This article was originally published by Republic Reports and is re-posted here with permission.
Shakespeare’s Juliet told her Romeo, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” The star-crossed lovers could not have known that centuries later those words would be invoked by one of America’s most controversial industries in a manner more worthy of Orwell’s 1984. A 32-page Powerpoint document, “Introducing Project Rose,” from the leading trade association representing for-profit colleges, instructs its members to alter “the vernacular of our sector” in order to reframe the public debate. In this Orwellian Newspeak, a for-profit school’s high-pressure “call center” is transformed into an “enrollment-assistance center,” a “recruiter” becomes a more sympathetic “counselor,” a “piece of business” becomes a student “applicant,” and vilified “private equity” is called simply “private sector.”
In the past few years, for-profit colleges have created strong public concern because they often have high prices, low-quality programs, and deceptive tactics that have exploited taxpayers and left students deep in debt.
The industry has been particularly criticized for coercive sales techniques that have appeared, despite industry denials, to be driven by sales quotas and commissions. The Project Rose document, from the group then called the Career College Association and now called APSCU, tells industry members that the new name for ”quotas” is “goals” and the new name for “commissions” is “salary component.”
Today the Chronicle of Higher Education published an account (subscription required) of the 2010 Project Rose Powerpoint and reported that APSCU pursued the effort for at least a year. Republic Report also has obtained the Powerpoint, and, exclusively, you can download the Powerpoint and read the whole thing here.
Clearly the effort was aimed at describing students less as traded commodities and more as treasured scholars. It’s unfortunate that the for-profit education industry has not tried to match its new words with improved deeds.
Project Rose was on the agenda when senior for-profit executives held a luxury retreat in Telluride Colorado in 2010. Amid photos of skiing and premium accommodations, the meeting brochure described a session called, “Introducing Project Rose,” with the description “Shakespeare had it right. Words matter.”