Post invades academia

Due to today’s increasingly technology-based world, many print-based companies have been forced to find alternative means of income. The Washington Post is one such company that has supplemented its income by investing significant portions of its money in higher education.

Within the past three weeks, The Washington Post acquired an 8.1 percent stake in Corinthian Colleges, Inc., a collective organization of short-term diploma programs and associates, bachelor’s, and master’s degrees for occupations in demand.

Its program areas include degrees and online study in health care, criminal justice, and information technology. The organization has rapidly grown since its creation in 1995 to include about 100 campuses throughout North America, including a local branch in Pittsburgh.
The Post is also the owner of Kaplan, a test preparation company designed to boost standardized test scores.

According to the December 2007 issue of Washingtonian magazine, Kaplan recently brought in 50.3 percent of the company’s revenue while the newspaper division only accounted for 21 percent of profits.

The *Pos*t’s move then, is not only a reflection of the decreasing popularity of printed forms of news, but also an indication of the battle between the portrayal of universities as non-profitable, charitable institutions and as systems that can provide a tidy profit.

Professor Jeffrey Williams of the Tepper School of Business viewed the Post’s transition as a logical move for a company that “manages information as it is moving into an industry where it can be used.”

Williams noted that the increasing number of Americans acquiring college degrees is an additional fact that can be used to the corporation’s advantage.

According to some professors however, the increased interest in higher education as a money-making institution could very well bring an end to the diversity which exists among colleges nationwide in terms of the specializations, atmosphere, and unique qualities that each provides.
“If universities follow the corporate model, they will shrink that diversity,” said English professor Jeffrey Williams (not related to the former Jeffrey Williams).

However, Williams brought up the fact that this relationship is one of necessity since newspaper readership, especially among some of the younger age groups, is virtually nonexistent.
Williams also predicted that the relationship between the student and the institution will be reduced to that between a consumer and a business in which customers “pay money and get a service in return.” This in turn could eliminate the inclination which students have to later donate money back to the school as alumni.

The growing link between business and education has also been integrated into the virtual world with services such as the University of Phoenix Online, which offers classes and degrees in health care, business, technology, and education.

Business professor Williams acknowledged that the development in this sector could “potentially be a threat to second and third tier institutions," as they have less resources than highly-ranked private and research universities.

Williams also believes however that even institutions such as Carnegie Mellon with the primary goal of research “would be pressured to differentiate themselves as more than just a commodity.”

The relationship between schools, corporations, and online institutions will continue to be closely followed by both business leaders and the academic community at large. Moves such as the one made by The Washington Post illustrate the changing relationship between the corporate world and academia, the final nature of which has yet to be decided.