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Faculty unions fight EMU online degree contract with ads

Nov 15, 2017

Eastern Michigan University's faculty unions are running ads to try to stop an online degree initiative.

The university has a contract with Academic Partnerships, a for-profit company, to recruit students for online degrees. AP gets 50% of the tuition for the students it enrolls in EMU online degree courses.

EMU faculty union president Judith Kullberg says if online class sizes get too big, AP can begin using a subcontractor's so-called "coaches," instead of professors, to teach the classes.  The coaches are very poorly paid, she says. That's happened at other universities, especially in the South, Kullberg says, where faculty are not unionized.

"We don't think that EMU students should become guinea pigs for an experiment in teacherless classrooms," says Kullberg.

EMU spokesman Geoff Larcom says the university will not use coaches.

He says the 50/50 tuition split is fair, because the students recruited by AP are new sources of revenue, and are not students EMU could find on its own.

Larcom says initiatives like this are necessary, because Michigan's population of college-bound students is projected to shrink over the next decade.

"Regional universities like Eastern Michigan, like our peers, are needing to think of ways to further enhance revenue," he says.

Faculty union leaders say EMU's contract with AP allows the for-profit group to use lower GPA and other criteria for accepting online degree students, which over time will dilute the value and quality of an EMU degree.

The teachers unions are also contesting the AP contract through grievances and mediation.