A “Proprietary Education” Job Ad

Listen, I know that for-profit colleges and universities serve a real need in our educational system. I know that they have been recently regulated to minimize the predatory loaning practices associated with some of them. I know many are accredited for many of their programs.

I know I know I know!

Just like I know that some climate change is due to non-human-influenced weather cycles.

Or some sugar-frosted-choco-monster-smack cereals have some vitamins in them.

But check out this job ad for an academic dean at a local for-profit institution (annotated by yours truly, of course):


The Academic Dean is a senior leader on the Campus reporting directly to the Campus President. The Dean is directly responsible and accountable for ensuring the fulfillment of educational goals, objectives, and the overall quality of education and academic integrity of the institution. This role is crucial to the reputation and overall success of the College. (SOUNDS FISHY. FULFILLMENT OF EDUCATIONAL GOALS? ACADEMIC INTEGRITY? REPUTATION?)


  • Strategic planning and goal setting for the Education Department;
  • Provides leadership in hiring, retaining, managing and evaluating College faculty and non faculty staff to ensure the highest level of academic integrity and professionalism; (UM, SOUNDS OK SO FAR?)
  • Works with the Campus President and Human Resources in performance management, resources planning and talent acquisition. (6 SIGMA, ANYONE?) (and because I can’t find any clips of the time that Liz Lemon tries to entertain the Six Sigma conference with IMPROV! you get a gratuitous Alec Baldwin tour de force instead.)
  • Promotes the use of PT3 techniques in the classrooms to increase student engagement. (I HAD TO LOOK THAT UP. IT’S A CURIOUSLY NARROW, SPECIFIC WAY TO SAY TECHNOLOGY IN THE CLASSROOM.)
  • Promotes diversity in the faculty and staff hiring process to ensure the integrity of the hiring process, recruitment of prospective students and outreach initiatives;
  • Maintains academic standards and scholarly teaching excellence;
  • Leads, manages, monitors and evaluates people and programs to ensure contributions to the overall institutional climate and mission;
  • Budgeting, scheduling oversight and administration; (SURE!)
  • Ensures the Department’s strict adherence to internal and external regulatory and accreditation standards/bodies;
  • Builds and maintains a diverse academic environment to promote excellence and espouse trust and collaboration;
  • Allocates funds, implements programs, manages resources and provides in-service training to support teaching, teaching related activities and to promote teaching excellence; (CHECK CHECK CHECK)
  • Directs College enrollment management initiatives including student recruitment, student retention, course/program marketing and community outreach;
  • Ensures College compliance with all program and institutional accreditation standards and, when applicable, external regulatory and accreditation standards; (HAH, YOU BETTER)
  • Promotes instructional innovation through alternative delivery strategies, creative instructional techniques, and technological experimentation;
  • Addresses a wide variety of issues within Academic Affairs to include funding, budgeting,  personnel, classroom facilities, ancillary teaching supports, student and faculty morale and resource allocation that may impact administrative roles/responsibilities; (YEAH, OK)
  • Manages education department offices and facilities including faculty offices, classrooms, and laboratories to ensure a safe, user-friendly environment for faculty, staff, students and the general public;
  • In accordance with protocol established via the student grievance process, the Dean resolves students’ concerns regarding inadequate instruction, grades, degrees, program requirements and course scheduling; (INADEQUATE INSTRUCTION???)
  • Forecasts campus budgetary needs and manages the Academic Affairs budget.

OK, a little jargony but not all that different from a traditional dean job description. Except for how students complain about inadequate instruction: that is one thing I never heard as a university instructor. Maybe, as LinkedIn suggested, it’s the job for me! Let’s see if I meet the qualifications:

Desired Skills & Experience

MINIMUM QUALIFICATIONS (minimum skills/experience required to perform essential job duties):

  • Proven/verifiable track record as a successful leader in a diverse student and faculty academic environment; (TOUGH TO DO AT THE MASTER’S LEVEL, UNLESS…)
  • Two years experience teaching at the college level. (I’VE GOT TEN)
  • Three years demonstrated successful management/leadership experience as an Assistant  Dean, College Director or Business Leader; (STOP IT, NOW. REALLY? SHUT UP! BUSINESS LEADER??????)
  • Outstanding business acumen to include planning, budgeting and operations; (IN THE STATE SCHOOL WORLD, THIS WOULD BE MORE LIKE WHO’S THE PROFESSOR WHO IS COMFORTABLE WITH SPREADSHEETS?)
  • Outstanding communication skills (oral, written, presentation, interpersonal);
  • Ability to foster continuous and open communication for faculty, non faculty and student success;
  • Extensive experience with college regulatory and accreditation standards, processes and criteria;
  • Demonstrated resilience and ability to embrace change in the ever-changing environment of higher education; (THAT’S LIKE, ANYONE WHO STAYED IN IT TILL NOW)
  • Proven history of instructional leadership, information and educational technologies, assessment/accountability and administrative preparation;
  • Demonstrated/verifiable learner-centered orientation; focus on the practitioner-scholar model and a demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning;

OK, though it’s fun, I’m going to stop writing in all-caps now.

They could just say they want experience in proprietary college administration. That would cover a lot of this stuff and not freak out the more conventional academics who manipulate terms like “normativity”for breakfast but get hives at something even vaguely businessy, like “talent acquisition.”

For contrast, and because they serve the same student populations, here’s an ad for an academic dean at a community college.

Because, you know, community colleges, which offer vocational, accredited courses, with work- and family-friendly scheduling, for much less dough than most for-profits. However, the vocational curricula are shrinking. But still, why not invest in more medical tech programs at the CC, rather than outsourcing it all to the proprietary schools, which are inconsistently accredited, lower prestige, and higher-cost?

But here you go. A community college in the East is hunting for a dean:

RESPONSIBILITIES: This Vice President and Dean of Academic Affairs, reporting directly to the President and sitting in the President’s Cabinet, will serve as the Chief Academic Officer of Westchester Community College and will play a vital and visible role in advancing the academic mission of WCC as it serves more than 12,000 students in Westchester County, NY. The successful candidate will develop and implement academic policy for the largest educational institution in the county. The VP will oversee all curriculum matters, provide leadership to the faculty across the institution, encourage teaching excellence, encourage the use of technology in the classroom, assure proper assessment of student learning and assure compliance with all internal and external regulations. This executive will work with the community, local school districts and four-year institutions to advance the mission and position of Westchester Community College as a vital provider of higher education to the citizens of Westchester County. (YOU GET MISSION AND POSITION INSTEAD OF REPUTATION HERE.)

QUALIFICATIONS: A Master’s degree and five years of administrative experience, including three years in college administration, is required. A doctorate from a regionally accredited university is strongly preferred. The position requires experience as a proven college administrator, preferably in a unionized setting, as well as faculty experience.

So that’s how it’s done.

If you’re recruiting your dean from the ranks of professors in your own or other similar institutions, you can just say so! No need for extended bullet points arduously outlining qualifications. Because you already know who has those qualifications.

But at most for-profits, there are no full-time professors. They are staffed almost entirely by adjuncts. No one with enough institutional investment, let alone knowledge, to be the dean. So they have to recruit from the business world, or from the lower-prestige community of competitors. And then the educational mission gets dulled because administrators are not necessarily career educators.

And for further context, only 1 out of 50 ads (yes, I calculated that) (no, I didn’t) in the for-profit sector are for academic positions. The rest are for admissions, which are sales jobs that require sales experience. Which is great for people who have and want to build sales experience. But if you need sales people to recruit for your educational program—instead of admissions counselors guiding eager prospective students through the application process—your program may need some help.

My marketing philosophy is that if your sales & marketing isn’t working, try improving the product.

If you need to hire legions (I mean legions) of sales people to get minimal enrollment, maybe you can adjust your hiring strategy to reflect a genuine focus on educational goals. Maybe you can improve your product. Maybe that means hiring career educators to be your dean, rather than career business people or career for-profit ed administrators, who are going to apply the same corporate principles that have gotten for-profits in their current bind.

I mean, you could hire me if you want. I care about learner-centered orientation, focus on the practitioner-scholar model, and a demonstrated commitment to lifelong learning. I have a file full of cover letters, dating back to 2007, saying so. And I like spreadsheets.

Waddya say?

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4 thoughts on “A “Proprietary Education” Job Ad

  1. Rena Dulberg says:

    Coming from higher ed, I love this!

  2. Elizabeth says:

    Thanks, Rena! And thanks for stopping by!

    I should say that I have known some people who work in that sector, and they are great people. So I don’t think that it’s necessarily an evil industry. There could be a place for it. What do you think?

  3. Nancy Duncan says:

    Great summary. I worked 2.5 years as a school Chair at a for-profit. You made some salient points (esp. sales force and product). In order to increase profits, the product has been being cannibalized increasingly. I’m certain that the company I worked for has entirely lost sight of the idea that they’re supposedly in the business of education.

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