Thursday, May 26, 2011

Guest Post: Accreditation, Track Records, and the Degree for Which You Don't Need to Step Foot

Thank you to my Guest Poster for helping me keep this blog active. I have a lot of thoughts I want to share that are not of the usual Orthonomic material, but then again the events are usual Orthodox events. More to come.

Guest Post by

A. Former Bochur

A couple of years ago, an entrepreneurial individual published The Bochur’s Guide to College (For Women Too) Ostensibly, it is a in informational resource which according to one review on Amazon offers “a very informative and helpful overview of the options available for those seeking to obtain a degree in a non-conventional way…. outlines different ways to obtain credit ranging from exams (CLEP, AP, and others) to online and distance learning. A fun read too!”.

The website features links to Amazon to purchase book as well as links to various online degrees from for-profit institutions which are apparently generating advertising revenue.

It is beyond the scope of this post to discuss the merits or demerits of the compatibility of a Torah observant lifestyle and the contemporary college campus. The fact is that secular college campus is in part reason of how we have gotten to this point.

The topic at hand is the value of having a college degree and how to obtain it. Most (although not all) frum Jews will stipulate the value of having a degree towards some sort of vocational endeavor. The question is how to get there.

In the past, the American Yeshiva world has been replete with success stories, either in business or professional life. While some have been able to excel in business without a degree, many Yeshiva graduates attended night school at commuter colleges that were the springboard towards a professional employment in a variety of professional fields. For the most part, all believed that obtaining a college education was a necessary component. This was achieved through an arrangement with the college to accept some number of Yeshiva credits, but ultimately the undergraduate degree was a diploma from the college of record. Some took this diploma to graduate school, and others were able to enter the workplace with the undergraduate degree and lead fine religious lives infused with Torah values and learning, and the ability to make an honest living.

Phase II of this Yeshiva world phenomenon occurred when it was discovered that for fields like Law, there was no specific major that was a prerequisite for entry. As a result, the “Yeshiva degree” was invented. Ostensibly, this was to turn years of Torah study into some sort of diploma which would be subsequently accepted by the law school. For Law, there has been a strong track record of success for this path. A variant within Phase II included other professional fields such as Accounting for which prerequisites and passing the CPA became more important than the undergraduate degree. As a result, the Yeshiva degree plus the coursework in Accounting could be leveraged to obtain the professional credential.

Enter Phase III, which is really a mish-mosh of Yeshiva (or Seminary) degrees, online degrees, “CLEPing“at both the undergraduate and graduate levels. Young people and their parents have be told that some of these degrees are “accredited” and therefore worth the investment. There are a variety of different drivers of this phenomenon, which are also too complex for this post.

A perusal of the website above will list the various programs from which one can obtain a degree, there is little accountability for what is being advised. And the types of degrees being promoted here are very much the same approach that some Yeshivas are publicizing as channels in which one can get a college degree with minimal time and coursework and maximum time learning in the Yeshiva.

Without getting into the ins-and-outs of what is “accreditation”, let’s just compare it to some sort of Kosher symbol. OK, someone claims that it is kosher, and perhaps it technically is under certain circumstances. But is it a reliable hashgacha that most would recognize? In the same way, OK the degree is accredited, but is it recognized by employers? Another question that people should be asking is what is the value of the diploma alone without any relevant job experience, and in many cases writing and social skills within the corporate workplace.

It should be pointed out that many of these modern day diploma mills are in reality for-profit entities which are often more expensive than the local college. So, in the end, is this a worthwhile investment? Sure, the claims are that one can complete the degree in half of the time as other recognized schools. But so what? Most established universities track employment rates of graduates (one can quibble with how accurate the numbers are, but there is some tracking going on?). But are the Yeshivas doing that for the programs which they are directing people to?

The most recent one is the following (but there are others which have been marketed over the years).

*MEMO: To All Yeshiva Rabbinic Degree holders (First Talmudic Law or First Rabbinic Degree etc...)*

The Jewish Community announces the fourth cohort in the most successful M.B.A. Degree program starts again on *June 14th, 2011*. *(Participants meet twice a week for only 6 weeks, the rest of the pro**gram is completed via correspondence and can be done from any location)*


*The Introduction Seminar is Tuesday, June 14th *

***Students must register at least two weeks before then*

This Masters in Business (M.B.A.) program has *an additional **$2,000reduction OFF

**the discounted tuition of $8,100*. *(Total M.B.A. tuition would be $6,100

....paying class by class as you go and financial aid is also available.).*

- There are only 12 physical sessions on Tuesday and Thursday evenings that take place in Brooklyn or Queens *(students meet twice a week for 6 weeks), *

- *The rest of the program is completed **entirely online*.

- M.B.A. Graduate Degree Specifics:>

- Schedule and Calendar:


- *Read what current students are saying about the program:*

- Past student comments:



- *6 different concentrations are available:*

- *M.B.A. - **General*, * *

- *M.B.A. - **Finance*, *


- *M.B.A. - **Information Management*,

- *M.B.A. - **Pharmaceutical Marketing and Management*, * *

- *M.B.A. - **Project Management*,

- *M.B.A. - **Entrepreneurship*

- *Financial Aid is also available*

** You can use your *Traditional *or *Yeshiva** Degree* for entry. Students have the option of earning your M.B.A. in 13-15 months if you desire.

Please call with any questions.


Aaron Braunstein

*Program Director*

*(516) 528 - 8871

(347) 560 - TEAM*

*Teacher Education Assessment & Management*

Program Director

Office: (888) 418-GRAD

I would encourage all readers of the post to write or call the fellow asking him some of the following. Can he produce some statistics as to the value of this program at “Aspen University” or “Ellis University” for employment in the Tri-State area for example? How many graduates have obtained jobs in the past 3-5 years? Without any relevant work experience, what is the value of the diploma in the marketplace? What is the average salary of a newly minted MBA from these programs? How do corporate recruiters react to these schools on a resume and how do they stack up with local brick-and-mortar MBA degrees? How many graduates have obtained employment without any relevant job experience? Does this person stand to gain a commission for each referral to sign up? All good questions, each begging for a compelling answer.

We have a concept of “lifnei iver” which can loosely be translated as dispensing irresponsible advice to those who might be uninformed, naïve, or vulnerable. Those out there should probe as to how credible those making any referrals to these programs really are, whether made by the person above or the head of your local Yeshiva that endorses such a program. Can the value of these short-cuts be corroberated by hard (or even soft) evidence?


Bob Miller said...

Recruiters themselves should be asked to comment on the worth of a degree from any unknown, correspondence course type university or college. I suspect it's not worth much, so paying the tuition and fees might not be cost-effective.

Anonymous said...

The value of a degree varies with the field and what one intends the degree to *do* - for instance, in technology, if a person with a long and successful career has a degree from an unknown institution, that's not a major problem, and can still check the "has a degree" box. If one wants to change careers, and really trade on the value of the education that the degree represents, it's a much, much bigger issue.

One of the values of an MBA is the networking with other business professionals which occurs. Given that, a correspondence-school MBA is certainly going to have a much lower return than an in-person MBA will.

In short, there are no shortcuts - either you put in the time to learn the material, or you don't.

Anonymous said...

According the web site, "The book is available from online booksellers and brink and mortar bookstores."

Quality education there.

JS said...

Wow. I don't even know what to say.

I suppose "A fool and his money are soon parted" is apropos or maybe
There's a sucker born every minute."

Anyone who thinks a $6k MBA degree that you can obtain without even taking the GMAT, without having any business experience, without having ever worked, without a real Bachelor's degree, and without even meeting other students more than 12 times has ANY worth whatsoever deserved exactly what he gets.

I thought that learning gemara all day was supposed to INCREASE critical and logical thinking skills. How do such brilliant thinkers fall for this nonsense?

Any idiot knows the value of an MBA program are in what companies come to recruit there and what networking connections you make at the school.


Anonymous said...

Check these out! Bears Guide to the Best MBA programs by distance learning AND Bears Guide to Distance Learning. John Bear has updated his book often since originally being published in 1988. Worthwhile reading.

tdr said...

One of the things that concerns me most is that these people are almost certainly wracking up large student loans without awareness of the long term implications of this.

For-profit schools are known for offering a lot of promises about how much you will earn when you graduate, and taking advantage of people's ignorance about the longterm consequences of taking on all these student loans.

Paying Parent said...

Let me first say that I am a huge supporter of actual education, and really hate the idea of just using loopholes to get a degree. However there are 2 sides to the college education/ masters coin:
I know girls who slaved away in Stern and through 4 year masters programs to get a degree in speech therapy. They get the same jobs and are sitting side by side with girls from bais yakov who did the 1 year speech therapy program that is i think given though landers.
If you are naturally great at math, then you dont need a masters degree or even a college degree to become an actuary- although good luck passing those exams.
But an MBA from some unknown private correspondence school isn't worth squat.

Anonymous said...

Some other familiar programs that are well publicized to young men and women by the Yeshivas, Bais Yaakovs, Seminaries, and frum publications include:
Raizel Right, TTI (877-RING-TTI), Thomas Edison State College (, Excelsior (, and Bellevue University ( Those considering these programs should also demand to see their alumni employment track record.

The Principals and Roshei Yeshiva have enthusiastically advocated these options because:

-They are “kosher” alternatives to secular commuter or campus colleges and can be obtained with minimal “down time” from learning

-These degrees accommodate all of the late-starting Yeshiva bochurim who have nothing but years of Yeshiva to their name, for whom starting college from scratch would be practically impossible

-These work well for young women who need the flexibility to be able to follow their (future) husband to whatever city his Kollel will be. Not to mention the accelerated pace which allows them to bundle courses taken in 12th Grade, Israel Seminary, and one additional year into a “degree” which they can leverage towards a graduate program.

Unfortunately, the real outcomes don’t bear out the financial investment that parents are making. The young women are not actually getting into the graduate programs automatically as per the marketing claims (or end up in graduate programs which are also online and of dubious value). Another scenario is where the young women do get jobs, but often within the frum community with whom they would have gotten the same job without the paid-for “degree”.

The guys are going for these MBA’s, thinking that they can walk into a Fortune 500 company and get an $80k job in management as their first job after Kollel. The management type of job that they end up getting is taking orders for cars at the local frum leasing company—certainly not something that requires an MBA from even prestigious Aspen University.

The lesson here is there there are no short-cuts and substitutes to taking real classes, doing collaborative project work with other students who do not look and act identically, sustained hard work in school--and corporate experience where marketable skills, systems, and skills are accrued. Despite a track record of learning, morality, and "analytical skills" a Yeshiva guy cannot come in at the 11th hour and jump ahead in the line relative to those who have paid their dues.

Unfortunately, the Roshei Yeshiva and Principals, and Seminary Heads are largely disconnected with the general workforce to know what recruiters and hiring managers are seeking on resumes. After all, they have never competed in that space in their own lives. Yet, their credibility and access to young people at critical junctures in their lives far exceeds the influence of parents. Their (costly) advice is based on a combination of hearsay, pointing to singular exception al alumni, political image [i.e., no longer wanting to advocate a traditional (commuter) college degree], and ultimately an immunity from accountability when the return on investment does not yield the purported benefits. (without getting too conspiratorial and mentioning the fact that their friends and relatives may be the recruitment agents for those programs.)

I wish for a day in which they take greater responsibility for their guidance in matters of long-term financial well-being. Until that point, parents need to reclaim the car keys.

Stu said...

Just discovered this blog. Wow! I'm a Federal HR person who receives numerous calls from boys/girls single and married looking for Federal employment, yet have these cobbled together quick fix "degrees." I'm not addressing the value of these programs just the reality of today's job market. The supply and demand of qualified credentaled applicants is so tough that managers weed out the odd-ball candidates from Gottcha University in WhoKnowsWhere, Nebraska. For many "a fool and his money soon are seperated" is an accurate statement.

Anonymous said...

Pyaing parent: Just what types of jobs at what pay can you get with a 1-year speech therapy certificate? Many states require a minimum of a 2-year associates degree to be licensed and public schools (and I suspect the better rehab hospitals) require 4 year degrees, if not a masters.

Avi Greengart said...

If expectations are set properly, then these degrees can be slightly better than nothing when competing for an entry level services job. The problem is that many of the kids getting these degrees then expect that they will be able to compete with real MBA grads, and it just doesn't work that way. There's always the story of the genius who took this route and was successful, and it reminds me of the kids in high school who think that they're going to play in the NBA. Yes, if you're LeBron James, that's a career path. Reality:

1. You're not that genius. (side note 1: that genius would have done even better if he'd gone to Harvard. But he stayed in a super-frum environment as opposed to Cambridge and he's happy with his more limited opportunities, so no harm, no foul.)
2. If you don't have the business and social skills required to get through an hour with a non-frum interviewer, any investment you made in that piece of paper is completely worthless. The secular college environment is hostile to religious people of all kinds, but it does require regular interaction with professors and completion of demanding coursework. You don't get that from a degree mill.
3. Even if you manage to find the one interviewer who looks past the quickie degree, you can't expect to instantly make MBA-level salaries that support families with yeshiva tuition. You don't have the skills and don't provide the value to the organization to warrant that. Jobs that accept these degrees don't pay very well by frum standards. (The exception: executive director positions for frum charities and schools. The cost structures for these organizations is often badly bloated, yet people keep donating to them / sending their kids there anyway.)
4. A true MBA can be useful for someone who isn't sure what they want to do; it gives you a grounding in the basics and exposes you to different disciplines. This won't do that.

The Yid said...

I'm torn over these diploma mills. Obviously I know they're barely worth the paper they're printed on when it comes to representing an absolute level of knowledge possessed by the holder. However, there are plenty of people that graduated undergrad and graduate school with me who I feel could barely write a cogent sentence. Furthermore, I've seen way to many job listings that arbitrarily require a certain degree. I for instance have an M.S. but it's in a somewhat specialized field and I've been turned down for positions due to lacking an M.B.A. Even though I did all the coursework (and more) of an M.B.A. program, sometimes the letters themselves are the only important thing. I know that when I applied to teach a computer course at the local university, they didn't care about my level of knowledge, all they asked was, "do you have a masters or P.hd in the field?" I can certainly say a program like this appeals to me just so I could add those silly letters to my name.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Paying: I've had many a Bochur/kollel guy come over to me begging for me to help them get an actuarial job without college. They are unhireable by any normal (read: non Jewish) company.

Nephew of Frum Actuary said...

Sephardi Lady:

There is another angle that you should consider with these "degrees". Many a Shver will not support, or allow his daughter to marry, someone without a "plan". As long as these "degrees" qualify as "having a plan", they suit their purpose. Once the couple is married, they will be supported, and you see how hard it is to stop support.

D said...

JS said
"Any idiot knows the value of an MBA program are in what companies come to recruit there and what networking connections you make at the school."

JS, why do you have so much anger inside? And why the name calling?

Besides disagreeing with your generalization (I have an MBA from a prestigious university and did not benefit much at all from school recruiters and connections...I found a job online), I sense a much deeper level of frustration in your comments.

If I remember correctly, you like to mention that you don't consider haredim as members of the same religion as you. But, honestly, who'd then would want to belong to your "religion" if it involves rudeness, disrespect and anger?

Stu said...

Stu Says..

Actuarial managers require a degree in math or working towards a degree in math PLUS 2-3 passed actuarial exams. Shortcuts without the math degree just not going to work in the current job market.

Parents must examine these "for profit" schools otherwise you are wasting your money and time.

Avi Greengart said...

The Yid has a point. There are situation where you just need the piece of paper, and where shortcuts to getting it can make sense. But you're still going to need to get/have the experience to do the job elsewhere.

Miami Al said...

JS, I'm with D. I have an MBA from a prestigious school, was running my own business for a while so didn't recruit for MBA track jobs, and still found my education worthwhile and the resume line valuable. I don't use my connections from there much because life took me in different directions and into different fields, but I still found the experience and education valuable.

It seems like every recession the MBAs and those that graduated with them get treated as a punching bag. It's a legitimate professional education.

An MBA from a top 10 (Wharton, Harvard, MIT, Duke, Stanford, Columbia etc) might as well be a different degree as an MBA from a solid school that isn't one of those. Both will qualify for jobs that "require an MBA," but only the former qualifies for the "MBA Jobs" that people want.

An MBA from a lesser school may be a solid education, and may help you change careers, but it won't open doors.

This thing, the only value is if you otherwise have the background to get the job, but the HR weenie screens you for not having an MBA. If the hiring manager wants an actual MBA, this won't help, but if HR stuck that on the requirements, it will.

Private for-profit education is VERY lucrative, for the for-profit schools and the marketing companies that serve them. For those receiving the education, I'm certain that some people get a great ROI, but most people just leave with a pile of debt and no degree.

BB said...

Miami Al's last paragraph sums it up perfectly. I've been looking to change careers (have graduate degree from a top university); looked into on-line ed for an MPH. Bottom line: $28K and 18 months will get me an MPH- no practicum, no meeting with faculty, and no connections to a job afterwards. Cheaper than actually going to school but when it's over, all I'd have is a piece of paper, not a degree.

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...

Stu I don't think you need a degree in math to get a job as an actuary. I worked as an actuary for 11 years and passed all the exams and I have a degree in Chemistry. (I did go to a top college though). I think a degree in finance, engineering, business, accounting, computer science, or any technical field etc and 2 exams will get you an interview.

JS said...


First of all, calm down and don't read so much into things. My "deeper frustration" lies in the fact that a people once known and respected for their knowledge, scholarship, and education are now looking for each and every shortcut possible to avoid being an educated person.

I find trends like this to be very upsetting. Every other day there's an article or report about schools closing, teachers not being paid, and another tzedaka need. At the same time everything in the frum world continues to get more and more expensive whether it's yeshiva tuition, weddings, supporting children and grandchildren, or kollel.

Frum living is incredibly expensive, continuing to get more expensive, and at the same time funds in the frum community are dwindling. Specifically, incomes in the frum community are dwindling. As there seems to be absolutely no way the expense side is going to come down anytime soon, one can only hope that the income side will improve.

Seeing more and more of this "quickie" degrees and correspondence programs and talmudic degrees fills me with dread and deep concern for the next generation of frum Jews. It's a continuation of the downward spiral of reduced money in klal (not to mention increased isolation from secular society and decreased knowledge about the outside world).

We are heading off the edge of a cliff and we only seem to be accelerating to get there instead of putting on the breaks. In one of the worst economic disasters in decades we've only further dug ourselves into a hole.

So, yes. I think the people that go for these types of degrees are idiots. Moreso, I think the leadership encouraging this is enabling these idiots. You can think this comes from anger, but it comes from sadness and despair as I am genuinely worried about Orthodoxy.

What you and Al are forgetting in your analysis is that you likely bot attended respectable schools or, at the very least, not some correspondence school. You both likely had real work experience and real degrees. The people pursuing this studied in yeshiva their whole lives, got a talmudic degree, and will now get a worthless MBA degree. They don't even have the recruiters or networking connections that make up the heart of the value of a real MBA program (and I doubt they obtain the knowledge either).

If this was just a step to get a piece of paper to overcome an HR screening hurdle (i.e., they want a piece of paper even though you have tons of experience), that's another matter. But this is not that. It's an insular yeshiva kid with no real experience thinking this piece of paper is his golden ticket. He will be severely disappointed.

As for people I don't consider to be part of my religion, it's not Chareidim per se and it's not people like this. It's the kind of people who try to burn a family to death in their sleep because they won't daven in the same shul and the kinds of people who condone it refuse to condemn it. See the previous post.

Danny Rubin said...

I agree wholeheartedly and made some similar points in the following article

Anonymous said...

To Female Life Actuary- I would hardly draw broad conclusions from isolated exceptions of highly intelligent and persevering people. That approach is inconsistent with the laws of probability.

One unfortunate consequence of people using shticklach and shortcuts to obtain a desired result, take the posture of religious elitism. I.E. “we are frum and more moral than the rest of the world and therefore entitled to do as we please”. We have seen so many cases recently where people with that attitude play loose and fast with the law, make bad decisions, get caught, and then we are bombarded with appeals to bail them out.

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...

I did not say that you don't need a "regular" rigorous college degree, nor that you can get away with a degree from a diploma mill, just that most actuarial recruiters are not necessarily looking for math majors. At least half of the people hired with me had majors in other things. I would not advise someone interested in actuarial science to major in math; finance would be much more useful for the actual job and if you pass exams they truly don't care what you majored in as long as it is analytical (and even then, I know English majors who are actuaries). Knowing fractal geometry has no practical application in actuarial work, but understanding betas does. Yes they want a real college degree, but they are interested in well rounded individuals too, not just math majors. If you can pass the first 2 exams you know as much college level math as you need for the job. (Now passing those exams is not easy in and of itself)

Stu said...

The key to an actuarial job is passing the 10 tests of the Society of Actuaries. I'm told by my actuary friends that one needs higher level math once you get past the third test (there are 10 tests to be a Fellow; 5 to be an Associate). So, I'm puzzled by the "actuaries" with general finance, engineering, etc backgrounds. How did they pass those tests? Or did they?


Gila said...

Regarding accounting, when I did graduated/did the CPA exams (1997-2000), there was already a trend for states to up the requirements for a CPA to a Masters degree in accounting, finance or something similar plus the exams. Maryland wanted to know what courses I had taken. I have two undergrad degrees-one in History and one in Accounting. Had I only the first, I would not have qualified. And I would have flunked the exams. :)

If you then want to come to Israel and get certified here, they will want to see your college transcripts before deciding whether to give you an exemption from a portion (not all) of the exams.

aunt of nephew aka female life actuary said...

Stu, I passed all the exams for fellowship with a total of 15 math credits from college (calc 1,2,3, and probability). You have to be really good at math, but it doesn't matter how you learn it. Also actuarial science does not equal math. You are correct that the key is the exams, theoretically you wouldn't have to attend college at all, but no employer will interview you without it, so you do have to go.

CPA is very different than actuarial, there they want specific coursework and a certain amount of accounting credits.

tesyaa said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Aunt, I don't know if you are still in the industry, but my company won't look at entry level actuarial candidates who don't have at least 2 exams and usually more - plus they are seriously looking at actuarial science majors from Penn State and other schools that offer it. Times have changed since I entered the field 25 years ago with 1 exam, not being a math major, etc.

And the candidates who they do hire are super competitive and mostly aren't married and don't have kids. They spend a lot of time working and studying and don't have a lot of other distractions.

Dave said...

The problems with these programs may actually be fairly easy to address:

"Hey, I found a deal. Rib Eye Steaks, $4.99 a pound. T-Bones too!"

"Kosher steak for $4.99?"

"Sure, says Kosher on the side of the label, plain as day."

"What's the hechsher?"

"Hechsher smechsher, it says Kosher, what more do you want?"

Mike S. said...

I have hired people with correspondence degrees, but generally only if they have a real one too. (I.e. I ignore the correspondence one--usually a Masters obtained because civil service gives promotions for marginal degrees) There are, however, some Masters in Engineering by distance learning that are respectable that I know of and will count. They are, however, from reputable universities (e.g. GA Tech) and require real work: classes with exams and a real thesis. They generally market to working engineers as a way to further one's education or develop a new specialty without quitting work.

Shlomo said...

I Would like you all to know that I actually finished the TEAM program. I was able to get an internship at Bank of America. It is only because of this program that I was successful. My MBA is with Aspen University and done through their TEAM relationship. The directors are so caring and helpful. The TEAM organization also works with PACE University For NYS Teacher Certification and saves EACH student over $11,000 or so.

Before you people say it is good or bad, they need to talk to the people running it, speak to past students and then make an informed assessment. I tell EVERYONE to look at TEAM first.

The courses are real, and their partner colleges are fully accredited! I called every Government agency and accredited agency before I enrolled. They are 100% kosher!

You should do what I told my cousin to do just last week, "go to and look. Why pay full prices when an organization provides a frum, separate class (for men and women)and discounted program.

I would never have gone this far without TEAM.

I truly Thank them! Yasher Koach for all that you do!

Anonymous said...

Maybe I am old fashioned, but we used to call these "Matchbook Schools". It always seemed to appeal to the lowest segment of society - everyone else thought they were BS, and guess what, they were right!

The bottom line is there is no free lunch. If you spent your high school and college years ignoring secular academic subjects, you are probably wasting your time and money on one of these degrees. Your money would be better spent opening a small business and building it.

Rabbi said...

To Shlomo:

Bravo on your post. However, as this is totally anonymous (I don't even know if your name is Shlomo)how can we verify you are not a paid TEAM employee as opposed to a succesful graduate? If we can get past that hurdle, can TEAM share any other success stories (with verification)?

Using Dave's example - would anyone eat at some takeout joint resteraunt becasue I post that it is kosher and call myself "Rabbi"?

AriSparkles said...

I am surprised no one mentioned this Frontline episode yet-

College Inc. I know that this is slightly off topic, but everyone needs to see this episode about how destructive for-profit colleges are. People really don't know what kind of tzuris they are getting themselves into with these fake schools.

Oh, and don't worry folks, the video is clean, it's a PBS documentary.

Anonymous said...

I did my degree online. I t was no free lunch! I had to work VERY hard! My family and learning seder did not allow for me to go to a traditional school. I am curious as to how much research all of you did since so many of these posts are so negative.

I'm sure many of you know that almost every school now a days offers some course component online.

Maybe this TEAM Ed is bad, maybe it is good, but the fact that it is online is not relevant today.

Dave said...

Hard work, while necessary in obtaining an education, is not sufficient.

Both the quality of instructors and the quality of instruction are lower in online education as compared to a good four year Public University, and that's before you get to issues like networking and the development of soft skills.

There is a reason that, in the non-Orthodox Jewish world, the generation of immigrants who got their education at night school almost always moved heaven and earth to make sure their children got a full college education at a conventional program.

Barry said...

This is for David,

You are so right about that. I wonder though if things have changed with the implementation of New Technology. We are moving to this online world for everything, banking, shopping and of course Education.

Stu said...

I'm not saying on-line diploma mill degrees are wothless or not, just that given the supply and demand in today's job market, managers have choices and these choices favor people with real degrees, real credentials, and real job related experiences. Yes, managers know the difference.
Let's not become a low technology community in a high technology work force.


Miami Al said...

Dave, Barry,

The other thing is, as college has become increasingly accessible, the top schools have done a good job of differentiating themselves. Whereas a "college degree" does matter if the goal is go get a desk job, and it doesn't matter all that much where, the elite schools have carved themselves out as elite and differently valuable.

The fact is, when you get into those career-tracked positions, that have rapid upward promotional tracks, they simply won't become available to a 25 year old that worked their way through night school OR a 25 year old that learned their way through night school.

The actuaries like to pop in on this one because actuarial work is SO pure math that these cultural shifts haven't occurred their yet, and the pure achievement meritocracy is still there. However, if you look at the "analyst" jobs that move people quickly through, analyst -> senior analyst -> MBA -> Vice President paths, whatever they are analysts in, those jobs simply aren't available to night school graduates.

In fact, they aren't available to anyone that doesn't hop on the career path at 22 out of an elite school, including elite public schools.

Those jobs involve no "specialized skills" that you can train on, just an analytical mind, spreadsheet building knowledge, and the ability to culturally fit in during interviewing.

Increasingly, the Junior executives are all people that came up that route and not through the operational side of the business, which means that as the Baby Boomer executives retire, the GenX Executives will be entirely drawn from that pool.

So while education is increasingly available online i a good quality -- to schools offering on-line/executive formatted education -- the importance of a good school pedigree is increasingly important.

Unless it's a service position that needs to be here, there isn't a huge reason to hire online-degree mill people for positions when you can just send the work to your Indian division where an IIT (not ITT) graduate with a Masters degree can get the work done at a similar cost. But, the jobs that are sticking around here are jobs where the American Executives want other Americans around to do it, and those Americans need to look like the American Executives, and since people don't consider gender or race as much for "looking like them," they do consider education.

Anonymous said...

Anon 11:45- There are plenty of companies that look at actuaries with only 1-2 exams and no other math background (even a diploma mill college degree).Maybe not your company, but other companies do. Firstly, actuarial remains one of the number one "career changer" options... simply because you dont have to go back to school- just pass exams. I have quite a few coworkers that were english teachers for a while before taking exams- and changed while married in their late 20s. The field is competitive, but if you demonstrate that you can pass exams, and keep passing them, youll get a job.

JS said...

In the end, what really will determine the value of the degree if what kind of job and what kind of job track you're looking for. I think Miami Al is spot on if you're someone who wants to quickly rise to the top of your profession or wants to be earning the big bucks quickly. If you're one of those people, the entry requirement is almost always a degree or advanced degree from a top-notch school and getting good grades at that school. There are many, many top companies that recruit exclusively at certain elite schools and will only offer interviews to those students at those schools with a certain GPA or other credentials. Further, some companies will only offer certain job tracks to students from elite universities so that while students from lesser colleges may get a job, they will always be behind the elite school graduate.

For example, a friend of mine from an elite MBA program was placed onto a job track at his company that is supposed to fast-track executives. They only hire for this position out of certain schools. Other MBA graduates are capped out at a certain level and can rarely rise any higher. Similarly, friends in law school have told me that the "big firm" jobs that pay over $160k starting are generally only available to those at elite law schools who are in the top x% of their class. If you're in the top maybe 5-10% (probably no longer the case in the down economy) at a slightly lesser school you may still get an offer. But, the point is, that if you didn't get in to the firm that first time around straight out of law school it is INCREDIBLY difficult to get the job later. They simply don't take many laterals from non-"big firm." You have one shot to get in basically and the entry requirement is elite law school with great grades.

So, can you get a job with a crummy degree from an online or brick and mortar school? Sure. But, it will be much more difficult in a down economy and you'll likely be forever precluded from certain companies and certain job tracks. That's just the reality of the situation. Even if your education is just as good as any elite degree (a large assumption) and even if you have the great networking connections you would get from an elite university (again, large assumption) you will ALWAYS have an educational stigma on your resume. There will always be some hurdle, some "thing" you have to explain away. Who wants to deal with a handicap like that?

Nephew of Life Actuary said...

Anon May 28, 11:45:

I am in the workplace, and know that you do not need an actuarial degree (or even Math) to be hired.
(From an actuary hiring company)

College degree with a major in mathematics, actuarial science, economics, or a related field.

Nephew of Life Actuary said...

Miami Al:

I think you have a good thought regarding becoming an executive. However, the people who are being discussed in this post would not take an executive job if it was offered to them (and neither would I), so the point is moot. My family is more important than my job (Which is why I went into Actuarial, so it is also a "chicken & egg" question).

Miami Al said...

Nephew of Life Actuary -

The level of raw mathematical intelligence you need to succeed in the actuarial field is pretty high, so it's only open to a few percentage points of the population. Without the signaling degree, it's harder.

The real question is going to be, what happens when the entry level actuarial work is done by guys in China/India and the only work for American actuaries is for actuarial executive positions? At that point, this entire career path goes away.

15 years ago you could break into the software industry as a self taught hacker. It's MUCH harder now, since there aren't those entry level code slinging jobs that their used to be. Most of the projects involve: do engineering/design in America, complete with requirements document, do the development in Russia, India, or China.

While entry level code slinger didn't take a college degree, and 3 years later you were a midlevel code slinger, then a senior code slinger, etc., those jobs just don't really exist. The few that do are filled with guys with computer science degrees, because companies want people that can move up the ranks, and there aren't ranks for people that just write code that works.

What's sad is that this is a time of your life where a few years of hard work can pay dividends for 40, 45, or 50 years, and we'd rather indulge kids with more childhood.

Anonymous said...

I already know so many smart people with actuarial exams and college degrees who are unable to find entry level jobs. Saying that it's easy to get a job is not true. Depends where you are, depends WHO you are, depends what your goals are, but jobs are not ripe for the taking. They are there for hard workers who present themselves as ambitious and business oriented. They are not there for everyone who wants one and thinks that because they're good at math, it's an easy career path.

Anonymous said...

Nephew Of Life Actuary-
Yes, if you do not have an actuarial or mathematical degree demonstrating that you had dreams of actuarial magnificence at the age of 18 when you entered college you will have a more difficult time. However, the caveat of "or related fields" allows you to apply to jobs even without such degrees as long as you can spin a tale of their applicability. It is called selling yourself adn it is required in every job market under the sun. My company routinely hires such people including myself.

Anonymous said...

In a tightening job market, you don't think that companies will use the differentiator of an actuarial science degree in making hiring decisions? Even if it will ultimately have no bearing on the candidate's ability to pass exams and do the job (debatable), it shows a commitment to the field that a degree in English or special education just does not have, even if that English major or special ed major has passed an exam or two. Try explaining why you passionately want to be an actuary despite the fact you invested in an unrelated degree. There are way fewer jobs available now than even a few years ago. Hiring managers have their pick, and don't want to have to explain to THEIR superiors why an English major out of school for a few years with one exam is a better choice than a kid right out of school with a degree in actuarial science and 3 exams.

Anonymous said...

As some have pointed out, the value (if any) of these degrees (or even to some extent, a brick-and-mortar MBA) comes as an adjunct to existing experience, job tenure, and skills. The degree is used to leverage advancement as opposed to being used as the sole entry-level credential. Recruiters and hiring managers will see right through the resumes with the Yeshiva degree and the non-descript Masters, which not only bring nothing to the corporate table but don’t objectively make sense relative to what is normal.

The Yeshivos and Seminaries, beginning in high school, have done a great job in re-creating reality for their constituents. Their enmity for secular college has even nullified a commuter college option, which has long been a staple for those in the Yeshiva world who are uncomfortable with a residential college environment. For the girls, it’s about getting the piece of paper quickly so that they will be able to compete in the shidduch market. The goal has become the sooner-the-better.

For the guys, it’s about “staying in learning” for as long as possible and getting started with post-Yeshiva life as late as possible. This in turn, makes them an appealing “catch” for the aforementioned girls. [Delaying the transition to reality only lulls the guys into a warped sense of reality that is influenced by a schedule of Simcha hopping, Friday afternoons off, month-long Bein Hazemanims, Thursday night cholent, and Shwekey concerts. This insular lifestyle is taking place while their peer Gen-Y’ers are doing internships at companies, studying for exams, doing collaborative project work, getting degrees, working to make their car payments, etc. The Gen Y’ers are far more marketable and available to work according to the calendar that corporate America runs on, without expecting the various schedule entitlements.]

So, the cart driving the horse is the Shidduch world/crisis, and not the employment prerequisites of educational achievement and job readiness.

The result of the above trend is wholesale underachievement and lack of ambition in the frum community. When job prospects in the general workforce are reduced to a few notable exceptions, the jobs that those with these inferior degrees end up taking are jobs within the community, as secretaries for frum businesses or schools or working in sales for some frum-owned business. The lack of external wealth being created simply recycles a finite financial pot. Consequently, our schools are sometimes staffed by mediocre educators who ended up there because the other vocational options they were promised are out of reach. In some cases, one’s family situation precludes a dual income contribution to the overall financial viability of the family unit, and the reliance of community and government subsidies becomes necessary in order to continue.

The point has been reached where parents need to reclaim ownership over their kids' vocational and financial destinies. After all, they will ultimately be on-the-hook for the next one or two generations. While we should respect and sometimes revere Torah scholars and teachers of our children, we need not give them carte blanche to get involved in secular training and credentialing that they know nothing about. (In previous generations, they would never have gotten involved in areas they had no business meddling in. Perhaps this is the result of American- as opposed to European-born Mechanchim who purportedly know corporate America). The current state of affairs is likely the outcome of the “Daas Torah” movement and low levels of parental resolve to change the status quo.

Nephew of Life Actuary said...

Miami Al:

The point you bring up is true for almost every job (I have seen articles regarding law work moving offshore as well). Perhaps at that point, I will have to move to China/India? Or maybe I'll tell my children to "go Charaidi". Personally, I'll deal with what is in the here and now.

An additional note on your first point. IMHO, the tests signal you can do the job, while the degree signals you can work in a business environment.

Anon 9:52 - No job is "easy", and expect to get nowhere in the real world without being "hard workers who present themselves as ambitious and business oriented".
That is a general problem, not specificly in the Jewish world. We call it "Magia Li". Others call it the "entitlement generation".

Anonymous said...

Nephew, I can't say whether there's more or less of a sense of entitlement in the frum world than in the non-frum world, but there are more financial pressure in the frum world. Even your situation, in which you place emphasis on your family instead of an executive job (which is probably good for your family), means that you will have higher expenses than the non-frum person in your field (tuition, lots of kids) while a reduced ability to earn (because you won't consider an "executive" job).

JS said...

There really has been a sea change in how the frum community views secular education and working. My wife's grandfather has smicha from Torah V'Daas. It was not only perfectly acceptable, but expected that the boys would learn during the day and attend respectable universities at night. If you weren't going to rabbinics, you were expected to get a real job in the "outside" world. If you didn't do this, there was no way you were getting married. The girl's parents wouldn't accept this "learner" mentality that exists today. Going into rabbinics didn't mean kollel, it meant working as a pulpit rabbi and getting a salary or going into education and getting a salary in that way. My wife's grandfather got an undergraduate and graduate degree while learning during the day. He didn't attend "special" correspondence classes or night classes or what have you. He went to secular universities and singed up for classes in the evening so he could learn during the day and get an education at night. As I said before, this was encouraged by the Torah V'Daas rabbeim and there's no way he could have ever married his wife without the secular education, her parents wouldn't tolerate it.

Times have changed a lot in the 60-70 years since he was in Torah V'Daas and university. For one thing, you should see his wedding album full of Torah V'Daas rabbeim and other smicha students - full of short sleeve skirts, not a sheital in sight, mixed seating, mixed dancing, etc.

When you talk to my wife's grandfather about "how things were" and how they are now, he maintains people were much more serious about their learning in his days because of their highly regimented schedules and the need to grow up quickly and take on real responsibilities.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 10:21 a.m. said it quite well. I recently researched an attorney in Baltimore from an illustrious Yeshiva Lane family. He was around 60+ or so. He graduated from Johns Hopkins (commuter college), then got his law degree with honors from the University of Maryland Law School (in Baltimore). He is AV Peer Review Rated. His colleagues at the firm have similar credentials - while there's a BTL from Ner Israel in their past, there's also the degree from Hopkins and a degree from a legitimate law school with honors. In the not too distant past it was considered permissible to go to secular college, at least at Ner Yisroel. College was combined with yeshiva. (One of my contemporaries at Hopkins is now Director of Public Affairs for the Agudah.)

Orthonomics said...

To the reader that mention spin---Spin can only go so far.

Regarding learning--I have noted that the lack of vocational skills and late entrance into the job market is unfortunately not just a Yeshiva phenomena. There are plenty of regular Orthodox guys out there that just have not been pushed to get it together, and yet there isn't much push for them to get it together.

Stu said...

and add to that ---- most are married with a few children, the wife either cannot work due to child rearing or lack of job skills, and the new entry to the job market says he must start at $75K. Right! Good luck. He and his peers are behind the old 8-ball and can rarely catch up. That is one of the "mixed messages" of the yeshiva world today.

Bernstein said...

I just checked out this TEAM Education and spoke to the director, Mr. Aaron Braunstein. He was OK and seemed honest and approchable.

He said they worked with Merkos in Flatbush and the New Seminary as well.

He said the program was cheap because of the discounts, not the quality.

I did check on one thing he said, which was that all the programs are accredited and pell grant and FAFSA loan approved. This turned out to be true.

Maybe a frum cohort with tuition savings can help.

I guess if someone is looking for Harvard, a hybrid program like this with part in class and part online may not be good. But for those who want accredited credentials, it may be good for us.

Dave said...

But for those who want accredited credentials, it may be good for us.

I can register with the State of New York as a Kosher Certification Company, and state that my standards are meat that was humanely and organically raised, and humanely slaughtered.

At that point, I can legally label Bacon as Kosher in the State of New York (since I am, as it were, an accredited hechsher).

"Accredited credentials" are of a similar nature. The bar for accreditation is low, and a degree from such an institution may well be exactly as meaningful as my "legally Kosher" bacon.

Michal D. said...

I was just shown this link from a friend and I see what Dave said right before this.

I think he meant well with his comment, but he may be unaware with what TEAM Education offers.

My daughter is doing the PACE program with TEAM, I know how good it is because I looked into it VERY carefully with my friend who is a PhD. from Columbia.

TEAM Education partners with PACE University which has NCATE approval as well as Regional Accreditation

The "bar for accreditation" is what makes a program real.

My daughter is very happy, challenged with the coursework and is earning NYS Teacher certification is Special Ed. The only difference is that TEAM provides her a frum environment and saves me 26% off the tuition.

Why do all the posts seem so negative? Perhaps some institutions are bad, but from personal experience, TEAM is Legit.

Why not call them before assumptions are made?

Lets all be aware of shmirat haloshon!

Dave said...

The only difference is that TEAM provides her a frum environment and saves me 26% off the tuition.

You seriously think a correspondence course (and online courses are effectively the modern correspondence course) is just as good as an in person education from the same institution?

Michal D. said...


The PACE program is IN CLASS. meaning my daughter goes to class at the PACE campus. I will continue to look at these posts and have my daughter and her fellow students as well. You cant talk poorly about a program that you have not researched.

I'm sure you mean well, but (and I mean this respectfully) are mis-informed. Go to their website and take a look.

Not all is bad in the world.

Anonymous said...

I am in the program at TEAM Education.

The TEAM organization works with real, accredited schools and is NOT 100% online, but a hybrid mix of in-class and online work.

I did save a alot in tuition. The classes are separate for Women and Men.

I am learning, working hard and am very satisfied with what TEAM is doing for me and the community.

Anna said...

I also am in the TEAM program and it is a very good experience.

They really accommodate to my needs without sacrificing content or standards.

Stu said...

I'm not from NY so I do not know anything about this TEAM program. The issue is not whether it is good or bad, etc. The issue, the only issue is-- can you compete with your secular peers for the few jobs that are available? Will a TEAM "degree" allow you to be on an equal footing with peers from real universities? Will your all male or all female classes give you the social skills to work in the real corporate world of mixed genders, social classes, and cultures?

Dave said...

Well, the TEAM web site specifies that the program includes online coursework, and since there is one physical class per week for a 48 credit program, I'm guessing that it isn't a trivial amount of online work.

Stu said...

Dave: Can they compete? Can they atttain a professional position outside the "heimish" world of Williamsburg and Flatbush?

Dave said...

There are three questions.

One, what do they learn? Is it competitive with what they would learn in a more conventional environment?

Two, how are the social skills and networking? The parts of an education that less directly tied to the course material per se. Of course, if they only intend to work inside of the frum community, this would seem to be moot.

Three, how is the credential regarded? Again, this depends on what they are looking for. Are they trying to meet an "automatic raise" (law enforcement or public school education, for example, often have automatic raises related to educational attainment) requirement? If so, if the degree will meet that need, it may be all that they need. Similarly, are they trying to meet a regulatory requirement? In that case, any piece of paper that legitimately meets it is fine.

If, on the other hand, they are trying to compete in the free market, the quality of the network, education, and credential are all significant. And that is one area where paying $X for a lousy education/credential may be utter foolishness.

Shlomo N said...

I was intrigued with this ad so I called TEAM and was very very skeptical.

I waited and was able to speak to the program director, Mr. Braunstein. He spoke to me about the program and told me not to register until I did my own research.

I did and talked to my friends and their parents. I also spoke to four references and they all had positive things to say, three of the former students already have new jobs. Two said they would never been hired with out the MBA they did.

I'm going to jump in and try it!

I'll keep you all posted on the program.

wish me luck!

-Shlomo N

Anonymous said...

Hatzlacha! Let us know how is goes.

Anonymous said...

In the pursuit of seeking validation for educational "shortcuts" currently being marketed by the Yeshiva world, please note the following. References provided by the vendor are typically hand-picked for a positive tone. So, let the buyer beware.

Also, are those who found jobs with the MBA jobs with frum employers or in the external corporate sector? Recognition within the latter would be the litmus test, not to mention whether any job obtained was due to the MBA alone or as an adjunct to previous work experience.

Stu said...

Adding to the last post. "and have any of these shortcut degrees made it to the likes of Federal HR offices and their hiring agencies?"

As a Federal HR analyst I can tell you that they do not generally qualify for Federal positions. The sheer amount of very qualified and experienced applicants from major universities just squeezes out the short-cutters.

Anonymous said...

I work in HR in a large Bank in NY and I will attest that I would at least be able to interview with a Frum boucher if he had an M.B.A. as long as it was accredited (which the program above is).

If he performed well at the interview and knew his stuff, he would have a chance.

With the higher degree he would have no upward mobility.

So I think this is a great thing for the community!.


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