Profile picture
Tressie Mc @tressiemcphd
, 37 tweets, 15 min read Read on Twitter
Thanks, John. I hope EVERYONE reads the @ProPublica piece on Liberty with a side of #LowerEd @AlecMacGillis has done a great job showing how LowerEd is not only a #4profit phenomenon…

Let's read it together, shall we?
One thing I point out in the #LowerEd epilogue is that there is a political context to shifting legitimacy to corporate highered. The GOP isn't shy about it. It's their official policy platform. Of Liberty, Alec shows this nicely
It is the context that colleagues like @Lollardfish @ldburnett @reclaimUC have tirelessly researched, written about and archived: the culture wars never ended. They merely transformed and became more deeply ingrained in "legitimate" political discourse
(we should all be waiting on @LDBurnett book on Stanford and the culture wars btw)
This @insidehighered summary of the GOP highered platform is helpful.… it also doesn't tell the full story about how blatently the GOP has signaled that corporate highered is good precisely because it diminishes cultural legitimacy of traditional highered
This is #literally not a secret.
I've now seen all but five of VA's colleges. Liberty and Lynchburg are exactly as you would imagine them to be. It is a company town, in almost every aspect of the term.
As yet no one has written the definitive thing on sports, legitimacy, highered and #LowerEd. I only beg for it once a year or so (). But Liberty's aggressive foray into collegiate prestige sports tells an uncomfortable truth about all of highered
As I just told my UG class last week, only on primetime television for three weeks of a year will you see Oregon and VCU's name listed as peers with Duke. And that's why we compromise the entire educational enterprise to have an elite sports team.
Falwell and Liberty are outside of the mainstream, even among conservative highered. The religious factor & relatively non-elite status of their students have left them outside the gates. Trump was a moment to make up some ground in the narrative.
Liberty and Trump have much in common. They have money but not the status. They are outsiders. They have a bit of a cultural running joke about them. It makes a lot of sense for Liberty to double-down on Trump. They literally had nothing to lose.
While everyone was (rightfully) dying over DeVos I kept saying that people should also look at Falwell Jr.'s relationship with Trump. I said it lots of places but this interview with @HaveYouHeardPod was especially enjoyable
Falwell Jr's post on the pretty anemic taskforce thing may not have even been a real promise or a real thing but Trump's position on Falwell ON such a taskforce said, I think, a lot about this administration's position on highered. It's position is simple: punish the elites.
Issa theme.
And what is Falwell Jr's perspective on higher education, the one that Trump would find tolerable enough to use the perch to repay his political ally? @GoldieStandard cut an interview with me short to write up this (no grudges held Goldie! :)…
Notebooks full of issues. Burn books. Whatever.

The point is Falwell Jr. has been a player in VA state higher ed for a bit. He has the power that comes with enrollment growth but can't make headway on political power for a lot of reasons. His issues are well documented
He wants deregulation, at every level, first and most for Liberty and other college org forms that challenge the reigning supremacy of elite not-for-profit colleges. Full stop.
And here it is. This is how Liberty became the redheaded stepchild of higher ed but also, quiet as it is kept, the envy of every single corporate president leading a not-for-profit university
And, trust me, they are envious. They WISH they had Liberty's growth (just not the taint of religiosity and inferiority). I have seen them in action. They don't shun Liberty execs. They slide up to them, trying to figure out how to get that growth without sacrificing prestige
This is what I call legitimacy washing. You embed a for-profit corporation in a not-for-profit organization to make an end run around regulation. Cf. Purdue's purchase of Kaplan…
It is a lesson learned from decades of academic capitalism that really took off in intellectual property (see Sheila Slaughter on this for a primer). The model is the same, just applied to tuition rather than passive revenue.
Falwell Jr. gets what we haven't had to understand a long time in highered & why I do the work that I do: you have to get your legitimacy from somewhere. Ours is rooted in the labor market. Theirs is rooted in the bible. When these two meet though, you get #LowerEd
If you've read chapters 1-3 of #LowerEd you know that what I call the Boiler Room set-up of admissions here is a direct play from the "enrollment management" approach to open access revenue growth
In fairness, this is on the extreme end of recruitment in #LowerEd but it is NOT unusual. AND it is inching its way into traditional higher education admissions as tuition dependence increases
Falwell is absolutely 100% correct. And that's why even the most well-meaning technocratic interventions in #LowerEd don't solve the real problem
Let that last line sink in and then I'm going to talk about it
In #LowerEd I say that the most impactful solutions to the crisis of education that can, for the first time in the history of this nation, ruin your life comes from social movements.
A few words about the important but not-quite-as-transformational solutions:
The only thing buffering not-for-profits from full on embrace of #LowerEd up and down the line is tenure. Full stop.

From an organizational perspective, tenure is the process that mediates (when it can't mitigate) corporate interests that are at odds with student outcomes
Every other solution - ombudspeople, student customer service - just further entrench the ethos of corporatization into higher education. Ombudspeople are risk management; customer service means students are customers. Only tenure introduces collective interests into the org.
(i would include graduate student unions)
The lesson from Liberty is the lesson from #LowerEd for all of highered: if you prioritize enrollment growth at all costs, you can only do it by sacrificing tenure, which will foreclose on any institutional status growth.
Do you really want to be Liberty? With the only thing standing between you and ongoing legitimacy crises is a court case and an accreditation designation? Think about that when you hire companies to "transform" your curriculum.
Because Liberty can draw on religious legitimacy to push back against this reputation. Can a secular institution do the same?
This kind of cannibalization only works when there is a tier of higher education beneath yours. And even then, it is not sustainable. Those are, as I am frequently asked in book talks, the big lessons for traditional higher ed from #LowerEd
Anyway, thanks for reading along. Again, big shout to @AlecMacGillis and @propublica whose data on for-profit colleges were a huge boon to my dissertation research and the thinking that eventually produced #LowerEd. There remains a host of questions about modern credentialing
This article hints at them and I hope researchers pick up the baton. What do we know about the dark web of online course materials? What do we know about how legitimacy works under these economic constraints? What do we know about these work environments?
As I hope we are building a new class of political economists to tackle these questions let me do a bold capitalist statement that would make @thenewpress proud: #LowerEd, with new foreword from @StephanieKelton is out soon in paperback
Missing some Tweet in this thread?
You can try to force a refresh.

Like this thread? Get email updates or save it to PDF!

Subscribe to Tressie Mc
Profile picture

Get real-time email alerts when new unrolls are available from this author!

This content may be removed anytime!

Twitter may remove this content at anytime, convert it as a PDF, save and print for later use!

Try unrolling a thread yourself!

how to unroll video

1) Follow Thread Reader App on Twitter so you can easily mention us!

2) Go to a Twitter thread (series of Tweets by the same owner) and mention us with a keyword "unroll" @threadreaderapp unroll

You can practice here first or read more on our help page!

Did Thread Reader help you today?

Support us! We are indie developers!

This site is made by just three indie developers on a laptop doing marketing, support and development! Read more about the story.

Become a Premium Member and get exclusive features!

Premium member ($3.00/month or $30.00/year)

Too expensive? Make a small donation by buying us coffee ($5) or help with server cost ($10)

Donate via Paypal Become our Patreon

Thank you for your support!