Mike Graham of National Louis University in OPM research

I appreciate the time that David Sutfen took to talk to Josh Kim and Edward Maloney about the 2U’s position on OPM research. As someone who has been involved in academic work for the first time, I am keen to help higher education get a true picture of this multi-billion dollar portion of the higher education industry. To date, I think the picture is largely cloudy because OPMs are looking for reasons to ignore research calls.

As an individual who has actively approached many of the major OPMs in the United States during my data collection, I still have to question the validity of an OPM that they want to be part of any real project. From personal experience, OPMs have a significant amount of lip service to participate in research projects and are rarely practically followed by actually engaging in research or engagement with researchers.

  • As I discussed at IHE a few months ago (3 questions in his OPM research study for Michael Graham), I keep thinking (echoing the strong push of Josh Kim and Edward Maloney over the years) that this is a huge mistake in the industry. Here is the reason:
  • The federal government is not going away. The GAO report on OPM is just the beginning, and the opinion seems to be that the Department of Education is going to issue stronger guidelines.
  • In the void created by OPM’s silence, organizations such as The Century Foundation have filled the void with studies that do not see the full picture of what OPMs are. The OPM industry has lost control to influence people who do not agree with a for-profit company involved in higher education.
  • As I said in the first IHE article, the simple fact of the matter is that the research I have done does not paint a bad picture of the revenue sharing OPM industry. The level of satisfaction is comparable between revenue sharing and fee-for-service OPM. The OPM industry should embrace balanced research and researchers who are trying to present a complete picture of what these companies do.

Besides, the normalized data argument rings a little blank in my opinion. If OPMs really want to be able to get data, help finance a real research project and make it work for researchers to start solving common data problems that Mr. Sutfen points out as a barrier to conducting any research. Waiting for an industry-wide “fix” is another stumbling block in my opinion. Let’s start research, and force research leaders to help solve data problems. In addition, since each OPM revenue share company earns money from tuition revenue, the organizations involved have to pay for each listing. This means that OPM students are somehow tagged for providing OPM. In short, a solution is found if there is a desire to be involved in reality. Again, I think the data argument is an empty ring.

I am part of a group of researchers from the organization across the United States who are working to establish a set of initiatives where we will begin to look at different aspects of the OPM industry. To one researcher, we all believe that without data, there can be no speculation about OPM. In other words, we do this without assuming that the revenue shares are bad and the fees for the service are somehow good. In this letter, I invite 2U and other OPMs to meet with us, talk about our research initiatives, and facilitate our work. Draw pictures to highlight the reality of this art. You can never create data that no one will believe; It’s really that simple. Let us in, and let us work.

As an individual who believes that the future economic reality of higher education is challenging, organizations need every possible tool to sustain themselves and their communities. Many of us are in higher education because we believe in the power of education to change lives. But if institutions continue to shrink, the impact of higher education will diminish and the landscape of higher education will fall into the hands of mega-universities. OPM is a tool; While we should never trust them, we should be able to keep this tool to help us meet our goals of serving our students and our community.

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