Monday, February 07, 2011

Dear Fran...

Some time ago, I somehow got on the email solicitation list for the Long Ridge Writers Group, a subsidiary of Writer’s Institute, Inc. Although I admit that I might have expressed an interest at some point in the distant past, that interest was rescinded long ago - and likely because it turned out to be yet another iteration of the “for-profit” model of higher education that I so despise. Over the course of the past few years, I have received numerous emails from Fran Saunders (the director of admissions) that use a strangely guilt-provoking pathos to reach prospective students. These emails almost have the flavor of a jilted lover… that I have somehow betrayed the generosity of this “school” by not accepting (and paying for) the benefits they provide. After a history of briefly responding to and then deleting Fran’s emails, today I finally decided to write at length… and of course, publish that correspondence here.

Dear Fran,

I am not sure how I ended up on your email list, but it is possible I might have inquired at some point in the distant past. Since whenever that was, I have received from you not one, not two, but several emails with subject lines like, "final chance" (Jan. 29, 2010), "is this our good-bye?" (Jan 10, 2010) and "this is our final good-bye" (emphasis added, Jan 9, 2009)... and those are just the emails that have escaped my notice and deletion. Isn't it interesting, however, based upon just these surviving emails that in the space of one year (2009 - 2010) our relationship went from a statement of finality to one of pining for clarity? And today I have been informed that I have one extra week. Since you appear to be having some difficulty putting this solicited relationship behind you, let me be so blunt: This is our final goodbye. I am not interested in whatever services you might or might not have. I am currently in the process of writing a Masters thesis and have little time to be reading or responding to your pleas to better my writing and myself. It should be abundantly clear just from the composition of these few words that I do not need your help.

As far as qualifying for your course - I suspect that everyone who responds qualifies for your course. The Writer's Institute, Inc. is a for-profit business. The purpose (or "mission", if you prefer) of all for-profit businesses is the production of money. That is what a profit is. There is nothing wrong with a mission of making money except when it conflicts with the mission of improving the human condition, society, charity and other similarly noble missions. Education does not fit the for-profit model (neither does healthcare - but I digress). One is either in it to make money or in it to provide students the best possible education regardless of cost. Those costs, because the educated individual's contribution to society is as valuable to society as it is to the individual, should be largely subsidized by that society... in other words, education should be a money losing (in terms of tuition) proposition in the short term. There is not nor should there be a tangible short-term profit, but the enormity of the benefit to society is indisputable - the fact that the US is the world's only super-power in every sense is evidence enough of not only the power of a public education, but also of capitalism - separated.

To conclude, dear Fran, I am not interested in paying you for the privilege of improving my writing and lining your investors' pockets. I am completing my Master's at a highly regarded California State University campus and continuing my education in one of five public or non-profit private universities. The mission of each is similar and has nothing to do with turning a profit. Yes, parting can be difficult, but be comforted that you have now extracted 30 minutes of my time. That time, however, will be immortalized on the Internet through my blog ( and by the many republications of it (which is permitted free of charge though a Creative Commons copyright). You see, there is more to our global community than trying to extract money by exploiting every possible dream and aspiration - you could do it the old-fashioned way. You could earn it.


Michael K. Althouse