The weekend New York Times brought a special supplement, "Learn Something NEW: The New York Times Knowledge Network Fall 2011 Online Course Catalog." I saw it at a friend's house, because, as readers know from an earlier blog, I had canceled my subscription because of what I consider the company's unscrupulous educational practices. Apparently, the Times decided to continue marketing its brand in any way it can, despite my objections.
The supplement claims The New York Times is promoting "online learning at its best" through "our collaborations with a wide range of distinguished colleges and learning centers." If this is the "best," then online learning does not offer very much.
I admit the "green building design" program offered in conjunction with Cooper Union, creative writing through the University of Toronto, and continuing education with the University of Southern California look somewhat intriguing.
It turns out that Cooper Union only offers professional development courses for people who are already engineers, architects, developers, designers and members of allied professions, and the University of Toronto is primarily offering non-degree programs in continuing education, kind of like an online elder hostel. Meanwhile Southern California classes are being offered to high school students who want to enhance resumes for college applications.
Online paralegal studies with Thomas Edison State College of New Jersey may drag in some students eligible for federal loans and generate some revenue for the New Jersey public college system in a time of fiscal austerity and a budget-cutting Republican governor, but will it direct students into jobs or careers?
In a blog forum, "Is Becoming Paralegal Wishful Thinking?" participants raised serious questions about this career path.
According to BG in Carlsbad, Calif:
The answer is an overwhelming, yes! Even law school graduates are suing their schools for misrepresenting the issue of post-graduate opportunities for lawyers. A recent case involves a $200 million dollar class action against New York Law School. Another similar action was filed against Thomas M. Cooley Law School, and they'll undoubtedly be others that follow suit. The reality is that paralegals are dependent on lawyers for a living and that law is one of the worse fields to be in right now. Not only is legal work being outsourced and in short demand, but some of the software they have our right now and developing could very well replace lawyers and paralegals over the coming years. Factor in the legal self-help products on the internet and the future looks rather bleak. Anyone thinking about a career in the paralegal field is not playing with a full deck. You can save time and money by not choosing a career that is on its way out. It doesn't matter what type of paralegal credential you have, jobs are in short supply and without any experience, you will not be hired. Save your hard earned money and look for a better career path where at least you might find a job. Anything else is wishful thinking.
BG's comments are supported by an article on legal outsourcing from where else but The New York Times, "Outsourcing to India Draws Western Lawyers." It now seems that Indian lawyers "do the grunt work traditionally assigned to young lawyers in the United States -- at a fraction of the cost ... The number of legal outsourcing companies in India has mushroomed to more than 140 at the end of 2009, from 40 in 2005."
Of course, as a teacher and teacher educator, the Rio Salado College/New York Times partnership to provide teacher certification is the one that troubles me the most. According to the website, classes start 48 times a year or about once a week. They invite you to "join a community of future educators exceptionally well prepared to shine in the profession," but how that is possible with people constantly shuttling in and out is hard to believe. In smaller print, you learn a few important things:
- Financial aid is available to those who qualify.
- These programs require an "in-person" component.
- The program is only approved in some states (not named).
- It is the responsibility of the student to verify state certification requirements.
In other words, if you are eligible for financial aid, we will take your money, but everything else in this high-quality program, like mandatory field placements and finding out and meeting state certification requirements, is left up to you. If you are thinking of working in New York State, beware that while New York requires 36 semester hours in a specific content area as part of your undergraduate degree, as well as a series of general liberal arts classes to be certified to teach secondary school (grades 7 through 12), Arizona, where this programs originates, does not require that teachers possess a degree in the chosen content area and allows them to take a "content proficiency" exam.
I called the toll-free Rio Salado information number to get additional information. Teaching certification is a 45-credit program, and out-of-state tuition is $215 per credit, bringing the total cost to almost $10,000. But this is the funny part: Rio Salado is only allowed to register students living in 24 states, including New Jersey and Connecticut but not New York. If I lived in one of those states, I would be allowed to register, but that does not guarantee that my state Department of Education would accept my $10,000 certificate for teacher certification. That is up to me to check out.
Bottom line, if you sign up for The New York Times Knowledge Network, don't expect to get a job through The New York Times.