Meritus University in New Brunswick

Meritus University is now the third fourth private online university in New Brunswick, joining Lansbridge [update: Lansbridge lost its degree granting status in August 2010] and Yorkville Universities [and the University of Fredericton]. Meritus is owned by the Apollo Group which also owns the University of Phoenix. Locally, the Federation of New Brunswick Faculty Associations, which represents faculty at public institutions, says that ” … students are being shortchanged by private, for-profit universities, such as Meritus”. This is an interesting statement from those who have enjoyed an oligopoly [defn: An oligopoly is a market form in which a market or industry is dominated by a small number of sellers] on higher education for the past few centuries. I am sure that the paying students will decide in the end which institution offers the best education and related services.

Due to New Brunswick’s legislation that enables the creation of online private universities, we now have three. With their distributed staff this probably doesn’t equate to a lot of jobs but we are beginning to see a bit of a cluster here. Hopefully we’ll see some innovations in teaching and education from these new institutions, and not just a replication of the medieval scholastic model. At Meritus, the focus is on business administration teaching staff who actually have experience in business. Perhaps that’s what faculty at public institutions mean by being “shortchanged”.

I previously wrote about the move toward standardization in higher education and its implications in From Cottage Industry to International Certification.

11 Responses to “Meritus University in New Brunswick”

  1. Daniel Lemire

    What strikes me as impressive is that they are not coming up with cheesy programs and courses. The course descriptions, assuming they are legitimate, sound perfectly credible. I mean, just by reading the description, I am not sure I see an obvious difference with the corresponding program taken at UNB, say.

    So where does this leave the public universities?

    Well. One thing is missing from Meritus: a list of professors with bona fide Ph.D.s and research publications. Quite clearly because they would have difficulties attracting and keeping Ph.D.s around. And they will not maintain research programs.

    Public universities are just not school, they are also research institutions, and in that respect, Meritus is totally out of the picture.

    Now, do you want to attend a school where there is no ongoing research? Maybe. I guess it depends what you are after.

    Maybe public universities should focus more on research and leave more of the teaching to private universities?

  2. Harold

    Good question, Daniel and I guess that the future will tell us. If we get this bifurcation, I would be concerned if I was at a public university that did not have strong research programmes.

  3. Guy Boulet

    It is interesting to see that New Brunswick supports online universities while in Quebec the only “virtual university” (Télé-Université) has been merged with UQAM in 2005.

    Right now, in Quebec, the way ahead is to let traditional public universities become “bimodal” universities and offer online courses and sometimes online programs. But these courses often simply are classroom material delivered through a web page.

    It would be interesting to see the level of online interaction offered by these universities in their courses. Personally, I do not really care if they do research or not, as long as they provide quality courses.

    I may be wrong, but I’m quite sure that Quebec legislation would not allow such private universities.

  4. Johnathan Legder

    I believe that people should be excited that such institutions are being created because it creates competition in the marketplace. When there is more competition, the quality becomes the issue and that is always a good thing. As mentioned before, the students are the ones to decided whether the school is good or not, not pundits, bloggers, or journalists.

    Many students cannot attend a ground campus and therefore need an alternative. Others work and cannot drop everything in an attempt to get their education. We are all different and what works for you may not work for me.

    I applaud Meritus University for their attempt and their focus on quality education. Looking at their site, I like what I see. It seems as though they are serious about delivering the best education possible. Then again, I may be wrong but we cannot make judgments until students attend.

    I am simply tired of public institutions complaining about the private sector. Last I checked the overall goal for all is to educate the public. What difference does it matter whether your degree comes from a public or private institution. Cry me a river dolly…

  5. Miriam Jones

    Those who are defending these private online concerns should do a quick Google on the Apollo Group and its troubles, and then make a more informed decision about the quality of education these students might expect.

  6. Harold

    It’s seems that the latest lawsuit against the Apollo Group for $1.5B is scheduled for 2009, though the company has already had a $290M judgement against it in 2008 and a previous fine of $9.8M in 2004. These fines do not seem to relate directly to the quality of the educational offering, but whenever you put out your cash, “caveat emptor”.

  7. Jo-Anne Chow

    Every organization, whether for-profit or nonprofit, faces the risk of a lawsuit. That is just how the world operates. All it takes is one disgrunted customer or the inappropriate handlings of a staff member. When it comes down to education, check out the choices carefully as you would with anything. I am just glad to see that Canada’s educational market is broadening!

  8. Mark

    I’ve worked for some time with these private schools. A few offer a good education, however calling themselves Universities is a stretch. My family has worked with other private online schools in Canada and I hope that everyone knows that although the education is good, it is in no way on par with the AUCC schools in Canada. These schools have very little organizational structure and questionable hiring practices

    Also don’t assume these are NB schools when going through the admissions process ask questions about where the administration is located etc.

  9. Mark

    I really want to know why someone would enrol in a program through a university that has been in operation for less than five years? Quality programs? Really? I would like to get a sense of their retention/success rates over time before I jump on board. Do you really think the undergraduate degree will be accepted for further studies at more traditional universities? These universities are private FOR PROFIT operations. It would be nice to figure out how much programs cost but I couldn’t find this information on their web site.

    In the case of Meritus they are responsive to a board of directors for a publically traded US company. Hum – wonder where their loyalties and focus sit. Loosening regulation is what lead to the banking crisis in the US and it would have happened in Canada had the Canadian Banks had their way. Why are these folks setting up shop in New Brunswick – I would really be wondering what kind of oversight is actually in place.

  10. Yougetwayyoupayfor

    Be very very careful when choosing what University you pay. There is a reason NB has so many online schools, and it’s not due to a clause in their Education act. They have the most slack requirements for a designated University in Canada, and allow programs to begin that are on shakey financial ground, and with poor curriculum’s.

    You are better off spending your hard earned cash at a Public institution that will be around in 10yrs and carries the respect you need to get the job you want. I made a mistake and attended a NB based online Uni. Put it on your resume and it may get scanned in for having MBA in the education section, but quickly removed because it comes from a mickey mouse online school.

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