because many people have PhDs, there is a need for a Post Doc certificate that can help to specialize even more in a specific area and we can argue that people that teach this new certificate need to be Post Doc themselves, then we can convince people that graduates with this Post Doc can become Post Doc adjuncts and can help them to differentiate themselves among existing PhDs.

    In few words, we can keep inventing credentials just to keep the cash flow coming but I really argue about the value of these programs to society.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2011
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    I've been on staff at three non-profit universities, and this hasn't been true for any of them.
  18. RFValve

    RFValve Well-Known Member

    We have seen people here that were willing to teach for free just to get their foot in the door.

    Two online schools that I worked for have not increased any salaries since 2003. Why If there are people willing to do it for even less?.

    I'm surprised we haven't seen schools that actually charge money for the previledge to teach there. This could be another revenue generator that for profit schools have not explored.
  19. CalDog

    CalDog New Member

    My sense is that your experience with non-profit schools is primarily with their e-learning programs. I suspect that many non-profits do, in fact, use such programs as "cash cows"; the revenue that they generate is greater than the cost. So what makes them different from for-profit programs? At for-profits, the surplus revenue is sent to the shareholders. At non-profits, the surplus revenue is used help subsidize other programs that lose money.

    You see the same thing in college athletics. For example, I'm sure that the revenue generated by the Notre Dame football program (tickets, merchandise, TV rights, etc). exceeds the program's cost. But I'm equally sure that the exact opposite is true for the Notre Dame golf, cross-country, fencing, softball, lacrosse, rowing, track, and volleyball programs.

    Think again about those non-profits where you worked. Do you really believe that every program and service offered by those universities was financially profitable ? These are non-profit institutions, and so you have to look at the balance sheet for the institution as a whole.
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 7, 2011
  20. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    You might want to run a diagnostic on your sensors, then. At none of the four has my primary responsibility been online learning, until last month at the institution where I am now. Only at one of them, the then-regionally accredited for profit, were online students a significant revenue source.

    I really don't need to think about it again since I knew what I was talking about the first time. Yes, even considered individually, even their smaller programs generally seemed to break even. Consider that for many subjects a school will need to have a few faculty members to handle general education requirements. That softens the blow when it comes to the expense of offering a major or minor in a subject that only attracts a few students. I'm not going to say that all their programs were always in the black, but non-profits aren't necessarily going to keep offering a major that's a money pit any more than a for profit would. What non-profits might be more willing to tolerate are majors that break even but don't turn a profit.

    I expect that part of what's happening here is that many people don't realize that the meaningful difference is not between for profit and non-profit institutions, it's between those institutions that are tuition driven and those that are sufficiently endowed not to be. You might be surprised how many non-profits are in the former category, and how much that leads their decision making to resemble that of for profits.
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