Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Unfulfilled Prophecy: The Evolution of Corporate Colleges

Academic journal article Journal of Higher Education

Unfulfilled Prophecy: The Evolution of Corporate Colleges

Article excerpt

Introduction

Dramatic changes have occurred in the scale of corporate investment in employee education in the United States and Canada since the end of World War II. Business and industry leaders in the United States and Canada have recognized that an educated workforce is essential to remaining competitive in a global economy. At the same time, there is widespread corporate dissatisfaction with the knowledge and skills of graduates of the public educational system, which has led to corporate efforts to provide remedial education. In addition, technological advances require reeducation of employees to maintain their competence. Corporations also see employee education programs as a means to reduce costs associated with employee turnover and absenteeism (Allen, 1996).

In 1997, organizations in the United States with 100 or more employees were expected to spend almost $60 billion for employee education (Training budgets, 1997). This estimate does not include the costs of informal on-the-job education, nor does it include indirect costs, such as the wages and benefits paid to employees while they are participating in educational programs.

Souque (1996) reported that a survey of Canadian organizations found that employers are spending 1.6% of payroll on training and development for their employees. He reported that a recent survey in the United States reported a comparable figure of 1.5%.

Davis and Botkin (1994) have argued that business is now becoming more responsible than government for the kind of education that will maintain corporate competitiveness, from the development of basic skills to sophisticated professional development programs. They describe the development of "corporate universities" and note that although some of these are little more than "rechristened training centers," they nonetheless reflect a growing corporate commitment to employee education. Meister (1994) profiled corporate education practices of 30 U. S. corporations that have established corporate universities, including Arthur Andersen, Federal Express, General Electric, and Motorola. She noted that many corporations assist their employees who complete corporate education programs to obtain academic credit toward university degrees. The American Council on Education Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction (ACE/PONSI) evaluates instructional courses and programs offered by business and industry, labor union s, professional and voluntary associations, and government agencies and makes recommendations for college credit based upon such instruction. ACE/PONSI was initiated in 1974, and today over 250 companies and organizations, including AT&T, McDonald's, Ford, and Xerox have corporate education programs that are recommended for college credit by ACE/PONSI.

This brief introduction demonstrates the significant scale of involvement that corporations have in education and training in the United States and Canada. Some corporations, such as Arthur D. Little, have created their own in-house educational institutions that offer accredited academic degrees. Eurich (1985) identified and described 18 such institutions and referred to them as "corporate colleges." She observed that most of these institutions were created to offer accredited degree programs that were not available elsewhere. Indeed, some were established because their parent corporations were unsuccessful in their efforts to forge partnerships with established universities and colleges to create programs that met their corporate needs. Eurich noted that the majority of these institutions have emerged since 1970. Their rapid increase in numbers prompted Eurich to observe, "With this rate in growth, it may not be too fanciful to foresee 100--if not hundreds--of corporate degree programs in the next 50 years" (p. 85). More than a decade has passed since this prophecy was articulated. Has the prediction been realized?

A number of authors warned that corporate colleges could pose a significant challenge to established universities and colleges (Cranch, 1987; Eurich, 1985; Hawthorne, Libby & Nash, 1983; Nash & Hawthorne, 1987; Porter, 1982). …

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