Sunday, June 26, 2005

$9,899 Tuition for a Worthless Degree?


Dr. Morton Middlefart, Rushmore University graduate Posted by Hello

I have to choose my words carefully since I would prefer not to be sued by Rushmore University. If you've never visited the campus of Rushmore, that's understandable. There is none. Rushmore, you see, is a totally online, totally unaccredited "university." Some people call businesses like Rushmore diploma mills, but I wouldn't do that.

Rushmore is certainly different from the more widely known, accredited online universities, such as the University of Phoenix. You can enroll in Rushmore's MBA (Master of Business Administration) program for a one-time payment of $5,499. No Bachelor's degree, the normal prerequisite for an MBA? No problem, because Rushmore doesn't require a Bachelor's degree. Don't waste your time studying for the usual admissions test either. There is none. Speed is of the essence at Rushmore, though. Because there are no admissions tests and no transcripts required, your application will be processed in a mere three days.

Rushmore also offers a Ph.D. Don't forget to send $9,899 payable to Rushmore if you're applying for the doctoral program. I'm not quite sure why the doctorate costs almost twice as much as the MBA, but completion of a doctorate allows one to claim the title of Dr.

One of the advantages of being a student at Rushmore is that there are no tests to take. From what I can tell from the school's website the curriculum consists of reading a series of books, most of which I read when I was 13 or 14 years old, and writing a short book report on each. Dale Carnegie's How to Win Friends and Influence People is one example of a book that some Rushmore students have read in fulfillment of a course requirement. It looks like a Rushmore student can earn a doctorate by reading and reviewing 10 or so books of this sort, and then writing a thesis. Dr. Middlefart's thesis has been turned into a published book, which Rushmore encourages.

If only Rushmore had been around when I was a teen. I could have sent my check, written my book reviews and a thesis, and subsequently strutted around with the title Dr. in front of my name. To be honest, being on the football team would have been more prestigious than calling myself "Dr.," so I guess it doesn't matter that my doctorate came years later, after reading a lot of technical books that make the Dale Carnegie classic look like kindergarten stuff.

The question Rushmore graduates must ask, and I would've asked even as a teen, is whether the degree is worth the tuition. You see, universities, the accredited kind, try to make sure that their graduates are able to perform on the job once they graduate. They do this by imparting some degree of rigor to the curriculum, requiring admissions tests, and assessing students' progress (by testing them). Rushmore, in my opinion, is lacking all of these characteristics. That's not to say that it's a diploma mill. Diploma mills require no work of their students. Rushmore does. It's just not very rigorous work that Rushmore requires.

There is a free rider issue in accredited universities, however, that sometimes weakens rigor, leads to a watering down of courses, and results in grade inflation. The downhill slide starts when student "consumers" raise a ruckus because standards are too high, at least in their opinions. In other words, students love an easy A. Ok, that's human nature--the something for nothing mentality. But if all students receive easy As, then the reputation of the university giving those easy As is going to hit the skids pretty fast.

A university whose graduates are found lacking by employers will find that employers won't hire more of those graduates. Then, the chickens come home to roost, as my grandmother used to say. The degree becomes worthless in the marketplace. A university that passes everybody on with high grades confers a degree that's devalued in the market place. The degree depreciates quicker than a '83 Yugo sold by Honest John's Used Auto Sales.

Thus, individually, students would like an easy course, easy grade, and easy degree. But collectively, it's in their interests to maintain rigor. In the case of unaccredited "universities" like Rushmore, the all-too-apparent lack of rigor is going to mean that most of its graduates will never teach at an accredited college or be viewed in the same light as someone with a degree from an accredited institution. Still, the degree may not be totally worthless. A diploma hanging on a wall is worth something as a status symbol. So is the right to call yourself Dr.

From what I've seen on his web site, Rushmore graduate Dr. Morton Middlefart is a cool guy from Denmark with a less than cool name. Like Dr. Middlefart, Rushmore graduates seem to be all male and already in the business world. If Rushmore can give them a boost in their careers, then who am I to criticize? I'm just not sure how much of a boost they're going to receive. Ultimately, unaccredited universities like Rushmore will have to pass the market test and demonstrate to prospective students that they're worth the cost of their tuition. That's the way of the free market.

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39 Comments:

At 11:49 AM, Blogger Veronica said...

I never before really understood the meaning behind "accredited" university and I often wondered who decided which institutions were accredited and were not, however, paying any fees in tuition to a non-accredited university for any degree does seem like a waste of money; assuming any employer would not consider that as a valid entry on a resume, what is the point from seeking a degree from such a place? It's best to stick with what is familiar and err on the side of caution.

 
At 11:55 AM, Blogger Lena Nevel said...

It seems to me like this university is just one more of the schemes people see everyday. The establishers grab their money now while they can, and whenever the university will start to get less incomers they will close down. We see it everyday in every part of the world.

 
At 1:07 PM, Blogger giovanna madrigal said...

Tuition being what it is today, some people might want to opt for this option. Well as the old saying goes, you get what you pay for. In this case it probalbly isn't much.

 
At 5:53 PM, Blogger Marlo M said...

There's no such thing as a free lunch...or even really such a cheap lunch. Sounds pretty nice in theory...but like Giovana said, you get what you pay for.
And, poor Dr. Middlefart. With a last name like that one has to have pity!

 
At 9:54 PM, Blogger Jennifer C. said...

Im very iffy on all of these supposed 'online' degrees in a short period of time. To be safe I'll just spend my time and money at a regular university.

 
At 11:28 PM, Blogger Mitul said...

I have never looked into this option, because I think it does not work. Easy as that, why waste money on a online degree that has no meaning,why not just opt for a cheaper community college, theres all kinds of things out there consider grants and loans.

 
At 11:47 AM, Blogger Guillermo said...

I must agree with you a 110% Dr. Ayers. This really hurts a great deal considering all the hard work one puts into establishing themselves within a business, work environment or within a community for that matter. Yet one thing is definitely clear, those who use the free ride will never ascertain or achieve RESPECT. One may have the title of expert, but if they can't apply the human capital to support their title then they are nothing more than a walking shell of ignorance.

 
At 1:30 PM, Blogger Maria S said...

I suppose if Rushmore is able to get away with it, and we call it free market, our ecomony and the government, the citizens eventually are going to pay the consequences for allowing such business to operate when they are nothing but scams.

 
At 2:32 PM, Blogger Daniel said...

I rather stick to going to UTSA and get and accredited degree and worthless piece of paper. That is going to cost more than $9,899.

 
At 5:09 PM, Blogger eva said...

With a name like that, there is no way that I would even think about getting a degree from a non-accredited university. It does seem like a scheme, I agree with lena.

 
At 8:50 PM, Blogger Tony and Lindsay said...

I don't think I would even think about "investing" in this program. In thinking about various organizations and other things that I have had to apply for or just fill out paperwork for, they often ask if the University attended is accredited. I think that checking "no" could be, and most likely would be, damaging. Yeah, an accredited school might cost more and take more time, but I can't really see how it is a bad choice because it will pay off in the long run. I just really believe that the majority, if not almost all, of businesses want someone who has true education experience.

 
At 10:36 AM, Blogger Sue Gruchacz said...

This article hits close to home. I don't know if any of your remember the report that the Trouble Shooters did on teachers in the local area who did not have degrees from accredited universities. One in particular occurred at Kirby Middle School in the Judson ISD. I work at that school presently as a paraprofessional and am going to school to first get a Bachelor's Degree in English and then a Master's Degree with Certification for Teaching. There was a teacher at Kirby who received his Master's Degree from one of those bogus universities and was receiving and extra $11,900 per school year for that degree. I don't need to tell you that that is just a little less than I make as a paraprofessional. Isn't the education system bad enough without giving money away to people who don't deserve it? I can't believe when we hire people and decide their value based on educational achievement, should we not have a system in place to check to make sure those degrees were actually earned? If you choose the short route to education you will get a short education.

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger CivilTreeHugger said...

The UTSA College of Engineering recently went through an accreditation process to determine whether us engineering majors are really learning what we need to know before we graduate. This is a HUGE deal for engineers because you have to graduate from an accredited school to become a professional engineer. The college takes this task very seriously and thankfully the college passed the test and won't need to be reviewed for another 6 years.

In my opinion if you know of someone who has a bogus degree... you are ethically responsible to report that to an official.

 
At 3:17 PM, Blogger Collin Arnold said...

That's interesting - I didn't know that such "universities" existed. I love the name Middlefart too, by the way.

 
At 10:34 AM, Blogger adrian said...

I would prefer a degree from an accredited university, than one from a non-accredited university. What is the point of having the title of Dr. if it is meaningless in eyes of people who know the difference between accredited and non-accredited universities? I think you are better off earning your degree the credible way than paying a lot of money for a degree that is not credible in the eyes of true professionals.

 
At 3:41 PM, Blogger Felicia said...

Does this have anything to do with the famous wacky movie "Rushmore" on the loser student.. just wondering:)

 
At 1:16 PM, Blogger Stephanie J said...

Whats the point of spending money on school if you can't really use the degree you get after schools over? I would never spend close to $10,000 just for a title.

 
At 9:47 PM, Anonymous wan Chen said...

Some people may want to feel better about themselves. Get an highest education is a way of achievement. But
spend lots money for buying some happiness, it is worth for someone. that is why the Rushmore university still in business.

 
At 12:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

confuscious say man with hand in pocket feel happy

 
At 12:09 PM, Blogger Chris G said...

True story.My neighbour Bill,his daughter attends NYU and is majoring in .......animation.Mean while Bill just recieved his statement from the university stating that after the first year of school he now owes approx-35.k.Now unless there is a huge demand in his daughters field she stands to make about 25k a year,if shes LUCKY.Do the math after 4 years of school AND the fact that she is living in Manhattan.Cost/Benefit ratio is something perhaps his daughter should consider.

 
At 1:54 PM, Blogger Michelle G. said...

Employers should make sure they are doing their homework on the people whom are applying to work at their company. The title "Dr." is earned by years of hard work, I don't believe it is fair for someone just to be able to fork over money and be titiled "Dr."

 
At 3:47 PM, Blogger rosario said...

I agree with Michelle. Employers should follow up on educational background of employees. Since individuals with the title Dr. usually earn more money, their degree from an accredited university should be verified.

 
At 6:08 PM, Blogger cano said...

It looks like someone is profitting from this and others are being robbed. If you fall for this, you're probably not that intelligent and fall for anything. Who would trust such a lie?

 
At 10:20 PM, Blogger AQUIETUSx said...

In reality some of those online programs that are accredited are ten times better than a classroom. How many of you students have take n a class that is real hard but you knew what to study for, so as long as you studied, you got good grades. Then in the next semester you take a class that seem easy but your professor is horrible and when that test comes, the questions aren't anything like what the material you were studying for. With a online class you know exactly what to study because you know straight forward what you are studying for, straght from the book. After taking both, the plain reason those online programs are getting popular is becasue they save us lots of those stupid pointless hours with professor who couldn't teach crap. I remember my dad who is a professor at Ohio state said the whole job and creditentials of a teacher is their ability to TEACH, not lecture on what they know! As long as we have sorry tesachers like that, the online programs will recieve more love and more accreditdations will be going their way.

 
At 1:48 PM, Blogger Ronald M. Ayers said...

Chris G., good story. Maybe you should advise the father on economics.

 
At 2:09 PM, Blogger Sara Humphrey said...

I have to agree with Veronica. It all sounds a little suspicious to me. I mean, what are the rest of us doing working our butts off for our degrees from an accredited university if you can do much less for more. It doesn't make sense to me at all. It reminded me of that couple who made people all sorta of different degrees for a fee of some sort. Of course, they were caught and prosecuted, hoever, something like that makes it difficult for people to know what is real and what is not.

 
At 9:08 PM, Blogger Alexandra said...

First of all what kind of name is Middlefart? Wow, I would do anything to make up for that name. Oh I am being harsh. Anyway, this seems like a scheme to me. Although it sounds real nice it doesn't seem like its worth the money to me. I must say if I was knieve and lazy I would totally sent my check 4 years ago.

 
At 7:15 PM, Blogger Elizabeth said...

i wouldn't trust an online university for anything. but then again, i don't trust most things online, the internet is too shady.

 
At 3:34 PM, Anonymous Michael Cox said...

As the founder of Rushmore University I can tell you there is a good reason that ourprograms work the way they do and our students and Rushmore itself are successful in the marketplace. In 1995 I did research that indicated that traditionally accredited Business Schools programs were failing their customers (their students and the companies that paid their way). The articles I read later turned up in bibliography of Stanford Professor Jeffrey Pfeffer’s article The End of Business Schools that is linked to the top of our homepage.

Before they enroll prospective students see that our students are publishing books and writing very good papers (see community.rushmore.edu to browse papers), some that are even published in academic journals. Students can not write book reports nor can they write the standard type of research papers like the ones that can be purchased from the Internet. See www.rushmore.edu/practical2.htm for our requirements for papers.

We do this at a reasonable cost because are strictly a virtual online school. We have no need for a central office (though we do have several mail addresses around the world) as our faculty live all over the US and in many other places in the rest of the world. Our professors are almost all part-time, they are active professionally and some teach at traditional schools. Most have doctorate degrees from major traditionally accredited universities and some have Harvard MBA degrees.

The real issue is which is the biggest scandal in business education, that the traditionally accredited business schools force their students to study obsolete curriculums that waste thousands of and dollars on irrelevant courses, or the existence of an independent school that breaks the rules of the establishment so that its students can learn things that will help them in their career as they put ideas into practice at work.

 
At 5:11 AM, Blogger sandeep KUULSHRESTHA said...

Its actually better to enroll in a program at Swiss Management Center (http://www.swissmc.ch/distance_learning_programs/doctoral_programs) which also offers online MBA and DBA. Their fees is around 9200 Euros but its worth it as their academic standards are pretty OK. They do have few campuses as well.

 
At 2:18 PM, Blogger E.T. said...

I’ve done some research on Rushmore and this whole contentious issue of ‘accreditation’. Based on this research and listening to the various views expressed, I humbly submit that: Rushmore University is not for people whose academic or professional advancement will immediately, or in the future, be decided by others who will make assumptions regarding their competence based on the course of study/studies they have undertaken. On the other hand, Rushmore may be a good option for people somewhat established in their field, already acknowledged by others as possessing a significant degree of professional acumen and practical expertise; and who wish to both upgrade their knowledge and skills while gaining an academic designation that basically ‘rubber stamps’ their level of expertise and competence. The vast majority of the alumni of Rushmore seems to fit the latter category anyway.

 
At 5:15 AM, Anonymous Earl de Blonville said...

Many employers, in Australia and overseas, now regard the MBA as a worthless qualification, unless it is matched by considerable real-life experience, irrespective of which university it came from. Once, an MBA was the gold standard, and those who qualified were usually well experienced professionals and the degree process enabled them to build on their experience and give it more shape and power. Now, seemingly inexperienced kids arrive in the workplace all puffed up with an MBA based on no real world experience. They may have a bit of paper, but no maturity, no hard experience, no judgement or wisdom. So, over the last 20 years, there has been a lot of change in business education, some may say a watering down of standards. Clint Eastwood today asks how it is that every minor actor, every empty headed heiress, is called a star, when once the word 'star' stood for real achievement rather than mere participation. Equally, we might ask of what worth are MBAs and any related degrees, even from recognised institutions, when their value in the business world has slipped so low. Equally, we might take a closer look at the Rushmore model than enables older, experienced professionals to knock their considerable experience into shape and make it more valuable. Of course, I would suggest that, wouldn't I, given that I'm enrolled at Rushmore on a Doctoral program. But I chose Rushmore from many others because I could see how the system worked for the students and I have respect for the Professors and their commitment to students. Ten grand buys you a good secondhand Jap motorbike, a new Rolex or a memorable holiday to Europe: each of which will either lose value, be lost or stolen or is done the day you return to work. My Doctoral work, which I do for my pleasure, will help me develop abilities, understanding, judgement, world view and self esteem. And these will appreciate and last me forever. Above all, I'm setting the learning challenge and my integrity will ensure the full value of the outcome. And it's fun. My work is totally original and when published will make an important contribution to our understanding of world leadership. All this for a mere ten grand makes it ridiculously cheap, as well as a fantastic investment in developing my real potential. So when bagging non-mainstream learning, first ask if mainstream learning itself is any good and secondly, bear in mind the sheer diversity of student needs in what has become an incredibly complex knowledge world.

 
At 10:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sir, I am an adult learner and have completed my AA and BS from reputable universities and currently pursuing my Masters degree. As an adult learner and a business manager for 17 years for a major corporation, be more concerned about ripped off from any university, accredited or not. I sit class through class, opening up a book, reading from it and then turning in a report. I could do this on my own. I would just buy a book, read the chapter and write a report. I read your little cry baby story. Universities don't give a dam about you, they are a business, and just like Rushmore they only care about the bottomline. Even Harvard Univerity offers degrees online because it's all about the money. Stop venting and grow up. Take your lumps and move on. Rushmore will survive with or without you. I don't see Rushmore suing you over your opinion, which you are entitled to.

 
At 4:47 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think you have or gave any information to say that Rushmore's program is less challenging than regular universities.

I did Masters at a well established Uk University and they use very similar format for studies. The only difference is that Thesis is presented in Person.

I think Rushmore looks good at least from the website. Especially for those who mostly want to develop some skills

 
At 11:41 AM, Blogger BJJ said...

Regarding the comment from Michael Cox...

If you are, indeed, the founder of Rushmore University, I can understand why there is so much controversy regarding your degrees. Your English, grammar and punctuation are horrendous. If this is an example of the type of work the Rushmore students produce, then I will stick with the old fashioned way of getting a degree... I'll EARN it.

 
At 6:20 AM, Blogger Morten Middelfart said...

I have been watching this blog for a while, and to be honest, I did not really see the value in writing on it even though I seemed to be the primary target of the debate. However, what made me write this entry was BJJ’s comment to Michael Cox, which I will get back to later...

First of all, to the question mark in the title basically asking “is Rushmore worth it?” -for me this is a clear “Yes”, if you want to know in detail what I learned, and how it directly gave value to me in my job , please visit my website referenced so nicely by Ronald M. Ayers (www.morton.dk). By the way, it seems to me that most people criticizing Rushmore have not been enrolled or otherwise involved with the university.

It should be noted in this context that I have degrees from both accredited and unaccredited institutions, so I know both types of systems; but I wonder how many of those criticizing Rushmore have this? I should point out to those of you, who are so focused on accreditation, that this is a US issue only. I have been lecturing on a number of occasions on Danish state universities as well as private institutions based on my MBA and Ph.D. research, so I have definitely not had any problems with regards to the street credibility mentioned by Ronald M. Ayers.

But in the end, what really matters above all is what you learn; and at Rushmore I learned far more than on any other education I ever had! By the way, I did meet my tutor on several occasions in person as well, but the fact that Rushmore is purely virtual, means that the ability to collaborate through the internet are at a very high level compared to anything else I have seen –it is simply embedded in the culture rather than “a nice additional source of income” such as it can be seen on some universities offering both.

A thing that perhaps should be mentioned in this context is, that every institution starts out unaccredited, so there is nothing suspicious in being unaccredited for a start (Rushmore was founded in 1996). I would not be surprised though, if Rushmore was accredited at some point in the future… Meanwhile, perhaps some of us could be asking, why are we so eager to throw stones at something new we do not know from the inside…?

To Ronald M. Ayers in particular, I think you should know that my name is properly spelled “Middelfart” and in Denmark it is also the name of a town, so all my life that name has actually been unique -and pretty cool! ;-) This being said, I think we should all consider what leaders we are teaching for the future to come, when I see comments about misspelling rather than content, and the general ignorance of geography from your students: Marlo M, Collin Arnold and Alexandra…

Now about BJJ’s comment to Michael Cox, I am happy for you that you want to “earn a degree”, you can do that whether you go to Rushmore or not… -but I could not help looking at your profile, and at your blog labeled “My Ideas” which is totally empty. I hope for you in the future, that you will spend more time innovating and looking at the big picture, searching for meaning rather than picking on specific details that may not matter in the long run…

Finally, to Ronald M. Ayers, thank you for labeling me “a cool guy”, I am sure you are also pretty cool… -and now you know about the spelling of my name as well as a little Danish geography… ;-)

Peace!
Morton ;-)

P.S. is it just me, or has blogging become increasingly destructive over the past few years? –I remember a time where the internet was an encouraging source of inspiration, more and more, it seems that we are venting the negatives rather than positives. Is this really who we are…?

 
At 10:10 AM, Blogger Ike said...

Really, the best way I can figure to explain this as concisely as possible is a phrase I have heard repeatedly over the years; "garbage in, garbage out."
If someone wants to hold a credential, regardless of where it was obtained, that person must have some form of substantiating proof that can attest to having the knowledge that is inherent to the credential. If you want a degree, you need to have a demonstrated knowledge level that is consistent with having the degree.
That being said, I have not found any evidence to suggest that accredited institutions actually provide any greater value to the graduates than an unaccredited one. As mentioned in the blog post, it is more important that the degree passes the market test, and this brings me back to my point about having demonstrated your knowledge acquired through obtaining the degree.
For anyone looking to hire someone who states that they have a degree, I would suggest that it is more important to have that potential employee demonstrate knowledge that would have been inherent with that degree, and how that knowledge is applied in the position.
An unaccredited degree and an accredited degree are both a waste of money if you are unable to demonstrate a higher level of knowledge as a result of the education.

 
At 3:57 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here is someting interesting about the tutorial method of Rushmore:
"Founded in 1096 in Oxford, England, Oxford University is the oldest English-speaking university in the world. Over the nine centuries since then, Oxford has graduated five kings, 40 Nobel Prize winners, 25 British Prime Ministers, nine current holders of the Order of Merit, three Saints, 18 Cardinals and 85 Archbishops.

The Tutorial Method has been used at Oxford for more than 500 years. It is a rigorous, individualized method of teaching and learning. Each Oxford student has an academic tutor (an Adviser or Professor). An Oxford education emphasizes learning to think through research and writing. Oxford students are responsible for planning their own time and ensuring that the requisite work is accomplished."

I'm sure this method is one that stud the test of time and to reach the Dr. level at Rushmore is definitely hard work (as far as I know it takes 3 year research time).

I think if they even give you a guidance (a professor who actually writes the expert books) is a fantastic opportunity to become an expert on a given field.
While one becomes master of a field it reads about 70-100 books. If you need the knowledge you can do it without any school but if you get a guide it does not matter where you do it.

 
At 10:53 PM, Blogger Daengbo said...

Because I have a good friend who's enrolled at Rushmore, I'll take a swing at this.

Looking at the website, most of the alumni are not from English-speaking countries. Rushmore seems to target these people. While I believe that the curriculum my friend is doing/has done is quite difficult for him, a good part of that has to do with university-level English. It probably would be much easier for me.

He doesn't get a free ride. He submits draft after draft (for his MBA, which is Rushmore's strength, it seems), and has them rejected or severely criticized for lack of critical thinking. His papers are looked over by an editor to improve his English, which is excellent for day-to-day use but which is not good enough to read the texts offered without hard work. It takes him a couple of months to finish a course worth three credits.

So, in my mind all that certainly eliminates Rushmore as a diploma mill.

On the other hand, that work certainly isn't as hard as it would be at a good western university. Rushmore might be at the level of a small, local college, though, and since he doesn't get to take tests or regurgitate information, he really seems to understand what he's being taught. It's certainly better than a community college or anything in his country available to adult learners.

Businesses in the U.S., Canada, or England would be silly to give a Rushmore degree the same weight as one from a major university, but my friend won't be working in the U.S so I doubt that's important to him.

He'll apply for work in his own country, where the education system doesn't consistently produce good English speakers or people who can think critically about anything. It's more in the Confucian tradition of memorize and test.

He'll probably get to the interview based on his Rushmore "degree" plus some example of his work, and then his years of actual experience and the skills he learned at Rushmore will make him stand out from the other candidates who can't do what he does.

In the end, I think it'll work out for him. No matter what, he hasn't wasted his time if you consider the real education he's getting.

 

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