Meritus University brushes off CAUT criticism

Private university denies receiving public funds


An emerging online university in New Brunswick has denied outright that it is benefiting at all from post-secondary funding dedicated to public universities, the school’s president said yesterday.

John Crossley told The Daily Gleaner that his private, for-profit schoolexpected to roll out courses this fallhas never even applied for funding from any level of government.

Just one day earlier in the Daily Gleaner, Canadian Association of University Teachers executive director James Turk called New Brunswick’s public funding of the private institution “irresponsible.”

“They make a pitch to government for various kinds of financial support and assistance,” Turk said of Meritus Univesity, “and every penny that goes to them is a penny that should go to the cash-strapped public universities. It is irresponsible for the government of New Brunswick to be putting money into private, for-profit universities.”

But Crossley told the paper that no such requests for funding were ever made.
“It was suggested by the (CAUT) that Meritus is somehow taking away from public universities, but in fact, none of that is true,” he said. “No money has been diverted from support of public universities because no money was given to Meritus.”

Meritus is owned by Apollo Group Inc., a Phoenix, Arizona-based company that is one of the world’s largest providers of private education. It’s most important property is the University of Phoenix, which describes itself on its website as “the largest private university in North America, with nearly 200 convenient locations, as well as Internet delivery in most countries around the world.” Turk accused the organization of having “a murky past” thanks to two cash settlements it was forced to make in 2004 that both involved recruitment policies. The settlements totalled almost U.S. $290 million.

Crossley again denied that those cases had any bearing on the quality of education provided by Meritus.

“Bringing up two old and debatable court decisions does not say anything about Apollo Group or Meritus University,” he told the Daily Gleaner.

Meritus will offer several business-related degrees: a master’s in business administration and bachelor’s degrees in business administration and information technology management. It is headquartered in Fredericton’s Knowledge Park.


Meritus University brushes off CAUT criticism

  1. The comments about Apollo Group by the Canadian Association of University Teachers executive director James Turk are simply hilarious. Of course he will go out of his way to say something derogatory about his competition. Much like we at UPS do not have many positives to say about FedEx. For the Daily Gleaner to publish his comments as news is embarrassing for the Daily Gleaner. Apollo Group has a different education model that poses a very real threat to the way of life to the tenured professors Mr. Turk represents. Competition is good and healthy for our Canadian industries, especially one as set its ways as our University system. For the editor of the Daily Gleaner, please remember you are a news organization, not the public relations arm for tenured professors.

  2. Online universities attract first-rate faculty from all over the world and can operate at a fraction of the cost of our traditional Canadian Universities. The fat, 6-figure salaries of faculty at our universities represent the largest single operating expense at those institutions.

    And those expenses are largely covered by taxpayer dollars. The best universities cover about 40% of their operating expenses by tuition, some less than 5%. The private model demands that all costs be covered by tuition. The CAUT SHOULD be worried. It is they who are under fire, not Meritus or the Apollo Group.

  3. I’ve got news for you: if you are not paying competitive salaries, your are not getting “first-rate faculty.”

    Meritus claims that no monies have been “diverted” from public universities. That is not the same as saying that the provincial government has not offered or been asked for any funding.

    Calling the court decisions “debatable” is odd; surely they are a matter of public record?

    One final note: careful reader will notice that any story about Meritus attracts a swarm of supportive comments. They clearly put a lot of effort into PR.

  4. And of course you are just “Miriam Jones”, interested third party, not Miriam Jones, professor of English at UNB correct? Seems there may be more than one side swarming in this debate.

    An interesting note about UNB faculty is that in spite of their aversion to private schools, a quick look at their faculty credentials show many professors holding degrees from private institutions. In fact, several can be found holding degrees from institutions accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the same organization that accredits University of Phoenix.

  5. Oh, Ken Parsons, you sly dog, you. You have very cleverly completely avoided Miriam’s objection to your earlier statement by first making an ad hominem attack, followed by a statement that is completely irrelevant to the issues raised by her. Well done.

    You claim that online universities attract first-rate faculty from all over the world, yet manage to avoid paying the ‘fat 6-figure salaries’ of faculty at other institutions. Let’s set aside other considerations such as research facilities and funding, something such online schools lack for a moment, and focus solely on payroll.

    The way I see it, there are three options
    1. Online universities do not attract first-rate faculty
    2. Online universities do pay their faculty competitive rates
    3. Online universities are somehow able to attract first-rate faculty without paying them what they can get at traditional schools.

    To claim 1 or 2 would be retracting your earlier statements, but 3 seems ludicrous.

    If I am a first-rate faculty that is is high demand, why would I go to a school that can’t pay me as well and has little opportunity for research? What could they possibly offer me?

    On my own final note: I’m suspicious of any institution that offers degrees solely in hot, buzzword-y fields like ‘information technology management’. There’s nothing wrong with specialization, but it makes you wonder why this is one of the only two fields that Meritus offers ‘degrees’ in.

  6. Wow, Travis, I think you are taking a very narrow view of higher education.

    First, you are a little light on the options. Here are the most common scenarios:
    1. The faculty member has a home university where they do research and one or more online universities where they teach
    2. The faculty member is retired and just wants to teach a few courses without having to physically move to Canada’s snow belt
    3. Or like many institutions, the instructors are drawn from industry and are not academics. This is very common if you poll Canadian MBA programs.

    As to the catchy program names, I don’t like them either, but they have already infiltrated Canadian public universities. How about Memorial University’s MEd in Information Technology as an example. It should also be noted that the provincial government approves programs and program names even for private institutions. Universities like Meritus and Lansbridge are reviewed by MPHEC, same as UNB.

  7. Pingback: U.S. For-Profit Online Higher Ed in Canada « Higher Education Management Group

  8. Obviously there is ongoing banter between public and private sector University level educators. Each has an agenda to defend.

    Private Universities have both advantages and disadvantages for both professors and students, as do public universities. One could write an entire term paper on this subject alone.

    To bottom line the issues, the question should be, how many qualified educators are unable to work in their chosen field simply on the grounds that there are limited tenured positions available for the multitude of qualified and gifted instructors.

    What all arguments posted have failed to mention is the student. Are student populations that are normally not capture by public universities now gaining access to quality education? Are the programs resulting in a more educated and qualified work force? Are these students finding themselves qualified for more professional positions and better salaries?

    It both institutions are policed by the same agency then all arguments above, along with the subject matter expert quoted in the originating article are engaging in a turf war, to the detriment of the students.


  9. I agree that there is a lack of concern for students in the above debate. Looking at the tuition costs for both Meritus and regular public post secondary institutions can show why online schools have much to offer students.

    First, many public schools are expensive, although Meritus has high tuition costs, it is possible for students to pay as they ‘go’, instead of paying large lump sums up-front. Second the largest cost associated with post-secondary education are living expenses that many students incur from having to move to another city to attend school. Online schools are a great alternative for individuals with low budgets who live in remote cities. Online schools are able to offer similar quality of education at a fraction of the costs because they do not need to maintain buildings ect.

    In addition, many public schools are now offering online degrees are for example, Dalhousie’s MBA (which is highly regarded in the finance industry).

    The fact is, there is a larger demographic of people needing a University degree, but Universities are exclusive. Many people cannot commit to a full-time degree, or even a part-time degree because of the schedules for classes. These are the working class who can not afford to “not work” in order to obtain a degree. Young and old.

    Furthermore, the government is slowly getting out of the business of education (anyone notice how tuition costs are skyrocketing? and government is paying less into subsidizing student’s tuition). Yes the private sector is trying to bank on student’s need for a degree, but they are filling a need and providing a benefit. Is that not how most corporations operate?

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