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By Tom Cushing

Next Up, The Election Props -- but first this word: We’re Number One!

Uploaded: Sep 20, 2016

Here is a quick announcement of some unadorned good news: Golden Gate University was recently ranked as a university for adult learners. Accordingly, some may consider this blog to be an advertisement, since I teach there a little; one other reader may decide that it’s just more evidence of a personal desire for reflected glory – either way, so be it. It IS my blog, I am proud to be associated with this rating, and will gladly wear it.

Of course, it’s also a late rebuttal to the early wag/commenter hereabouts who called GGU “the Harvard of the Tenderloin.” Ouch – even if that geography’s bad, as the main campus is in the Financial District. Instead, it’s now “the Harvard of Andragogy*.”

GGU has come a pretty long way from its roots in the early 1900s, as a night law school in borrowed space at the SF YMCA. It includes both undergrad, graduate and doctoral programs in law, business and tax. Indeed, the tax program where I do not teach has long been among the national leaders in graduate tax education. The other curricula focus on recruiting students with day-jobs – the GGU niche in the crowded and capable academia of the Bay Area is that its courses are relentlessly applications-oriented.

As such, GGU gets students who are ‘sharpening the saw’ to use a Covey-ism – they are deepening their capabilities in practical ways to better compete for that next opportunity. It often comes with another company, which benefits from the new skills, thus achieved. I can say from my own experience that the quality and sophistication of the student body continues to improve, and in every class there are students who can flat-out compete – Anywhere.

The rating publication is Washington Monthly Magazine, so it might be argued that the farther away they are, the better you look – like that expert from out-of-town who is instantly more credible than the locals. But there’s more to it than that, as they note that almost half of all collegians are over 25, yet nobody has ranked their school choices in any organized way:

“Whereas U.S. News relies on crude and easily manipulated measures of money and prestige for its rankings, the Washington Monthly measures schools based on what they are doing for the country – by improving social mobility, producing research, and promoting public service. …To put together its exclusive ranking of the best four-year and two-year colleges for adult learners, the Washington Monthly compiled reams of data on which schools best meet these students’ unique needs, such as plenty of weekend, evening, and online classes to fit busy work schedule.”

GGU “has long been devoted to the needs of adult learners. That devotion shows up in one of our measures: fully 88 percent of Golden Gate’s students are adults. Golden Gate also does well on three metrics of adult student friendliness: ease of transfer; flexibility of programs (whether it offers things like weekend and evening classes and prior learning assessments); and services for adults (financial aid counseling, on-campus daycare, job placement, specialized services for military veterans, and so on).”

“Golden Gate does poorly on one metric, tuition and fees. ... But it partially makes up for that in another important measure: earnings. The mean income of adult students ten years after they enter Golden Gate University is $73,166, the eighteenth highest of the 571 four-year schools we looked at.”

The publication does also indicate that most of the nation’s traditional elite schools are excluded from the ratings, because they simply aren’t in the business of educating adult learners. The GGU Griffins** are also utterly unranked in football.

Still, it’s a pretty fine report card. If you’re looking to complete a waylaid degree or to add some new attractiveness to your Permanent Record, you might hazard a glance toward GGU. You could do worse, according to Washington Monthly, almost anywhere else.

* andragogy: "the method and practice of teaching adult learners; adult education."

** I have Never understood this mascot. Seems to me that the Fog Cutters would be better -- especially for we, the faculty!