Wal-Mart University

I’m all for awarding college credit for real world experiences, but this seems a little ridiculous:

Under a program announced Thursday, employees of Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club will be able to receive college credit for performing their jobs, including such tasks as loading trucks and ringing up purchases. Workers could earn as much as 45 percent of the credits needed for an associate or bachelor’s degree while on the job.

The credits are earned through the Internet-based American Public University, with headquarters in Charles Town, W.Va., and administrative offices in Manassas. […]

American Public University is one of a growing number of so-called career colleges that operate on a for-profit model, rather than as state institutions or private foundations. APU’s parent company is publicly traded and its reported revenue jumped 43 percent to $47.3 million during the most recent quarter, while profit rose 46 percent to $7.6 million.

Washington Post: Wal-Mart partners with online school to offer college credit to workers

(Thanks Trevor)

Will any employer other than Wal-Mart have any respect for American Public University degrees? Will Wal-Mart actually have any respect for the degrees themselves?

It’s hard to blame Wal-Mart employees for taking APU up on this offer, though, with the economy in the toilet and with universities across the country raising tuition faster than inflation (recent examples: Oregon, Illinois, Virginia)

But I’m worried this will only lead to increased academic inflation. This will be especially problematic for Wal-Mart employees/students who get low-value degrees like B.A.s communications and political science, like the person the WaPo quoted for the story. Students who focus on sciences and professional degrees will obviously have more success, but they will probably be either less prepared by an APU degree degree or be able to earn far less of their degree by working at Wal-Mart (or both). (Maybe accounting would work.)

Sadly, it sounds like this program is mostly designed to grift Wal-Mart employees for the private gain of APU.