A degree is a degree??!!!

Mr. Brien McHugh's picture

Okay, I’m sorry. I tried to fight it but I can’t. The University of Phoenix’s current commercial stirs up too many emotions in me (envy and anger, for the most part) not to say something.

A female voice sings, to the tune of “If I only had a brain” from the Wizard of Oz, the following:

So my kids don’t have to forage  

Got two jobs to pay the mortgage

And I’ve also got a brain.


Life is short, talk is cheap

I’ll be working while you sleep                                                                        (Wizard of Oz image courtesy of MGM/Universal)

Still don’t think I’ve got a brain?

The song goes on for a few more stanzas accompanied by arresting visuals that portray working adults studying in various odd and out-of-the-way places.

As an advertising guy, I really appreciate the thought and attention to detail that went into this TV commercial. Rhyming forage and mortgage? Genius! The commercial cuts to the chase: working adults who go back to school are driven and focused; attributes that any employer should want.

But then, UofP jumps the shark. A shot of a middle aged, balding guy in boxing gear working the heavy bag is accompanied by:

I took two bullets in the chest

I’ve got three kids, I never rest

And I’ve also got a brain.

The song ends with:

A degree is a degree

You’re going to want someone like me

But only if you have a brain.

See the full UofP commercial here:

Mallory Ortberg gives a much more thorough rant against this commercial (and the Uof P) here. It’s a little NSFW but the gist is “Who are these people trying to kid?”

Uof P has been sued for, among other things “Breach of contract, Interference with contractual relations and Unjust Enrichment.” Recently a whistleblower lawsuit was filed against UofP for submitting false student aid information. It’s not sour grapes on the part of nonprofit institutions. We don’t mind a little competition. We mind lying about your methods and outcomes and making the for-profit executives very wealthy on the backs of students.

UofP is telling us, on one hand, that their students have grit and determination. And on the other hand “a degree is a degree” so it shouldn’t matter where you get that slip of paper we call a diploma.

We – the university of St. Francis – just held graduation. You want to see grit? You want to see determination? I saw it in the faces of the students who, just as in the UofP commercial, fought hard to get to graduation day. The difference is that we care about how much an education costs. We care that students actually graduate.

According to the US Department of Education the University of Phoenix graduation rate hovers between 9% and 15%. In comparison, our graduation rate is 56%, which is a few percentage points above the national average.

Could we do better? You bet. Could UofP do better? Oh, if they only had a heart…..

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