Author Solutions, Inc., has teamed up with Alliant International University. According to Andrew Phillips, ASI president and CEO, “. . . the efficiencies of supported self-publishing to the university-press model could dramatically reduce barriers of entry, ultimately resulting in learning institutions disseminating scholarship for the greater good.” First, I didn’t know that any college, even in a third-world country, has a problem enabling its students to publish anything. With the digital world’s being what it is today, all anyone needs is a cell phone. However, ignoring Mr. Phillips’s rhetoric, the problem with utilizing any institution of higher learning as a backdrop for credibility is, in my opinion, deplorable.
I’ll reiterate, how difficult is it for a school to publish anything? As ridiculous as it might sound, and I realize (and respect) that I have detractors for the Espresso Book Machine I’ve touted for some time, all a school has to do, as my alma mater Kennesaw State University has done, is rent one of these copying configurations and immediately go into the publishing business. Academic books generally require a couple of dozen copies at most (okay, a half-dozen copies, and that’s a stretch at times), and then the material is archived. Academic papers can be run off any printer, and even the typing of term papers, theses and dissertations, literally a huge cottage industry in my day, is currently a mere vestige of what it once was. And with so many schools opting for the virtual textbook, is the virtual dissertation far behind–if not here already?
I’m not in any way desiring to impugn the quality of an education provided by Alliant International University, which was founded in 1969 and currently boasts an enrollment of 4,000 with strong ethnic diversity, which I applaud. However, if one goes to the school’s Web site, a plethora of N/A indicators show up after what I consider to be key metrics, such as graduation rates and even the number of students who graduate from the school each year (the institution’s cachet appears to be the confirmation of psychology doctorates for those who then practice in California, where the school was founded). After some close reading, I was able to determine that approximately 70 percent of the student body studies online, and while this is certainly an increasingly accepted practice these days, I’ve always looked at resumes from online universities with jaundiced eyes. I freely admit to my bias, but it’s founded on my having to consider if John Jones really did the work–or if it had been provided by Mary Smith under John’s name.
However, while I might not be fond of online degrees, I know of someone who earned an undergraduate degree from a Big Ten school and cheated on every term paper and book report and daily assignment. Yes, all of them! And, of course, had others take the tests whenever possible and affix this cheater’s name. And on the rare occasion when a test had to be taken by physically appearing in the classroom, had people in close proximity providing answers. This person graduated with a 3.0 and fortunately for society never had to “apply the degree,” as marriage to a wealthy person made the education–if one could call it that–nugatory. Still, even by giving everyone who graduates via an online program the same respect due any college graduate, I believe it’s fair to say that Alliant International University is not Stanford.
I apologize for belaboring my point, but I find it reprehensible, along with so much else that Author Solutions has foisted on the public, that the firm would use a college as a medium to gain credibility for its other services. And, rest assured, the ASI or AS LLC marketing team will use this affiliation to every conceivable benefit. But, it’s still the same wolf in sheep’s clothing, and all any of us who care about the integrity of the publishing business can do is to point out the issues so writers can make educated decisions. As I’ve said a hundred thousand times, I’m not the moral compass for this industry, but I feel an obligation to let folks know what’s real and what’s not as I see it. My opinions are certainly not any better than anyone else’s, but when a firm has a reputation among a huge percentage of its clients as “rip-off city,” why should it be assumed that a different wrinkle will somehow emerge when a new affiliation occurs? It’s my opinion that the Alliant relationship is solely a vehicle to add credibility to the oft-tarnished Author Solutions name.