Blog: Total War: Ad Symbolizes Absence of Student Choice

By Kevin Kuzma, Online Editor

The campaign began with a sneak attack. Norwich University is offering its Master of Arts in Military History program online. An announcement for this intriguing — and no doubt highly employable — program can be found on the Washington Post’s website and several other places loosely related to education (and some not.) I saw it for the first time above a banner ad promoting the availability of a new Kindle Single about the hunt for Osama Bin Laden. And then, likely thanks to the miracle of "retargeting," I saw it constantly wherever my browser took me thanks to a cookie that had been placed on my hard drive.

Given my affiliation with the career college sector and my sensitivity to the Department of Education’s "gainful employment" rule — which I’m sure many of you feel, too — these ads stood out to me as an egregious example of an academic choice no longer available to career college students. That choice is to study a program that interests you without the school’s subjection to meeting certain placement numbers or the student accepting a certain beginning salary.

The Norwich ad features a sepia-toned photo with soldiers standing at attention and, in the background, a cannon row ready to level the enemy across an open battlefield. The banner is naturally linked to a landing page with an in-depth program description that begins thus:

“Historians have always been relied on to provide critical perspective and interpretation of events from the past – and in turn be able to give the world insight about modern day affairs and events yet to pass. Norwich University’s Master of Arts in Military History online program has provided teachers, historians, members of the military and others with the opportunity to sharpen their writing and analytical skills and grow professionally.”

The correlation here, unless I’m missing it, is that through the process of studying war, you can also learn to read and write well. This is the approach that worked for Papa Hemingway, after all.

Next to the program description is the first in a series of questions for potential students to respond to in order to learn more: “What is your area of interest?” Below are the possible responses:

·    The Western Way of War
·    The Non-Western Way of War
·    Military Thought and Theory
·    U.S. Military History
·    Race and Gender in Military History
·    Total War

If you’re going to go to war – or study it – I would think “Total War” is the way to go. Besides, “Partial War” is not an option, and you’re only going to get hurt on the battle front if your heart is not in it.

The ad continues with some detail about Norwich’s extensive library. As a final selling point, in the bottom of the right-hand column, the school’s ranking in U.S. News & World Report is cited. The university, which is a Tier I school, was ranked in the top 100 for Master’s degrees in the North.

I don’t mean to downplay the importance of military history in the academic or military worlds, nor do I mean to condemn Norwich University. A simple Google search told me the university is the oldest of six Senior Military Colleges in the country and recognized by the United States Department of Defense as the "Birthplace of ROTC" (Reserve Officers’ Training Corps). When it comes to learning how battles were strategized and executed, this sounds like the place to study.

But in an age of slanted Senate hearings, the Department of Education (DOE) is keeping close watch on career colleges’ marketing and recruitment practices. These ads come from “the other side” and blatantly flaunt a right our schools no longer have. Community colleges and four-year institutions can offer programs to their heart’s content – without fear of retribution from the DOE or requirements to achieve certain placement numbers.

When no limits are set on cost, they can sometimes be exorbitant. Use your own judgment: The Norwich web site provides all cost information upfront for “Resident Students” and “Day Students.” Day Students can expect to pay the following along with other miscellaneous fees and charges:

·    Tuition, per semester $14,309/$28,618 annually (includes tuition for up to six courses)
·    Security Deposit $200 (see Policies, Security Deposit)
·    Medical Insurance $1,288 estimated annual cost
·    Student Activities Fee per semester $177/$354 annually
·    Technology Fee per semester $366/$732 annually
·    University Health Services Fee per semester $245/$490 annually (use of clinic, infirmary, and counseling services)
·    View additional costs here: http://www.norwich.edu/bursar/fees.html

A Master of Arts in Military History degree with an emphasis on Total War exemplifies a program with limited possibilities. Somewhere in this world, there are students (likely with military backgrounds) who can use it to forward or prolong their careers. However, this is likely a highly-specialized group of people, and I doubt a banner ad on the Post’s general education webpage is the place they normally come for news. Why can this program live on while an estimated 18 percent of career college programs will not survive?

The Post owns industry giant Kaplan, which has been attacked on all fronts recently by the DOE and the U.S. Senate. Perhaps Norwich University’s program is one we all should enroll in to learn the basic strategies of war. We are in the midst of one, and the opposition has permission to fire at will.

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Steve Mahoney
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You are correct. Non-Profits should be held to a 'gainful employment' standard. Parents will THANK YOU.