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6 The Role of Proprietary Schools There are some private, entrepreneurial organizations that provide continuing education and that have been in existence for many years. These are the proprietary schools. Others have recently entered the field, recognizing a need for continuing education among engineers and managers, and the possibility perhaps of a "gold mine. " Their programs typically are relevant, though high priced. Because of their topical nature and popular appeal, they are generally financially successful. Programs are offered at convenient times and locations, and the instructors are generally very good. Because of their brevity, these courses do not seriously interfere with the professional commitments of working engineers. The overall educational effectiveness of the courses is somewhat indeterminant, however, because engineers gen- erally attend them based on the reputation of the offering organization. Klus and Jones jl978bJ report that approximately 10,000 engineers are participating in private entrepreneurial technical courses at any given time. In a survey of career development activities of 87 compa- nies that subscribe to Research Management, Thompson and Drake ; 1983J found that 47 percent employed private entrepreneurial training courses as a career development medium. Overall, proprietary pro- grams ranked seventh of fifteen strategies reported. Information on proprietary programs actually is quite limited, how- ever. In the face of all that has been developed on the efforts of industry, academia, and professional societies in continuing education, there is no known body of knowledge that addresses the size, scope, or cost of 62

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THE ROLE OF PROPRIETARY SCHOOLS 63 continuing education programs conducted by private operators. The American Society for Training and Development {ASTD ) has identified an initial undertaking in this area, by Hope Reports, Inc., a consulting firm that publishes reference material relating to training activities of commercial firms, associations, and institutes. According to a 1984 survey, a conservative estimate of the size of the proprietary training industry would be $2 billion annually, including off-the-shelf, custom-designed, and generic services. An estimated 3 percent of the total, or $60 million, is spent annually on these latter programs. These figures, as well as enrollment data, must be assumed to be extremely conservative estimates. That they are all that can apparently be developed from available research suggests that addi- tional study of the proprietary segment of the continuing education . . . Universe IS in orc .er. A final point of interest is ASTD's estimate that proprietary programs grew at an average annual rate of 7.5 percent during 1978-1982. Con- versely, spending on proprietary programs dipped 2 percent in 1981- 1982, suggesting that short courses are the first element of continuing education to be sacrificed during cost-cutting periods.