Thread regarding 2U Inc. layoffs

"Steer clear for your own sanity"

Admissions Counselors at 2U perform work much closer to fraud telemarketing than "counseling." The volume bleeds the human element out of every phone call because you will constantly be striving to hit metrics and enrollment goals.

As an AC, you have little control over hitting your goal for several reasons:
1) many of these programs are highly selective, so most of the students you "counsel" don't have the remotest chance of getting admitted (of course, you are not allowed to tell them this, or in any way provide meaningful guidance. No, you have to waste their time and yours by harassing them over phone and email until their doomed application is completed and instantaneously rejected).
2) the students you're working with are, y'know, human beings with free will, so even if they do have a chance of getting admitted, they might not want to apply for that particular cohort.
3) 2U programs are godawful expensive. For many programs, 2U also has multiple offerings for the same discipline, so ACs working for the more expensive option are often out of luck if a student is admitted to a cheaper competing program. Kinda hard to convince someone to take out 40k more in loans than they have to. You will be tacitly encouraged to manipulate students into taking on more debt just to meet your goal. They want you to do everything just shy of outright lying. Admissions is a breeding ground for exaggerated claims, half-truths, and lies by omission. In short, you will be kicking water uphill every day in this role, trying to meet laughably unrealistic targets made by leadership.

That's not even to touch on the sham "Core Values" 2U shoves down your throat. They literally have these values in neon tube lights on the walls in HQ. Now, of course every company has their own brand of BS, but 2U is insane about theirs. It is cult-like. People use the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” unironically. Maybe it’s just me, but using the language of a mass s–c-de in a positive sense...doesn’t exactly sit right. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the core values.

1) ”Cherish every opportunity"–so long as you make 75 calls every day, annoying the heck out of people who just wanted a brochure about the program! Also, if someone has a low GPA or GRE scores and cannot help you meet your goal, that is not an opportunity, so don’t cherish it. This would be an accurate value if it said, "Cherish every opportunity that can make the company money. Forget everything else."

2) ”Be candid, honest, and open" —Honestly, for this one I might as well just post the précis of the pending lawsuit against this company: “[2U] throughout the Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) the Company faced increasing competition in online education and particularly regarding graduate programs; (2) the Company faced certain program-specific issues that negatively impacted its performance; (3) as a result, the Company’s business model was not sustainable; (4) the Company would slow its program launches; and (5) as a result, 2U’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. When the true details entered the market, the lawsuit claims that investors suffered damages.”

2U also doesn’t want you being “candid honest and open” with the students. Generally speaking, none of these students even know 2U exists, let alone that it gets a large chunk of their tuition money. You are lying by omission on every phone call, every time you send an email from your university email address. Students assume you are directly tied to the actual campus of the program you represent, because 2U spoofs the phone numbers, so every AC calling from say, Maryland, has an area code local to the school they are representing. Here's another hilarious thing: in September 2019, after mass firing 67 tenured employees and, again GETTING SUED BY ITS INVESTORS, 2U put out a "Framework for Transparency," which asserts, "2U has always publicly listed the degree and non-degree offerings we power," which, while technically true, is exactly the sort of PR/optics sophistry you should expect from this company. Yes, they list their university partners on their website. But at no point in an AC's correspondence with a prospective student is the name 2U ever brought up. Students would have to already know what an OPM is, and what 2U is for this "transparency" to actually do anything. As it stands, this Framework for Transparency looks to me like just another PR maneuver designed to give 2U rhetorical wiggle room to claim they’re being forthcoming while actually being the opposite.

3) ”Give a Damn!” – but not about all those poor schmucks with low GPAs who can't help you meet your goal.

4) “Relationships matter!” - remember where I said above they mass fired 67 employees one day? Yeah, they gave these people no notice– people who had been with the company for years, had helped build the business, and had bought into all of 2U's pompous, self-aggrandizing rhetoric about how they are "changing the world!" True believers, hard workers, in other words, fired en masse with no notice. These unfortunate individuals were literally called into an auditorium, let go, and informed “You’re welcome to work for the rest of the day if you want!”

5) “Don’t let the skeptic win!” — by which they mean don’t question anything or think for yourself, peon! Drink the Kool-Aid! DRINK IT I SAID! SHUT UP AND DRINK IT!!! HAVE YOU MADE YOUR DIALS FOR THE DAY YET?!

6) “Be bold and fearless” — I guess it was pretty bold and fearless to abruptly and callously fire a significant chunk of their loyal workforce, so kudos to 2U on this one. And it was pretty brazen to lie to their investors too. So, all right, I've give them this one.

7) “Make service your mission” — in other words, do good volunteer work and take pictures wearing 2U swag so we can take credit and get those sweet sweet PR social justice brownie points. 2U spends a lot of money promoting itself, getting named as a Great Workplace in magazines, maintaining this veneer that they are an ethical, socially conscious organization, when in reality, like most other companies, business is the first priority. Ethics and social consciousness are a very, VERY distant second. Actually, probably more like a very distant tenth or eleventh. This wouldn't even be annoying if they were just honest about it. I get it. A company exists and makes decisions solely to grow its business. So why does 2U seem to demand that its employees pretend otherwise?

8) “Have fun!” – you know the phrase “bread and circuses?” It means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy but by diversion, distraction, or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace— by offering a palliative: for example, food (bread) or entertainment (circuses). Thanks Wikipedia. Yeah, that is 2U’s main operating strategy. They do all these extravagant events, e.g. random dance parties in HQ, renting out Six Flags for Halloween, or flying everyone to some destination once a year for company meeting. Superficially these are nice, until you remember that these events are bonkers expensive, and that 2U will then lay off 67 people at a moment’s notice due to monetary concerns. I feel reasonably safe in saying those employees would rather have kept their jobs than gotten to see Flo-Rida live in concert. Moreover, the events, particularly company meeting, are basically thinly veiled attempts at brainwashing, stoking the CEO's messiah complex. They give a lot of ra-ra, gosh-aren’t-we-awesome speeches and make you stand in an auditorium chanting company slogans (again, DRINK THE KOOL-AID, SERF). They get great performers and speakers—Michelle Obama in 2018, for example—who lend specious legitimacy to 2U’s alleged mission and values, but are probably told nothing about the company beyond its claims of being "an innovative tech start up increasing accessibility in higher ed."

9) “Strive for excellence!” — in other words, light yourself on fire daily to keep the higher-ups warm. Break your back to carry the company.

In short, this company is an object lesson in disingenuous corporate doublespeak, bad faith business practices, and dogmatic, cultish conformity. Their core values are a bad joke, and if you are an independent thinker at all, you will not like it here. Also, for the record, I was not fired. I left of my own accord before all the firings and lawsuits started. This is not some disgruntled, terminated ex-employee sounding off. This is just an honest appraisal of how 2U does business from my perspective. Work here at your own peril.

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Posted...and people are listening. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/2u-whistleblowers-detail-rampant-overpricing-behavior-dahn-shaulis/

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