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Published: Friday, 8/23/2013


Ivy Bridge to nowhere

Until recently, Tiffin University ran an online associate’s degree division called Ivy Bridge College. It was a joint venture between Tiffin and Altius Education, a for-profit company. It has failed, and the university must be held accountable.

This month, the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the relevant accrediting body, told Tiffin to close Ivy Bridge. The commission concluded that the program’s advantages in online convenience were outweighed by its deficiencies in course quality, academic rigor, and student retention.

The closure has led to the layoffs of 31 Altius employees. More troubling is that many Ivy Bridge online students paid for an inferior, scarcely existent, product.

University officials either did inadequate due diligence on the Ivy Bridge program, or knew they were selling an inferior product and didn’t care. Neither is a proper practice.

Online education is here to stay, for a variety of reasons. But it can’t be matchbook-cover quality. It cannot merely be for-profit; it must first be for learning. It must have content and rigor, overseen by the faculty of the university.

Since the Penn State scandals, it has been established that university officials, including presidents, are accountable for what happens at their school. Tiffin University was selling degrees it should have known were worthless.

Who signed off on this? Did anyone in authority at Tiffin question Altius or look closely at a product that could not be accredited? One possible reform: No money should be charged for online education without accreditation.

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