Your degree, brought to you by Target.

The Chronicle of Higher Education today saw fit to promote a story on a new institution in the works called World Education University. World Education University promises to deliver a college education free of charge for its students. They accomplish this miraculous business model through financing from corporate partners.

From the Chronicle:

“Any Silicon Valley start-up will tell you that if you can drive enough eyeballs to your Web site, you can find ways to leverage that and monetize it,” said Scott Hines, the university’s chief executive. “We’re very transparent to students. They understand that their education is being underwritten generally through advertisers.”

Advertisers will pay for students to answer survey questions related to their products. For example, students may be asked a question like “Are you a runner?” when they log into the learning-management system. If a student checks “yes,” he or she will thereafter see ads for a certain brand of running shoes on the home page.

It’s worth it to read the full CHE article.  Hines has a background in developing tutoring software; his co-founder is a businessman with no educational experience. Despite claims of transparency, there is nothing on the glittery WEU website that mentions this unique business proposition.  If corporations are truly interested in contributing to quality higher education, they can distribute individual scholarships, endow a chair or finance a building.  Are those options too limited?

WEU’s website also notes that it is still working towards accreditation.

One commenter on the CHE article asked why the publication was running an article on a nonexistent entity. In many ways, this proposal is the education world’s worst nightmare: advertisers subsidizing, and mostly likely dictating the content of, course work; WEU enlisting ambitious but naive and poor kids for their corporate propagandist agenda; the death of the humanities and liberal arts and possibly math and science, too, in favor of a curriculum that features courses such as “Walmart Hospitality 101” and “Kissing the Boss’ Ass for Fun and Profit.”