June 14, 2010 by Paul Richlovsky
Walmart and American Public University recently announced a joint arrangement whereby Walmart employees could earn education credits and get discounted tuition for online classes at the private, for-profit school.
Marc Parry asks in yesterday’s news analysis in The Chronicle of Higher Education, “Is the Walmart/APU partnership a good bargain for students?” Adult-learning leaders who say “no” levy the following criticisms:
- Low-paid workers may not be able to afford the degree tution
- Online classes at community colleges with transferable credits would be cheaper than APU
- APU credits based on Wal-Mart-specific training/experience may not be very transferable.
In my piece on the subject, I noted that an education of which up to 45% is constituted of on-the-job experience and training is dubious. Now that I’ve had a little time to digest the significance of the arrangement, I still think that any college-level learning credit needs to reflect learning done at the college level. Whether that learning takes place in a classroom, behind a home computer, or on a job site, it still needs to be at a level high enough to satisfy those standards. I can’t say I know for certain the quality of job training Walmart department managers may receive, but I remain skeptical that their experience alone would always be of a high enough quality to constitute a significant part of their degree. Until this type of quality assurance requires more than passing a performance evaluation, skepticism would be merited.
To paraphrase Pamela J. Tate, president and chief executive of the Council for Adult And Experiential Learning, just because you can perform a certain job doesn’t mean you have demonstrated a comprehensive understanding of that discipline at the college level.
Photo courtesy of taberandrew via Flickr.