Letter: Beem uses too wide a brush on colleges

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I was pleased to see several favorable letters regarding Edgar Allen Beem’s column, as they reflected my usual reaction to his ideas and opinion. But alas, when I read “Education for Suckers” I was reminded how easy it is for even articulate and informed columnists to succumb to their biases and their ignorance of factual information.

He begins by castigating certain for-profit institutions for extracting tuition dollars, pointing out how several have recently run afoul of federal regulations regarding recruitment and financial aid practices, and suggesting that any actual education they may provide is a by-product of their means of gaining profit from unsuspecting students. He then makes a subtle shift to cast all online educational providers as a suspicious lot that offer degrees without any value.

In fact, despite the occasional “diploma mill,” online courses and degree programs now represent the fastest growing segment of higher education, and most of these are offered by well-regarded accredited institutions (including several in Maine). These academically rigorous courses provide educational opportunities to thousands of individuals who might not otherwise have a chance to access resources to meet their personal and professional needs. The next time Beem opines about the quality and integrity of colleges and universities, he might want to consider that traditional, face-to-face, campus-based programs do not necessarily have a monopoly on best practices in education.

Michael Beaudoin, professor of education
University of New England