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The average cost of tuition for the 2017 – 2018 school years at any private college in the United States is $34,740. Expect that number to rise 2.4% every year. The charge for out-of-state students at public universities is an eye-watering $25,630. Taking into account graduation rates, they vary wildly by the institution. Statistics bear out rates are much higher after six years than four. At four-year public universities, students graduate at a thirty-five percent rate. Extend that time by two years, and the rate jumps to nearly fifty-nine percent.

Colleges and universities continue to close or merge at record rates. Higher education only has a few ways to buck the trend, raise tuitions, lower costs, or both. It is becoming apparent that campuses are dying a slow death. Money losing schools are forced to raise their own money. No longer can they count on easy money from large commercial lenders or wealthy alumni. School administrators have new jobs, and that is fundraising.

Everything has a price. Americans are reminded; prepare students to compete on the big stage and in the world economy. Educators may disagree with this blatant commercialization. However, that is the way it is. The business model for corporations stepping on educational turf has been going on for a long time. The model is accelerating toward more consumption.

Schools are fertile grounds for advertising dollars. Students have discretionary money to spend, and they want to spend it. Advertisers target premium dollars to the hottest products and services of the time. Marketers' sell their products on the promise of contributing to school program. If a school accepts the product, a company has a captive audience.

Corporations are becoming more involved at every educational level. No longer are they an interested party standing on the sidelines. Consider these examples:

  • Eli Lilly and representatives discussed Prozac to a high school
  • In return for crest toothpaste, Proctor & Gamble explained oral hygiene to grammar school kids
  • M & M Mars candy told students there was nutritional value in their products
  • Soft Drinks and Nutrition was a [poster displayed by the National Soft Drink Association
  • Barbie Dolls, Big Macs, and Oreo Cookies are part of 6, 7th and 8th-grade mathematics books

John McLaughlin, a seasoned educator, foresaw the trend of corporations and education joining forces. The author concluded that this is not a fad. John declared on the relationship between private money and public education; "is more than school-business partnerships; it is a manifestation of the new alignment of the American economy" that was in 1994.

Chris Whittle and Ed Winter, marketing and advertising executives, introduced Channel One News to millions of elementary, middle school and high school students in 1989. Five years later the two men sold the daily broadcast for $250 million to Primedia. After twenty-seven years, Channel One News broadcast its last show. Every show and feature was individually recorded meaning the show will live on for decades.

No one doubts the efficacy of Channel One News. What is in question, the magnitude of influence the broadcast played our youngest of minds. 1989, ads were displayed during broadcast to "cover the costs of the equipment" 2011, the company, offered an ad-free version for a fee.

True partnerships contain one essential ingredient, reciprocity. When two interested parties come together for a common cause, the solution benefits both. It needs to be noted when there is a true partnership; it goes beyond placing logos on a bus or scoreboard. Schools can expand, and businesses get the attention they deserve.

Higher learning institutions accepting money in any form is a slippery slope. Universities and colleges are so strapped for cash; they are willing to sell their educational soul for the almighty dollar. The issue is not in the money itself, but the influence these advertisers have over young minds. Consider the benefits to marketers who got in at the beginning of Channel One.

The destructive influence of commercialization in education is none more evident than college sports. Bankrupt educational systems relied on the almighty sports dollar to stay afloat in a world of rising tuitions and cost. In the 1970s and 80s, Southern Methodist University was one of the worst culprits of sports dollars over education. NCAA discovered a slush fund set up by wealthy alumni and corporations' paying athletes and their families to attend SMU. Football players were showing up to practice in limousines, while the rest of the student body had to pay their way. The NCAA gave SMU the "death penalty" from which it has still not recovered.

The SMU case points out, the one who suffers is the students. The university lost sight of what was meaningful in higher education, and it was not to win a football game at all costs. A mistake of SMU was believing businesses and wealthy alumni were concerned about education.

Plenty of corporate and educational partnerships work in the modern era because administrators are keeping the focus on students and not corporate money. Young people are going to drink cokes, download music among other things; no one is trying to deny the obvious. The first target must be to keep their students in school. Effective strategies are those that establish links to real-world circumstance and hopes.

The verdict is still out for online education. However, several programs and universities are taking the plunge and making their programs work. Several hybrid offerings are available with major educators to strengthen the present curriculum. Using the internet in partnership with education seems to be a match made in heaven. Online degrees are finally gaining respect.

Students are still questioning if they need to explain in their cover letter that their degree is from an online university. The future of education is now. 2012 more than 86% of residential education provided some type of online classes. One third offered full degrees. Employers have accepted the diverse lifestyles of their potential employees. The companies recognize the hard work an online degree takes to achieve.

A positive relationship between business and education does not develop by accident. First, both must make a long-term pledge to the benefit of each other. Goals must match the priorities of both. Second, both entities must invest in the effort for organizing, projects, and timeliness. Little successes need celebrating just as much as the big ones.

There are plenty of headwinds facing education, from K – 12 to higher learning. Future teachers are watching the commercialization of their classroom with meager assistance. Individuals and politicians should make education a priority rather than a political football. States need to have the same basic curricula, policies, and commercialization should be kept out of the classroom.

Have we placed too much pressure on school administrators? Colleges and universities are caving into the commercialization burden. Trustees need to do more; faculty should have more authority in policy. Should the entire management structure of our educational system be reformed?

It is easy for everyone to pinpoint problems with our society, education, climate and on and on. Fixing those same problems is the tough part.

Da Vinci was quoted, "I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.

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