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Part of the problem with the U.S. educational system is that it's loaded with fluff. When my daughter told me a few years ago that one of her electives was ballroom dancing, it became clearer than ever that colleges were simply not fulfilling their role of preparing students for the real world.

Rather than pursuing its animus against for-profit educators like Apollo Group's University of Phoenix or Corinthian College, which challenge the orthodoxy of establishment universities, the Education Department might better spend its time having mainstream schools pursue academic excellence.

Flipping burgers
So when you first hear about employees attending McDonald's (NYSE: MCD  ) Hamburger University or Starbucks staffers taking Barista Basics courses and earning college credits for it, you'd be forgiven for thinking they're the educational equivalent of cotton candy: a fun snack but hardly fulfilling.

In reality, businesses have had to pick up after the failures of our educational system and in response are producing graduates that are able to be functioning, productive employees.

Hamburger University churns out some 5,000 students a year. Since its founding in 1961 (in the basement of a McDonald's restaurant, no less), more than 80,000 restaurant managers, mid-level managers, and owner-operators have graduated from the institution. CNN recently took note of employees hitting the books at corporate campuses and said that the American Council on Education, or ACE, finds their training courses to be of an equivalent value in college credits. More than a dozen colleges accept Hamburger University credits, including institutions like Penn State and Drexel University.

That's a somewhat similar agenda to the more secretive work being done by Apple  (NASDAQ: AAPL  ) at its Apple University, which has been identified as inculcating a managerial way of doing business along the lines of Hewlett-Packard's HP Way; though, like Pixar University's programs in fine arts and filmmaking, it's also seen as providing professional development.

Graduate to the next level
While corporate universities are as diverse as General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) Crotonville -- which started in 1956 and is the oldest such institution -- and Jiffy Lube University, the oil change division of Royal Dutch Shell, the idea driving them is all the same: providing employees with an educational opportunity to excel.

ACE also finds courses outside the traditional classroom valid at Microsoft, Paychex, Walgreen, Wal-Mart, and Disney.

I owe my soul to the company store
Unlike the old mining companies that tethered their employees to them through debt at the company store, the corporate university is a business education that transcends the traditional nexus among student, university, and business. Tuition for a McDegree costs a student nothing. Since our colleges and universities are failing so miserably in their task, do we really need them and the devastating costs of their tuition debt at all?

The higher-education bubble is about to burst, but it could be the corporate universities that move to the head of the class. Maybe those businesses willing to invest most in their employees are the ones we should invest most in ourselves.

Educate yourself on Mickey D's
McDonald's turned in a dismal year in 2012, underperforming the broader market by 25%. Looking ahead, can the Golden Arches reclaim its throne atop the restaurant industry, or will this unsettling trend continue? Our top analyst weighs in on McDonald's future in a recent premium report on the company. Click here now to find out whether a buying opportunity has emerged for this global juggernaut.

Read/Post Comments (3) | Recommend This Article (1)

Comments from our Foolish Readers

Help us keep this a respectfully Foolish area! This is a place for our readers to discuss, debate, and learn more about the Foolish investing topic you read about above. Help us keep it clean and safe. If you believe a comment is abusive or otherwise violates our Fool's Rules, please report it via the Report this Comment Report this Comment icon found on every comment.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 12:29 PM, prginww wrote:

    Rich, your introduction is offensive. Higher education has a role in teaching all kinds of subjects, including dance technique. Ballroom dancing is a form of kinesthetic learning, aka body learning. We are human beings and it goes without saying that awareness of our bodies is important. If you feel your daughter should be taking different classes, that's not the reader's issue. Please make your point in a different way.

  • Report this Comment On April 17, 2013, at 6:16 PM, prginww wrote:


    Sorry, but I guess we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. I don't think such classes should be a part of an educational curriculum. As this was part of her "physical education" requirement, it seems to me a wasted opportunity.

    To me, ballroom dancing is on par with underwater basking weaving, the art of walking, the science of superheroes, etc. (btw, those are all real courses offered at various colleges around the country).

    I don't think ballroom dancing isn't important -- in fact it's a lot better than what goes for dancing these days -- I just don't think it should be elevated to a college level course.

    Thanks for reading.


  • Report this Comment On May 14, 2014, at 2:17 PM, prginww wrote:

    I think students should submit good resumes. Do you know that many employers spend 20 seconds or even less to scan a resume for the first time? So, in those few seconds, you need to clearly demonstrate your skills, experience, education, and characteristics and it should match what they are looking for. And generally students write ordinary resumes while their potential employers try to see a specific “fit” for their team. Try to consult this website , you will learn how to customize your resume for each and every job, so it will help you to improve your chances for getting an interview and potential job.

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