Over the weekend I got an astonishing request: a student at Antioch University* emailed me to ask whether I'd be willing to adapt one of my existing courses to a distance-learning format and allow her to take it for credit toward an M.A. degree at Antioch.
It's not the student's email that astonished me; she was polite and professional and obviously following the guidelines given her by the university itself. It's Antioch's educational model--if you can call it that!--that blew my mind. They're a low-residency, mostly online program, with five campuses and apparently only a few faculty employed full-time. Most of the courses are taught by faculty found by the students themselves and paid $125 per credit hour. The payment is officially designated as an "honorarium," I presume to skirt any rules the faculty member's home institution might have against moonlighting. Here, read the full instructor guidelines for yourself.
Nice racket, huh? Antioch is fully accredited and its tuition even seems pretty reasonable--until you compare it, credit hour for credit hour, with the price at a state institution: Antioch students pay $331 per undergraduate credit hour and $497 per graduate credit hour. By contrast, in-state students at RU pay between $146 and $220 per undergraduate credit hour and between $295 and $370 per graduate credit hour (the higher price is for part-time students; the lower price is for full-time students who are taking the maximum course load).
So Antioch students are paying more and getting a vastly lower-quality education, cobbled together on their own, by trial and error--and presumably taught either by desperate adjuncts or by cynical tenure-line faculty based elsewhere who are willing to make a few extra bucks now and again.
Yeah, sure: it's a free country and students can choose to enroll anywhere. But that doesn't make Antioch's educational model anything but a scandal. (Which is what I told the woman who emailed me--albeit rather more nicely and with a few words of encouragement about her intended area of study.)
Shame on you, Antioch.
*The complicated relationship between Antioch University and Antioch College is partly unraveled here, here, and here. I'm not an expert on this history, and would welcome more information.