Posts Tagged ‘John F Murray’

Are For-Profit Colleges Evil?

Editorial – – I was given this interesting article by a colleage at a for-profit college in which I serve as an adjunct professor, Argosy University (Sarasota campus) in the EDMC umbrella. It’s interesting because so many take shots at for profit schools these days. I attended two great and well respected universities, Loyola University for my undergraduate work in psychology, and the University of Florida for all my graduate studies in becoming a clinical and sports psychologist. Still, I see the extreme value of education wherever and whenever you obtain it. Sometimes a for profit school is the best or only bet for an eager adult learner, so why knock it? Sometimes this avenue offers much more than at traditional institutions of learning. I personally developed three sports psychology courses, for example, for EDMC, and they now offer a rare opportunity to students at their programs that teach it. Since I teach a psychology class each semester at Argosy University, I’m also biased in believing that students are getting much more than they ever would gain at Harvard or Yales (wink! 🙂 … now I did not like how this article took a little pot shot at Washington State University for their large hot tub that holds 50 students in their deluxe athletic facility, and the slam on sports is not fair as sports provide so much to the excitement of a university, but overall I think you will enjoy the arguments put forth below, arguments in defense of for-profit learning. John F Murray, PhD
Author: Matthew Greenfield
I used to be a bit of a snob about for-profit colleges. O.K., more than a snob—I was arrogant, narrow-minded, and misinformed. Before I became a hedge fund manager, I got a Ph.D. in English at Yale University and taught at Bowdoin College and the City University of New York (CUNY), all venerable academic powerhouses. I remember the first time one of my CUNY students told me she was transferring to a for-profit technical college. This student, whom I will call Laura, is a remarkable woman who had been given a very unpromising start in life. After being horribly abused by her parents, she had run away in her early teens and grown up homeless, suffering in ways I could scarcely imagine. In her twenties, after having a child, she had become serious about education, gotten her G.E.D., and shown up in college.

Somehow, despite going nowhere near a classroom for most of her teens, Laura had become a dazzling writer, as good as the best I had taught at Yale or Bowdoin. Her cool, deadpan, yet fiercely moral prose reminded me of Joan Didion’s; she wrote unforgettable portraits of the monsters, saints, and lunatics she had encountered in her travels. Her very first college essay was good enough for Harper’s or the New Yorker. I
encouraged Laura to publish her work, but she was too busy raising her child, organizing for the New York Public Interest Research Group, and getting her degree. She would have made a fine candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship if she had any interest in it—and if she hadn’t already been over the age limit. But Laura’s academic career then took a new and unexpected twist: she told me she was leaving the CUNY system and starting the computer science program at a for-profit college. I was baffled. But Laura had a clear sense of what she was doing. What follows is the story of my own learning process, my education about for-profit education.

I could have understood Laura transferring to Columbia University. But why would she leave for a for-profit school? The CUNY system offered almost infinite opportunities and despite all its flaws had educated
numerous Nobel Prize winners and captains of industry. For-profit schools, on the other hand, were the bottom of the academic pecking order, weren’t they? I thought of the grubby storefront campuses of
some small technical schools, and the ads in the subway cars, alongside the ads for Dr. Jonathan Zizmor, dermatologist (“Are you suffering from acne, scars, or discoloration?â€?).

Why would Laura take on more debt to pay a higher tuition bill? And what about her writing? Had they tricked her in some way? That didn’t seem very plausible. Laura had fewer illusions than anyone else I knew, and after her years on the street she could detect any kind of dishonesty instantly, as if it were lit up in red neon. I tried to talk her out of leaving, but Laura had a clear, well-reasoned set of arguments. She said the for-profit would fit her schedule better, let her get her degree in half the time, probably also prepare her better for her first high-paying job, and definitely provide stronger job placement services. For-profit schools target the job occupations most in demand, work closely with employers, and develop new curricular materials (unlike the Yale professor who in the late eighties was still teaching a machine code course using a microprocessor from Zilog rather than one from Intel). For-profits are doing some impressive innovation in areas like multimedia online textbooks and medical simulation software. The for-profits use practitioners as teachers, and each teacher is thus also a career coach and unofficial placement officer. The for-profits offer rolling course starts every six weeks, so Laura didn’t have to wait for the beginning of a new semester to start a course. For-profits have streamlined, easy-to-use administrative processes, and they monitor the progress of their students closely. After a single absence, a for-profit school will probably follow up to see whether a student needs any help. I hadn’t known that the for-profits had so many positive qualities, but I was worried that Laura’s degree would be less credible and prestigious than a CUNY degree. Laura was
quite unconcerned with prestige. She wanted to know how to do things, and she thought my focus on the reputation of an institution was a little, well, quaint.

I have spent a lot of my life doing things that are prestigious, but I am starting to understand Laura’s point of view. I don’t regret any part of my wonderful education, but I am starting to wish that I had also pursued more knowledge of other kinds. And Ivy League institutions do have a rather narrow definition of what constitutes knowledge. When I learned from my CUNY students what it takes to manage a large construction project or to modify a car engine, I developed a higher degree of humility about my own
particular skill set. I now understand that the things I do seated in front of a computer do not involve a type of cognition that is more demanding or more admirable than that of the plumber or the electrician (for a fascinating elaboration of this point, see Mike Rose’s The Mind at Work: Valuing the Intelligence of the American Worker). And I now look in a different way at diplomas from for-profit institutions: instead of seeing something that is not prestigious, I see something earned by the stubborn, disciplined, even heroic persistence of a working adult.

In the years since that conversation with Laura, I have learned that almost all of my ideas about for-profit colleges were wrong. I was suspicious about the idea of a for-profit corporation educating students, but it turns out that non-profit schools have aspirations and goals that are fully as dangerous as the profit motive. I also thought that, as some hedge fund managers have recently charged, the for-profits were soaking up a
disproportionate amount of government money. But it turns out that for-profit schools cost the taxpayer a lot less than the alternatives, and many for-profits educate students while actually generating a profit for taxpayers. I thought that the drop-out rates at for-profits were too high, but then I learned that for students with similar demographics, the for-profits did better than the non-profits.

I will share some facts and figures later, but first I want to tell you a story about the origins of modern corporate for-profit education. I was surprised to learn that John Sperling, the founder of the Apollo Group and its University of Phoenix subsidiary, was an ardent socialist, a labor organizer too radical even for his fellow California college professors. Sperling, who grew up during the Great Depression, had a tough childhood
and youth, with frequent beatings, horrible medical problems, and severe social isolation. He had great difficulty with books until his teens, but when he joined the merchant marine he suddenly found himself with nothing to do but read. Many of the sailors were educated men and most were ardent socialists, and they talked about politics all day long. Almost overnight, Sperling transformed himself into a high-caliber intellectual. After graduate school at U.C. Berkeley and Cambridge University, he ended up in a teaching
post at San Jose State University. He also discovered that he had a talent for organizing, took over the Californian higher education branch of the American Federation of Teachers, and led a fierce but unsuccessful strike (see Sperling’s autobiography, Rebel With a Cause; I have checked facts with several people who know Sperling, and the book seems generally accurate, except that it may not give enough credit to some of Sperling’s colleagues for their contributions).

Sperling was also a wild and experimental teacher, one who stood out even in the sixties. One class project of his provoked a nationwide debate in the media, and a denunciation by Governor Ronald Reagan. To celebrate Earth Day in 1969, Sperling’s students decided to bury a brand-new car. The students earned money, bought a yellow Ford Maverick, designed the post-interment landscaping, negotiated with various
authorities, acquired all of the requisite permits, and performed a burial ceremony. This project was an example of what Sperling calls “action pedagogy.â€? Several of the students from this program went on to work with Sperling at the University of Phoenix.

Sperling also participated in an innovative program that had been funded to find ways of reducing juvenile delinquency. Sperling focused on teachers and the police, bringing small groups together first for discussions with experts and then for the implementation of a real-world delinquency reduction project. These adult learners loved the course and insisted that Sperling try to put together a full continuing education
program for them. They were unhappy with existing adult education programs.

Sperling never intended to become an entrepreneur. He just wanted to start an adult education program. But the administration of San Jose State was not interested. That was how, at age 53, the car-burying, strike-organizing, pot-smoking, quarrelsome socialist professor started what was to become a multi-billion-dollar corporation at the center of what was more or less a new industry. Initially Sperling ran a consulting firm
that operated adult education partnerships with traditional universities. After three years Sperling decided to try to start his own college.

From the moment it was founded and applied for accreditation, the University of Phoenix has had powerful enemies, much like the infant Hercules. While Hercules was still in his cradle he was attacked by two snakes sent by the goddess Hera. In the case of the University of Phoenix, the attack came from three powerful local deities: the University of Arizona, Arizona State University, and Northern Arizona University. They
didn’t wait to see what kinds of programs the University of Phoenix would develop or how well it would implement those programs: instantly, the three established colleges denounced the University of Phoenix as a “diploma millâ€? and began to lobby the legislature and the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the accreditation body that licensed schools in Arizona, to shut down the University of Phoenix. But the
North Central Association proved unexpectedly receptive to for-profit education. The traditional schools then went to plan B, asking the legislature to kick the North Central Association out of Arizona and replace it with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), the accreditor of schools in California. WASC was notorious for its fierce hostility to for-profit education. Meanwhile, some unknown party even made an
anonymous accusation of bribery and persuaded the FBI to initiate a RICO investigation of Sperling and his associates, as if they were the Russian mafia instead of a group of socialist educators who had accidentally become entrepreneurs.

When I read this history, I was initially puzzled. The University of Phoenix is a large and powerful firm today, but it started in 1976 with eight students. Why did the traditional universities want so badly to kill it? Why would they put such an enormous effort into lobbying against UOP? Even the most powerful schools have a finite amount of political capital to expend. Denouncing someone to the FBI can easily backfire. And
for the three traditional universities in Arizona to attack their own accreditor was an incredibly risky move: generally even the most venerable universities will do almost anything to avoid irritating their accreditors. Could the traditional universities foresee how successful UOP would be? Or was it just that they were convinced that, even if UOP attracted only a small number of students, it would deliver such a terrible education at such a high cost that it would do all of its students irreparable harm? How could the
traditional universities be so sure that Sperling would do awful, evil things to his students? Didn’t he have strong progressive credentials and a history of successful educational innovation? Didn’t he seem to actually care about working adults? Why did the traditional universities greet the University of Phoenix the way cobras greet a mongoose?

Similar attacks on for-profit education have continued from 1976 to the present moment, waxing and waning at different times and in different regions. Today’s for-profit universities are complex institutions with strengths and weaknesses. At some of these schools there are abuses—misleading and aggressive recruiting practices, curricular weaknesses, and excessive tuitions. No one would argue that these offenses should not
be punished. Non-profit colleges, of course, commit similar offenses, and they should be punished in the same ways. It is unfair to generalize about either for-profit or not-forprofit institutions, and there is something feverish and disproportionate about the current attack.

There is an educational atrocity taking place in this country: we are ruining the lives of millions of innocent, infinitely promising children. But this atrocity is taking place not in colleges but in primary and secondary schools, not in for-profit institutions but in public ones. I wish I could believe that attacks on for-profit education were motivated by concern for students. But the evidence is pretty clear. Few politicians seem
to care about low-income minority students while they are being grievously injured by public institutions staffed by politically powerful unions. Only when some students are being injured by a for-profit institution do we begin to hear wrathful denunciations. And the wrathful denunciations are generally rather sloppy with their facts. The paragraphs that follow are chunky and packed with statistics, for which I apologize. But I am
attempting to present a balanced, accurate picture of a complex issue.

There has been a lot of discussion of how for-profit colleges overcharge. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (, four year public institutions charged tuition and fees of $6,400 for in-state students and $15,100 for out-of-state students; private non-
profits charged $21,100; and for-profits charged an average of about $15,700. And these are just tuition costs. Public institutions actually have a much higher cost basis than for-profits, but taxpayer subsidies allow them to charge students tuition fees well below their actual costs. At public colleges tuition accounts for just 17% of revenues, versus 85% at for-profits. For-profits are also increasing their tuitions at a slower rate than non-profits. In the last three years, public tuitions grew at 9.1% for in-state and 7.5% for out-of-state
students. Over the same period, private non-profit tuitions grew 6.6% and for-profit tuitions grew 5.2%. If one focuses on total costs rather than tuitions, the differences are even more striking. In 2006-7 the total cost per student per year at public four-year colleges was $33,670; at private non-profit four-year colleges, $42,256; and at for-profit four-year colleges, $12,880 (in looking at these figures, one needs to remember that for-profits do a lot more online educating, which is less expensive than the traditional classroom). For two-year institutions, the cost differences are smaller: at public two-year colleges, $11,609; at private non-profit two-year colleges, $19,498; at for-profit two year-colleges, $13,848. Community colleges, which are by far the most efficient nonprofit post-secondary schools, have a slight cost advantage over their for-profit competitors (

It is unjust and counter-productive to generalize about either for-profits or not-forprofits: both groups contain extremely diverse populations. I agree with Senator Richard Durbin that it is obscene for a culinary trade school to charge $27,000 per year for a two-year program. But I also find it alarming that there are now at least 58 non-profit colleges and universities that have fees for tuition, room, and board over $50,000 per year, and the list includes not only Columbia University and Johns Hopkins but also less prestigious institutions like Lafayette College and Dickinson College. Meanwhile, NASDAQ-listed for-profit American Public Education, Inc. (APEI) charges $7,500 for the equivalent of a year of full-time bachelor’s coursework and, because of a recently formed partnership with Walmart, offers a further 15% discount to Walmart employees.
APEI has not raised its undergraduate tuition since 2000, a record probably not matched by any other U.S. post-secondary education institution. APEI management’s decision not to raise tuition might have sound business reasons as well as altruistic ones, but it certainly is good for students. For-profits have also managed to lower many ancillary educational costs. Textbooks frequently cost over $150 per course, which is over $1,500 for the equivalent of a year of full-time instruction (although this is somewhat mitigated
by the resale value of the textbooks). APEI gives students textbooks for free, and Bridgepoint has cut textbook costs in half. Also, since when pursuing online degrees, working parents can avoid transportation and possibly childcare costs.

There has also been considerable discussion of how for-profits waste taxpayer money. Accurate figures here are hard to come by, but it is abundantly clear that just the opposite is true. The University of Phoenix estimates that each UOP student costs taxpayers $1,509 per year, versus $4,509 for the average for-profit school, $7,051 per student at private non-profits, and $11,340 at public postsecondary institutions.
Interested or skeptical readers can check their analysis on pages 20-21 of their white paper “Higher Education at a Crossroadsâ€? ([1].pdf). I think the University of Phoenix has substantially over-estimated the cost to taxpayers of for-profit schools, and their figure for the cost of defaulted debt includes the unpaid accrued interest as well as the principal amount.

Former University of Phoenix president Jorge Klor de Alva, an academic who also taught at Berkeley and Princeton, estimates that for regionally accredited, four-year for-profit schools, the for-profits that most resemble traditional universities, the cost to the taxpayer per student per year is slightly less than zero: the taxes paid by the corporation balance out the cost of government tuition assistance, including grants and
loan defaults (see pp. 5-6 and associated footnotes of Klor de Alva’s presentation at Although I cite several reports from for-profit schools and organizations friendly to them, they are using raw data mostly gathered by the Department of Education). Klor de Alva also estimates the total cost to taxpayers of education at elite traditional institutions: for the 68 colleges that charge more than $50,000 per year, the cost to the taxpaers is $11,392 per student per year. At Yale, the figure is $52,113 of taxpayer money per student per year; at Princeton, $52,508; and at Harvard, $68,319. A significant portion of these enormous sums is not direct cash
subsidies but tax revenue lost because donations to college endowments are tax-deductible. But the numbers are still shocking, at least to me. These figures do not include the amount of government money spent on research at these schools, just the taxpayer resources directly devoted to education, housing, and recreation. This taxpayer subsidy is in addition to the portion of tuition paid by the parents.

I will leave it to you to decide for yourself whether this subsidy of elite institutions and affluent students is a good use of taxpayer money. What is indisputable, though, is that the current system funnels much more taxpayer money per year of study to affluent students than to poorer students. Many students at elite colleges do not come from wealthy families, but average family income is still far higher than at a community
college or a for-profit. Any reduction in the flow of funds to for-profit colleges also further reduces the percentage of education subsidies flowing to the poor and to working adults. At the same time, access to public universities is being severely constricted. For example, because of a budget cut, the California State University system, nominally committed to open admissions, will be forced to reduce its enrollments by over 40,000 qualified students even as it raises tuition and furloughs employees ( And non-profit schools simply do not have enough slots in high-demand specialties like nursing. If this nation is to train the workers it needs, for-profit schools are increasingly necessary.

There have been complaints by politicians, journalists, and hedge-fund investors about the cost to the taxpayer of student loan defaults. But a loan default is not necessarily a loss. Interestingly, even on defaulted loans the government on average recovers 102% of the value of the original loan (see the 2011 Presidential budget, table 3: Direct Loans; spreadsheet downloadable at The University of Phoenix seems to feel that the 102% number is gross rather than net and does not include collection costs. I have as yet been unable to determine whether they are correct. But even if the government continued to have high loan collection costs, they would be more than balanced by the corporate tax payments of for-profits. The government gets an excellent return on its investment in for-profit college education. In fact, if one uses hard measures like salary increases and tax receipts, the government gets a substantially higher return on investment from for-profits than the hedge fund industry has delivered to its investors. So short-seller Steven
Eisman’s characterization of for-profit colleges as “the new subprimeâ€? is rather misleading ( If there is a waste of taxpayer money, it is not primarily at the for-profits. I recommend to Mr. Eisman that he take a closer look at not-for-profit universities before condemning the for-profits. I also recommend that, before continuing his jihad, he try a little harder to find an accurate figure for the amount the government recovers on defaulted loans. Rather than looking for the facts, he looked at the loans extended to students by two atypical for-profits, Corinthian and ITT, noticed that they had reserved for 50-60% losses on those loans, although they had not yet experienced such losses, and then blithely assumed that the government would collect less than this hypothetical 40% recovery. In fact, the government is an extremely effective and efficient collector of bad debt. The government’s figures are extremely complicated, and different documents seem to contradict each other, but the president’s budget seems to make the calculation in a reasonable manner. If I am wrong, I would be grateful for further information. Obviously, UOP and Klor de Alva are interested parties, but they clearly articulate the basis for their calculations, and their results concur with those of other studies like the
Delta Project ( Unlike Steve Eisman’s presentation, the UOP and Klor de Alva white papers admit their biases openly, present their case in a balanced and reasonable manner, document their sources, and invite further dialogue.

Another accusation is that for-profit colleges aggressively recruit students who do not belong in college and saddle them with big debts. There are definitely institutions that recruit too aggressively, and these should be punished. But for-profits do not accept all applicants: on average, they reject 25%, a number only slightly smaller than the 31% rejected by public colleges and the 35% rejected by private not-for-profit schools. When Senator Harkin wrote to the Government Accountability Office, asking for statistics on recruitment standard violations by for-profit schools, the GAO failed to tell a story of rampant misbehavior. In the years from 1998 to 2009, the GAO recorded violations at a total of thirty-two schools out of over 2,800 (Harkin, clearly unhappy with this result, was inspired to commission his own highly selective GAO sting operation; see Like Harkin’s sting, many of the news stories about recruiting abuses have been built to order. A Bloomberg story about the recruitment of students at homeless shelters turns out to have been fabricated by a researcher working for a hedge fund ( It is possible that the
Department of Education was lax in its oversight. But it must be remembered that whistleblowers in successful suits against for-profit schools can potentially collect tens of millions of dollars. This alone provides a major incentive for for-profit schools to follow the regulations closely.

For-profit schools also have other strong financial incentives not to recruit students who cannot complete degrees and who default on their student loans. If a school’s cohort default rate stays above 25% for three years, that school can no longer obtain federal education grants or loan guarantees for its students, and the school is out of business. Enrolling large numbers of under-qualified students is a form of institutional
suicide. Delivering an inferior educational product is also at the very least extremely dangerous for a for-profit institution. In the words of Richard Ruch, a dean at Devry, “My years in the for-profit sector have taught me that the two factors above all others that drive profitability are educational quality and customer service. No for-profit college or university can survive without providing a reasonably high-quality educational
experience and a high level of customer service. If someone imagines that these institutions make profits merely because they offer a substandard education on a massive scale, they are largely mistaken. Student consumers, especially the more mature students typical of the for-profit providers, are knowledgeable and demanding customers who are not easily satisfied. They demand a substantive and rigorous educational experience for their tuition dollars, along with a high level of convenience and customer service. And if they do not find it, they will go elsewhereâ€? (See p. 17 of Ruch’s Higher Ed, Inc.: The Rise of the For-Profit University).

It is true that on average for-profit schools have lower graduation rates than not-for-profits. But this is because they serve different populations: for-profits are much more focused on working adults. If one wants to make an apples-to-apples comparison of graduation rates, one can look just at two-year schools, where public and for-profit institutions serve students with similar demographics. According to a study by the
Parthenon Group using Department of Education data, two-year for-profits have a graduation rate of 65% versus a graduation rate of 44% for public community colleges ( position%25204%25201%252010.pdf). Part but not all of the difference is that more students transfer out of community colleges than out of two-year for-profits. Students at community colleges take on an average of $8,300 in debt, while students at two-year for-profits take on $14,600 and pay an average of $162 per month to service that debt— roughly equivalent to a cable television bill, if one has a premium channel or two.

What about four-year institutions? Department of Education statistics show average debt loads at degree completion of $19,839 at public institutions, $24,635 at for-profits, and $27,349 at private non-profit schools. The majority of students at American Public Education, Inc., take on no debt whatsoever. Students at Bridgepoint’s Ashford University take on an average of $13,500 of debt. We do not hear senators denouncing auto dealers for selling people new cars, but the average debt levels for a four-year degree
are comparable to the $28,000 average cost of a new vehicle ( It is true that this comparison excludes the payments a student makes while completing a degree, but remember, the true cost of ownership of a car includes many expenses other than loan
repayments, and you don’t have to get a new bachelor’s degree every seven years.

Current University of Phoenix students—those still working on their degrees–have an average annual income of $56,000. They are entirely capable of paying several hundred dollars per month on their student loans.
One must also remember that colleges and universities cannot control how much student debt people take on or how they spend it. Students are free to take on student debt for living expenses and even entertainment. It is the government that sets annual limits for federally guaranteed student loans, and schools are not permitted to prevent students from borrowing up to the limit, even if the amount borrowed exceeds the cost of tuition, fees, and supplies. Currently, over-borrowing on student loans is an extremely seductive option for students: the terms of student loans are infinitely more attractive than those of credit card debt. It seems bizarre to punish for-profit schools for excessive student debt when schools have no control over the amount of debt that students take on.

In fact, the Career College Association has begged the Department of Education to enact regulations preventing students from borrowing more than the cost of tuition and other academic expenses. Another common accusation against for-profits is that they deliver a weak education. This is a murky area, since outcomes assessment in higher education is still rudimentary. One can, though, make a general observation about the teachers who deliver this education: full-time tenured and tenure-track faculty do less and less of the teaching even at non-profit colleges and universities. Both public and private non-profit traditional universities are increasingly reliant on adjunct teachers. This is especially true for the divisions of non-profits that focus on working adults, like the Harvard University Extension School and NYU’s Gallatin School of Individualized Study (both of these schools, by the way, are extremely profitable for their parent universities and indistinguishable from for-profits in almost every respect except, perhaps, for their avoidance of taxes and their superior branding). Often the very same adjuncts teach at both for-profit and non-profit schools. Research universities, of course, have another source of low-cost teaching labor: their own graduate students (for whom fewer and fewer tenured jobs wait at the end of the rainbow). In general, it is just a subset of graduate schools and liberal arts colleges where full-time instructors still do most of the teaching, and it is a still smaller subset of schools where those full-time instructors do their teaching exclusively in small seminars rather than partially in large lectures.

One common refrain in indictments of for-profit higher education is that online education is ineffective, an inferior substitute for the traditional classroom. But a Department of Education study which screened over a thousand research papers reached an unambiguous conclusion: “The meta-analysis found that, on average, students in online learning conditions performed better than those receiving face-to-face instructionâ€?
( A mix of online and classroom instruction works even better than online alone. Particularly effective, apparently are tools or features that encourage students to reflect on their level of understanding and their learning process. The use of technology to individualize and personalize the learning experience also looks extremely promising (for a vision of the future of personalized learning at the primary and secondary level, see My own experience of mixed-mode classroom and online teaching supports the conclusions of the DoE study: classroom discussion can be a powerful tool on a good day, but there are many students who do not speak in class and yet will contribute extensively to online
discussions, and there are others who need to examine material at their own pace to assimilate it. And the tools for online teaching are still in their infancy.

What the DoE study does not say is that learning outcomes are much easier to measure in online programs, and online education providers are continually using these data to improve instructional methods. Over time, we can expect data-driven online programs to improve their edge over traditional classrooms (for a compelling vision of the future of assessment, see It is possible that some of today’s most prestigious universities are the Sperry Univacs or the Wang Laboratories of tomorrow, unable to adapt to a rapidly changing environment. Online education is a good example of what Clayton Christensen calls disruptive innovation. Stanford University will certainly continue to prosper, but over time there will probably be more and more functions that for-profit Capella University performs better (for physicist and former USC provost Lloyd Armstrong’s thoughtful take on this topic, see For-profit post-secondary schools have done a poor job of getting the message out, but they are innovating at a much faster pace than traditional schools. As someone who studied, wrote about, and taught Shakespeare for seventeen years, I have a keen sense of the value of tradition and
resistance to change. But innovative, flexible institutions are also necessary. Remember, for a long time institutions like Harvard and Oxford wanted to stick to theology and the classics: only reluctantly did they embrace flashy, unsound new disciplines like engineering, sociology, and modern literature.

It is inarguably true that for-profits do not graduate many students with degrees in the traditional liberal arts. But this neglect of the liberal arts is driven not by philistinism but by regulatory constraints. Since in order to survive for-profits must keep their job placement numbers high and their cohort default rates below 25%, they no longer have the ability to produce significant numbers of liberal arts graduates, whatever the student demand might be. Congress and the Department of Education have decided, for better or worse, that working adults should probably not major in comparative literature.

The current assault on for-profit education will have both good and bad effects. The Senate hearings probably will lead nowhere. I think Senators Harkin and Durbin have been displaying their indignation in order to improve the chances of their teammates in the midterm election. If Senator Harkin had any real intention of creating new legislation, he would have tried to get it passed before the elections. This is a partial
excuse for the biased, uninformative nature of Harkin’s hearings. Political kabuki theater requires broad, unambiguous gestures.

The Department of Education’s negotiated regulation process, on the other hand, will have a powerful and lasting impact on for-profit education. The DoE regulations will apply a new set of restrictions for eligibility to federal funds. The old regulations focused on the cohort default rate (the percentage of students who default on their loans within three years of the inception of the repayment period). The new “gainful
employmentâ€? regulations contain three tests of eligibility for federal funding. The second and third tests, which focus on debt service as a percentage of income, still remain somewhat nebulous. The first test focuses on the percentage of student borrowers who begin paying principal as well as interest. Unlike the old cohort default rate thresholds, this new test focuses on dollar amounts rather than numbers of borrowers. The draft regulations require that principal as well as interest be repaid on at least 45% of loans to students of any for-profit school. Schools that pass this “principal repaymentâ€? test will not be required to pass the second and third tests. For some schools, like Bridgepoint’s Ashford University and the University of Phoenix, the principal repayment figures were unexpectedly good. Others, like Grand Canyon Education and American Public Education, were expected to do well and did so. For some high-quality schools, most notably Strayer University and Capella University, the figures were much worse than anticipated. Strayer came in at 25%, a figure which they are disputing. It is worth noting that Harvard Medical School came in at 24%: their graduates aren’t defaulting, but they tend to use interest-only loans until they have finished their low-earning internships. This is just one little reminder of how regulations can have unexpected effects, some of them extremely undesirable. Harvard University Medical School is not in the regulatory cross-hairs at the moment, but Strayer probably shouldn’t be, either.

Many journalists, politicians, and, ironically, hedge fund managers seem to feel that the profit motive corrupts and dirties the educational process. They don’t seem bothered by the astonishing profitability of NYU’s Gallatin School or the Harvard University Extension School, and they maintain a touching faith in the purity of the motives of non-profit institutions. But if the for-profits worship Mammon, non-profit schools have their own violent, carnivorous hunger for something other than student success. What non-profits crave is prestige.

One aspect of academic prestige is luxuriousness. Non-profit schools are spending absurd amounts of money, in some cases the majority of their budgets, to brand themselves as luxury goods like Prada handbags and Juicy Couture tracksuits—the things the hyper-affluent must buy for their children as a proof of their love. In their quest for prestige, non-profit colleges and universities build monumental sports complexes and recreation centers that divert hundreds of millions of dollars away from teaching. Washington State University-Pullman’s 160,000-square foot student recreation center has a 50-person Jacuzzi, doubtless very helpful in raising Washington State’s standing among its educational peers. One excellent liberal arts college with 2,350 students has its own 18-hole golf course, a ski slope, a private beach, and a hockey rink with 2,600 seats. Numerous non-profit universities offer such recreational amenities as water slides, in-line
skating courts, juice bars, indoor waterfalls, climbing walls, massage tables, facials, golf simulators, and salt-water fish tanks. In the water park in the University of Missouri Columbia’s recreation center, students can watch large-screen televisions while floating on the “Lazy Riverâ€? or soaking in “the Vortexâ€? or the 20-student spa. The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh has leaped into the upper academic echelon by offering its students manicures and pedicures as well as massages.

Where athletic programs are concerned, it is not just the facilities that are costly. Some college football coaches make salaries of as much as $4 million per year. Do these athletic superstars pay for themselves? Not even close. The total cost for a Pac-10 athletic program? Don’t ask. Who can put a price on the glory of a winning NCAA division III team? Major athletic programs also have a high human cost. Many high-level athletes simply do not have time for real coursework: they are being used and injured for the glory of the school. Non-profit colleges also build rather swanky dormitories, with grocery delivery and maid service, and gourmet dining facilities. If, dear reader, you have a morbid curiosity about just how far universities will go in
marketing the superiority of their gourmet offerings, I highly recommend that you watch Boston University’s video about its visiting chef series ( Wild partying, vile fraternity misbehavior, and underage drinking are also essential selling points for many non-profit colleges.

Many commentators have complained that for-profit schools think of their students as customers. Well, yes, but at least the for-profits are thinking of their students as customers who are buying an education rather than a leisure experience. Capella University does not ask taxpayers to foot the bill for four years of beer pong, jello shots, bong hits, and recovery from hangovers. Non-profit schools also pursue various forms of academic prestige, some less healthy than others. Non-profits create new doctoral programs whose graduates are unlikely to find tenure-track jobs. They hire expensive academic super-stars for endowed
chairs with almost no teaching responsibilities, although this expense is trivial next to the recreational and athletic ones listed above, and is pardonable because it is so closely related to the task of educating students. Non-profit schools also divert precious scholarship money away from the poor and into the pockets of students with high SAT scores who come from affluent families (SAT scores correlate more closely with family income than with academic success, but SAT scores are what count for rankings like those of U.S. News and World Report).

Even notoriously lax ratings agency Moody’s, which entirely overlooked the housing bubble, has gotten off its La-Z-Boy to offer some mild disapproval: “we continue to see institutions borrowing heavily for projects that serve more to enhance an institution’s status rather than to advance its mission or to meet current pressing facility needs. These projects include mixed-use commercial developments, high-end residential facilities, research parks and lavish student recreation buildings and performing arts centersâ€? (the Moody’s quote and many of the colorful facts above come from a wonderful Bloomberg article by Liz Willen; see: Prestige is very, very expensive, and it would be difficult to argue that the quest for cash is more corrupting at for-profits than at non-profits.

When they aren’t pursuing prestige, non-profit schools have an unfortunate tendency to focus on what is best for professors and administrators rather than for students. In the years from 1993 to 2007, the University of Phoenix’s old nemesis, Arizona State University, has increased the number of administrators it employs by 94% while actually decreasing the number of instructors and researchers by 2% (of course, this
has something to do with the increasing burden of regulatory compliance). For some reason, school administrators across the nation seem to think of hiring more administrators as one of their highest priorities, regardless of the need. American research universities employ more administrators than teachers. In 2007 private nonprofit universities employed 53.6 employees for every 100 students, 11.3 of them full-time administrators and only 8.2 of them engaged in teaching, research, or academic service (see The figures for public universities are only slightly better. Creating a streamlined and usable interface for students is not a high priority: somehow, despite the presence of all of those administrators, students in search of answers still frequently get sent from one office to the next. Full-time faculty members have many goals, most of them laudable, but a crucial goal is to be left alone—in some cases, left alone to do research, and in other cases left alone to pursue other forms of self-cultivation.

Of course, despite all of these awful institutional malformations, the U.S. university system is probably still the most effective in the world. We are fortunate to have a diverse educational eco-system, one where innovations flourish and competition forces everyone to try a little harder. But make no mistake: for-profit schools are an essential part of this ecosystem. Disclosure: I believe that some but not all for-profit education companies do useful and honorable work, and my fund owns stock in American Public Education, Inc., Bridgepoint Education, Capella Education, and Grand Canyon Education. My family owns stock in these companies as well as Strayer University, privately held Post University, and several educational software startups. I have in the past shorted Moody’s.

I hope you enjoyed this article shared with Dr. John F Murray and I hope you will use the search box to find thousands of others articles on the topics of clinical psychology and sports psychology.

Is Sports Psychology a Real Science?

Sports Psychologist Special to – By Dr. John F Murray – September 21, 2010 – As the field of sports psychology evolves and more and more qualified and licensed practitioners hang out a shingle (something that is still moving enormously slow by the way), the media, potential clients and even current clients ask about the scientific validity and reliability of this science and profession. Well, they don’t really use the terms “reliability” and “validity” unless they’ve had some statistics or quantitative analysis classes, or just couldn’t turn off the PBS channel as a child, but these are the questions they are essentially asking: (1) Is sports psychology really a science; (2) Are sports psychologists basing their work on scientific findings, and (3) If sports psychology is a good science then why aren’t there more people using this in sports in the year 2010?

The answer to the first two questions is a resounding YES! Whether you are looking for coach speeches for your football team, to prepare for an upcoming triathlon, or to build your golf game over the coming year after finding out about sports psychology after taking a free psychological evaluation, there is no doubt that the research questions, hypotheses, data collection, and peer reviewed process in the field is every bit as scientific as studies in chemistry or biophysics. Good sports psychologists trained in the scientist practitioner tradition will also base their work on the findings emerging from these journals. It is definitely miles ahead of common sense advise even if many of the principles appear to be quite logical.

People tune into to read about many of the discussions in the popular media channels such as the Bloomberg wire, New York Times newspaper, or ESPN television. As a sport psychologist, I am contacted frequently by these outlets to give my opinion on a matter of current news interest. Maybe there was a player suicide or a team on a massive losing streak, and they all want my expert opinion. I gladly give it as any one of several legitimate sports psychologists would because it helps to educate the public and hopefully gives the field a little boost each time a story appears.

There are those who will claim that sports psychology lacks scientific merit because you cannot always predict team and individual behavior and success. The problem, however, has nothing to do with the science. The science, like the traditional field of psychology, has been around and doing well since the 1800s, and the predictability is sometimes hard there too, but the real issue is the subject of study – human beings! We humanoids tend to be very hard to pin down and control. Our behavior and thoughts are extremely variable, and we would want it that way. Add a contest between two highly intelligent tennis players, or even more complex between two teams of 11 of the best athletes in the world, and you are going to have a nightmare of potential variables bouncing around. Even the most famous sports psychologists are going to tell you that it is not possible to control outcome 100%. The best we can hope for is to get that team or that athlete prepared to be their best on game day. Whether they win or not depends on whether the opponent cooperates, and if they are competitive you can be sure they will not. So you can have the best game in your entire history and lose, or perform like the Bad News Bears and win. It’s really about performance and not outcome, even though we all want to win.

The fun and inspiring sports psychology quotes on and the mental tests are ways to get people’s attention and to realize that this great service exists in the first place, because many still do not know about it. Famous coach speeches might grab the headlines and we’ve all heard about one more for the gipper or about winning one for the teammate who died suddenly, but why the hype? What about the day to day training by a legitimate and qualified/licensed psychologist/sports psychologist who just rolls up his or her sleeves every day along with the athletes and coaches and does his or her best job to both teach and inspire, to inform about the science and deliver the tools needs to raise performance.

Like all battles, sports psychology competition is won in the trenches over lunch meetings, late night phone calls, office visits, crisis intervention, and even babysitting of famous athletes at times. Earl Morrall, whom I had the pleasure of meeting a year ago in Sarasota, quarterbacked the most successful NFL team in history to 71% of the team’s plays (1972 Miami Dolphins). Many today do not even know his name because he is such an outstanding and confident gentleman who sought little publicity and just did his job. Earl told me that the difference between going 17-0 and having an average season was not huge, but “doing a little bit more each day.” I have also found this in calculating my Mental Performance Index (MPI) scores. The team that scores at 54% percent of perfection almost always destroys a team riding along at 52% of perfection. Small edges are actually huge! Get the point? Sound like the trenches again?

Given that we are in the trenches and seeking any kind of advantage possible to slightly elevate our performance, doesn’t it make sense to turn to science and years of training and experience found in qualified sports psychologists, rather than wearing the latest energy bracelet, or listening to some wide toothed motivational speaker? How about going to the town psychic? Get real folks. I did in going to graduate school from 1992 to 1998, getting a couple masters degrees and a PhD at the University of Florida, then going to the only sports psychology internship in the country that was also an approved APA psychology internship, and then doing a postdoctoral fellowship the following year. This process took until 2000 before I was able to open my office. I did it the right way and took forever and it cost a lot of money, but at least I knew I was gaining the training needed to do it properly to help my clients. Some of the successes I’ve had together with my clients over the past 10 years were not accidents at all, just solid trench warfare informed by science and inspired by passion.

Great coach speeches are necessary if you are a coach, but think of the value of bringing in a legitimate and licensed sports psychologist who can work at both the individual and team level to help get a team get ready like never before. Even before I opened my practice in 2000 I saw the value of this kind of work on a consistent basis. In working with two tennis teams at two different colleges in back to back years, and seeing each team’s players once a week for 45-50 weeks, each one of those teams had their best season in their entire history. It was no accident. It was just hard work on the mental game. Anyone can do it. But they need to first get out of the 14th century, realize that the science and profession of sports psychology is alive in the right places, and maybe they too can realize the biggest comeback in the history of their sport, win a Super Bowl, or grab a Stanley Cup. Resist the gleaming white teeth, the reputation of the ex-player speaker, the allure of the psychic friend’s network, and slow talking Southern drawl speaker who relates well but offers little insight beyond common sense, the ridiculousness of the energy bracelet … get real and get with the times! Get back in the trench where you belong and where you can raise your game a few percentage points and win a championship!

If you enjoyed this little adventure as we strolled down the avenue of legitimate and licensed sports psychology, call me now to help you or your team at 561-596-9898.

With hearts heavy from death of player, Pokes prepare for No. 5 Texas

Casper Star Tribune – September 11, 2010 – Eric Schmoldt – After tragedy, Wyoming returns to field. Grieving continues to be a daily process. For the Wyoming Cowboys, it takes its next step today.

Just five days after the tragic death of freshman linebacker Ruben Narcisse in an automobile accident, the Pokes must return to the field for a game at No. 5 Texas.

“Emotions are going to be running high,â€? UW senior wide receiver David Leonard said. “It’s a tough time right now, but when you have tough times, you come together as a team and a family. I don’t think we have a choice.â€?

Subhed: “There’s no way around griefâ€?

As with the grieving process throughout this week, the responses the players and coaches will have today are wide-ranging and somewhat unpredictable.

Likely, each player will feel a little differently about the experience.

“It does affect a tight-knit group that has been in camp for months and knows each other really well just like a family,â€? said Dr. John F. Murray, a renowned sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla. “You can’t really accelerate grief reactions or bereavement types of responses. They differ widely based on the relationship with that person and the individual that’s coping with it.

“[But] there’s no way around grief except through grief. You’re going to have to deal with it sometime.â€?

Few have dealt with a situation quite like this one.

Narcisse, a 19-year-old from Miami, Fla., was riding in a vehicle with three other teammates on their way back from Colorado early Monday morning.

The driver fell asleep and the vehicle drifted off the road, rolling down an embankment on Highway 287 in northern Colorado.

The three other passengers have been treated and released from hospitals, but Narcisse did not survive.

Now the Cowboys not only have to deal with the death of a teammate, but they must do so in the middle of the season while trying to play football.

“I would say that in that case you’ve got to put on your gameface quick and it might actually delay the response,â€? Murray said. “Some of the players might not deal with it until after the season or might not fully process it.

“[But] some kids won’t be affected at all. A lot has to do with their personal histories, what they’ve dealt with and what they’ve seen in terms of death.â€?

Subhed: “They grew up in life real quickâ€?

The Connecticut Huskies found themselves in a similar situation nearly a year ago.

Star cornerback Jasper Howard made 11 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble during a victory over Louisville last year. Hours later, he was stabbed to death on campus.

One week later, the Huskies were back on the field, honoring their fallen teammate.

“It was hard, but I also think it was good,â€? UConn coach Randy Edsall said. “It was therapy for us to get out there and really kind of get our mind off some of those things.

“We took his jersey with us to all the games. We still have his “JHâ€? on the back of our helmets this year because he would still be a senior and he’s an honorary captain for us.â€?

The Huskies lost a close game at West Virginia on the Saturday following Howard’s death.

The grieving process was far from over.

“The next task then was, on Monday after that Saturday, was to go to the funeral and to bury Jazz,â€? Edsall said. “That was something that was a difficult part to do and then you go back and play again the following Saturday. It’s very difficult, but our kids grew from it, they grew closer together and they grew up in life real quick.â€?

Subhed: “You’re still not over it todayâ€?

Jasper Howard’s face greets the Huskies every day.

A plaque in their facility’s lobby greets them with a smile from a fallen teammate.

Inside their locker room, the cornerback’s locker sits behind glass, untouched.

“It was just something we felt like we had to do,â€? Edsall said. “In life, things do happen, but you still have to move on and find ways to honor the young man. You never forget about it and you never will.â€?

The Cowboys are following a similar approach.

They’ll wear helmet decals with Narcisse’s initials during today’s game and a player will wear Narcisse’s No. 12 jersey, probably for at least the rest of this year.

Back in Laramie, the young linebacker’s locker will remain as it was for the next four seasons, when Narcisse would have graduated.

“It helps to memorialize that person’s meaning to the team,â€? Murray said. “It could also work to their benefit to help inspire the team with a little reminder that they’re playing for somebody who died.â€?

The constant reminders will keep the memory of Narcisse fresh on the mind for the next few seasons.

It will also mean a constant reminder that the grieving process may not end after one game, one week, one month or even one year.

“Every day was a healing process for us as we went forward from the day that he was murdered,â€? Edsall said. “You’re still not over it today. We’ve dealt with it, but it’s something that’s never going to leave us.â€?

The Cowboys take the next step in the healing process today.

I hope you enjoyed this exploration into the world of sports psychology.

Helping a child who doesn’t make the team

Chicago Tribune – Julia Edwards – September 1, 2010 – Every fall, the hopeful warriors of tryout season stampede gyms and fields across the country. Whether they’re upperclassmen hoping to make the leap to varsity or seventh-graders facing the selection process for the first time, each student faces the possibility of rejection.

“My coaches say that’s the hardest thing they do, having to cut kids,” said Terry Cooper, athletic director of Mountain Brook Schools in Birmingham, Ala.

Unlike grades that can be raised over the year, team cuts are quick, blunt and final. In today’s parenting climate of positive reinforcement, not making the team may be the first time a child is told he is not good enough. What to say, then, to the sullen, sweaty child who slumps into the car outside the gym?

“Allow the kid to talk and find out where they’re at emotionally,” said John Murray, a sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Fla. “If it’s a serious problem, find out from the coaches what to do next time.”

Murray cautions parents against lashing out at coaches too quickly. He likens trying out for sports to a job hunt. Rather than retaliate, ask what you would need to do to be considered next time.

Students might also want to consider the reasons they want to join the team.

“Sometimes I find it’s to be with friends, to please parents or to beat out others,” Murray said. “Parents should do their homework (because kids) may not be as exuberant about the sport as they think.”

From those conversations, create a backup plan. Whether it’s playing the sport on a team outside of school or finding a new sport, it’s important to stay in shape and not lose the athletic drive.

Cooper encourages those cut from selective teams to play “non-cut” sports such as cross-country. Mountain Brook Junior High can have as many as 200 students on cross-country, many of whom have been cut from other sports, but use running to train for next year’s team.

And remember, part of playing sports is learning how to lose, Murray says: “When you don’t succeed in reaching your objective, you learn more.”


Sports psychologist John Murray offers these tips for parents of students who may or may not make the team:

Be realistic: Before tryouts begin, make sure your child is going into it with a healthy perception of his or her skills and the possibility of not making the team.

Be a parent: Sports may teach toughness, but a child should still feel accepted at home. “Kids want to be loved for who they are, not what they do,” he said. Don’t add to the feeling of failure at home.

Keep a cool head: Before you call the coach, wait a few days and ask for objective feedback.

Keep it up: Encourage your child to use the season to build strength and skills with other teams or sports.

A backup plan: Talk about alternatives for physical activity outside school. I hope you enjoyed this article about sports psychology.

If You Want Your Honey, Fire Your Lawyer

Special to – By John F. Murray, Ph.D. – August, 2010 – Warning: This article is rated R for “relationshipâ€? – Relationships and marriage are always hot topics, but this area has been covered infrequently at and is long overdue. Let’s apply a high performance model to something very important that we all deal with one way or another. In fact, the first time I appeared on the NFL Network and ESPN television from my office it was to discuss issues of love and hate in sports rather than my more traditional topics of mental preparation and performance in athletics, or more general psychological health. They wanted to know about love and hate, and here I go again in this article.

Recent relationship articles I’ve contributed to include one in the New York Post on the New York Yankees A-Rod of baseball and actress Kate Hudson
one on love among sports stars in the Atlanta Journal Constitution, and a Times of India story about Tiger Woods’ extramarital relationship revelations. I’ve also been on local television (CBS 12 with Ben Becker) several times recently talking about Tiger Woods and relationships. I’m a strong proponent of social support for success in my articles, and my PhD dissertation at the University of Florida revealed social support as the big winner in helping injured players recover on the 1996 national champion Florida Gators football team. Relationships are a huge issue in life and sports, so come into my office and let’s talk a little about it.

Nothing stirs the emotions like issues of love, passion, and romance, or their counterparts of conflict, arguments and divorce. They say that love makes the world go round and it’s so true. The hottest, steamiest, most controversial, and most intriguing topics in the media and Hollywood usually deal with issues of marriage, love, romance, sex and jealousy. Although divorce rates in America have declined some recently, statistics still show that roughly half of marriages end in divorce. As of 2003, 43.7% of custodial mothers and 56.2% of custodial fathers were either separated or divorced.

How do people fall in love psychologically and why if it is so good would they do anything to disturb that marvelous state of being and destroy relationships just as often as they are created? It makes no sense, so I turned to the scientific literature as we often should when there are serious questions or we would like to understand something better.

Passion and emotion have long been known to be quite different from clear thinking and logic. Neuropsychology has identified areas in the temporal cortex as more responsible for regulating and controlling emotions whereas the frontal lobe is responsible for more rational and logical processing or cold thinking. In working with clients, I will often show them how their behavior is represented in the central and peripheral nervous system and this comes from my years of training and understanding of neuropsychology, but we are always learning new things from science all the time so it’s very important to stay current with findings.

Recent studies (reported thanks to Steve Connor, Science Editor of The London Independent, 2008) have discovered the biological basis for the two most intense emotions of love and hate. Neural circuits in the brain responsible for hate are often the same as those that are used during the feelings of romance, even though love and hate appear to be polar opposites. Looking at the areas of the brain that are active when people look at a photograph of someone they say they hate has found that the “hate circuit” shares something in common with the love circuit. These findings could explain why both hate and romantic love can result in similar acts of extreme behavior – both heroic and evil.

Like love, hate is often seemingly irrational and can lead individuals to both heroic and evil deeds. How can two opposite states of mind lead to similar behavior?” The study involved subjects who professed a deep hatred for one individual. Most chose an ex-lover or a competitor at work. The researchers in the study Professor Zeki and Romaya analysed the activity of the neural circuits in the brain that lit up when the volunteers were viewing photos of the hated person and found that the hate circuit includes parts of the brain called the putamen and the insula, found in the sub-cortex of the organ. The putamen is already known to be involved in the perception of contempt and disgust and may also be part of the motor system involved in movement and action. “Significantly, the putamen and the insula are also both activated by romantic love. This is not surprising. The putamen could also be involved in the preparation of aggressive acts in a romantic context, as in situations when a rival presents a danger,” Professor Zeki said.

A major difference between love and hate appears to be in the fact that large parts of the cerebral cortex – associated with judgment and reasoning – become de-activated during love, whereas only a small area is deactivated in hate. “This may seem surprising since hate can also be an all-consuming passion like love. But whereas in romantic love, the lover is often less critical and judgmental regarding the loved person, it is more likely that in the context of hate the hater may want to exercise judgment in calculating moves to harm, injure or otherwise exact revenge,” Professor Zeki said.

This amazing research is just beginning to offer clues to some of our most complex behavior, but I am not at all surprised about it when you consider the course of a normal romantic relationship. We know that in the early months and years during the infatuation phase, individuals are goo goo and ga ga about their partner, very much “in love,â€? less critical, and more happy overall. They hold hands all the time, use terms of endearment frequently, and see the glass as always half full rather than half empty. In short, they are in the right place mentally and behaviorally to provide to the other person what they need to feel because they are not overly critical and see the goodness in that person, and express it fully.

As the relationship progresses to a more rational state after the infatuation has worn off (anywhere between 6 months and two years usually) I’ve seen in my work that couples who were once non-judgmental and extremely supportive emotionally can soon become their partner’s worst nightmare with constant criticism, judgment, polarized thinking and henpecking. One big key to relationship success then would be to try to get back to doing the things you did for each other when the relationship was new, when love was less rational and when the mere fact of having one another trumped most any obstacle.

Certainly things change, but as they change some basic expressions of love and caring and support I believe need to remain and be constantly replenished in a creative way. Otherwise, one or both partners will soon feel cheated without having access to the same ingredients that made it work for the person before, and left thinking that things got worse and that there must be greener grass elsewhere. It’s as if your favorite restaurant suddenly fired the chef and hired someone who used totally disgusting and less tasty ingredients in preparing the meal. How long would you want to keep going there when you could do better at a Subway or McDonalds?

It would be far better if the couple found a way to increase their expressions of affection over time even if it is hard work, or sometimes seems impossible. In the absence of this success, memories of past bliss take over and the person feels constantly that he or she is no longer receiving what they did before and what they are getting currently compared with those earlier times.

Some relationships in the infatuation phase of nonjudgmental love begin with marriage and end in divorce when feelings wear off and both fall back to earth and begin dwelling on qualities of the other person they despise. Even qualities once seen as cute or unique are now viewed with disgust or disdain. Making sense? The more rational brain is at it again!

Still other couples survive the initial reduction of infatuation phase, go on to marriage or at least long-term love, and last a lifetime if both partners are able to keep it more positive than negative and find a way to overcome conflict and differences. I would estimate that almost as many of these more mature relationships also end in break-ups or divorce if the parties are unable to communicate effectively or find a way to give the other person what they need emotionally.

Communication is usually cited as the number one reason why couples split or stay together, so its qualities need to be constantly understood, learned and practiced. The easiest way to destroy a relationship is to stop talking or expressing, or to only say what you think the other person wants to hear as if you are a robot. The key, I believe, is for each partner to be allowed to express himself or herself and also be heard authentically by the partner whether that person agrees or not. Why should you both always agree? You are different people, but be careful about anything that might destroy the basic elements of love that you felt in the infatuation phase! One way to do this is to preface your comments of difference with little terms of endearment (e.g., “I love you honey and I don’t think you mean it, but I felt completely unheard and disrespected when you ignored me in front of your family for three hours last nightâ€?).

Another key is that each partner not try to control or micromanage the other’s behavior or activities, but allow them to develop and grow in their own individual and unique way as long as they aren’t stealing candy from children, setting up dog fights, selling drugs on the street corner, or stealing credit cards (other crimes are fine .. just kidding!). I’m sure you can think of some other deal breakers, but if the person is a responsible citizen and developing as they need to develop their individuality should be allowed to shine rather than be snuffed out or repressed because of what the other person thinks you should do, think or feel.

Love should not be made conditional or contingent on doing what the other person wants. In conditional love, what one person wants may not be what the other one wants. Why should it? We are all different. We are all responsible for our own actions and our own feelings and we all have a different developmental path and calling in life, but once we cross the line into telling our partner what they should be doing, feeling or thinking, I believe we have gone too far because we will always create conflict that way, or if not conflict a repressed and unhappy partner and if your partner is not happy nobody will be.

Ideally, the couple needs to find a place where they can be allowed to grow as the individuals they are, and also as a couple without one person trying to control the other. If despite all that the couple can still not resolve their differences, then there is nothing wrong with divorce or breaking up. It may be the best solution by far in many cases. But I feel that many couples trip up on the more basic issues before they even get to this stage, and one of the big ones I have seen over the years is making love conditional.

Love was not conditional when you started and when you entered that infatuation phase. Why should it change? You loved the person for who they were before, or at least you made the person feel that way. Why should you then change and withhold love unless the person changes? It seems absurd and it is. Give love freely or forget it. If you only give love when a person does something for you or what you want them to do, that is not really love anymore but an earned service. Accept your partner for who they are and try very hard to understand why they are who they are even if you do not agree with their behavior. Why would you agree? You are different. But unless you are able to find a place where your partner feels the same love of earlier infatuation, it is simply not going to work.

When conflict does arise, as it always does, what should the couple do? One solution often chosen is to visit a top family law attorney, find out what your rights are, and start talking about divorce because of how your rights have been violated. It’s like introducing your new puppy to the fox den and then asking the foxes for advice about the care and nurturing of your puppy. The foxes will probably ask you to leave your puppy with them overnight. Ok, I know you are laughing and so am I, and I do not hate lawyers, but I had to have fun with that.

Lawyers are certainly needed if your rights have been abused and you want out of the marriage, but keep in mind that lawyers are usually smart paid fighters and modern day warriors, and their job is to help you win as much as you can in an adversarial legal system that is not designed to resolve conflict harmoniously or expediently and it is certainly not designed to save marriages. I had one year of law school in my youth and I hated it so I eventually became a psychologist and sports psychologist. The first day of law school, the professor told us that we were embarking on a profession not unlike the knights of the past. Lawyers are the modern day equivalents of F-14s and ballistic artillery. These tools all work great if you are ready for war and want to win by force. Like all professionals lawyers also earn a living by providing a service at an hourly rate. More hours equals more money for them.

There is nothing wrong with lawyers if you have already reached the point that you want out and you have no interest in trying to save the relationship, but keep in mind that they make much more when you get divorced, not when you stay together. My advice to all those couples out there who are struggling is to first see if you can work it out in counseling. A good clinical psychologist or marriage therapist may also want to work with you for a while in order to have an impact, and they earn good money too. But they earn their living when they develop a reputation for helping people improve relationships, communicate more effectively, and save marriage if possible rather than telling you how to divorce and terminate all those terms of endearment.

The bottom line is that if you want your honey back the way he or she was in the early infatuation phase of your relationship, it all starts by giving out those vibes yourself and by offering positive comments and love rather than the opposite behavior that we now know is housed in the same brain areas and is even more potentially dangerous to the relationship. With the addition of clear rational thinking associated with neurological hate, you are even more informed about the risks of not trying to go back to earlier bliss or at least trying to recreate some reasonable facsimile of it in your current relationship rather than giving in to your more hateful and rational brain! Now do you know why you needed me to write this article and why you also needed to read it?

If you want to save your relationship which started with a bang, then get in your time machines and go back mentally to that bang and replicate almost everything about it in your daily behavior. William James often said that if you behave a certain way you will start to feel that way. If you act loving again, you will soon start to feel love, and if your partner does this too you will feel double love! It is not always easy to do, but what is the alternative?

Be careful about engaging the legal system or legal advice too soon. Especially in this difficult economy there are going to be lawyers out there like those foxes coaching you to leave your precious puppy in the fox den at night. Then imagine your new puppy trying to get some sleep as the foxes sneak up on him for their supper.

Again I am poking fun at attorneys and do not want you to get the wrong impression. Many of my best friends and clients are attorneys and many are great individuals and there are good and bad people in all walks of life, but these attorneys have long told me that their job is to protect you and fight for your rights rather than fight to save your marriage. They are of ten needed to do just that – to fight to end your marriage if you want that.

As long as there is still hope to make it work as a couple, choose counseling first, keep trying to get back to the earlier state of bliss, engage in those earlier more romantic behaviors again (hand holding, terms of endearment, saying “I love youâ€?), and by all means take your precious puppy to a proper dog kennel or friend’s home and avoid the foxes den.

Good luck and I hope you enjoyed this little article from the world of sports psychology!

Friend Finder Puts People Back in Touch

Special Report – Palm Beach, Florida – Several years ago Dr. John F. Murray, clinical and sports psychologist in Palm Beach, Florida, began offering a free service using the power of the web to find lost acquaintances and friends. “It worked brilliantly” said Dr. Murray, and “I even used the service to locate a few old friends from childhood that I had not seen in over 35 years!” Whether you attended the same academy or school, or knew that person in the neighborhood in the 1950s, it really worked!

The success of the web to put people in touch off anyone’s site really (it is more effective if the site is popular and gets lots of hits like here at is based on the relatively common phenomenon knowing as “ego surfing” in which internet users type their own name into a search box such as google or yahoo to see where they appear online. “Since I am contributing almost daily to the international, national and local media on topics related to sports psychology training and mental health, my name pops up all the time in articles and blogs that I was not even aware of,” claims Dr. Murray. Murray has been dubbed the “football freud” by the Washington Post and the “Roger Federer of sports psychology” by Tennis Week Magazine.

As a service to visitors to his site, Dr. Murray accepts emails from people all the time and then posts their names on his site to that others engaging in ego surfing will find their names on the site and contact Dr. Murray to be put back in touch with the lost friend. “I do it because it is fun and it is a way to get people to visit my site and see all the exciting things going on,” asserts Murray.

Here are the latest list of requests from people looking for long lost friends: (1) Michael Butler from Sacramento, California writes to say that he is seeking to re-connect with New York City native and schoolboy friend known as John Artusi. (2) Stephen Reynolds of Charlotte, NC is looking for an old girlfriend from high school in the suburbss of Chicago named Lisa Giordano. (3) Frank Morris of Gainesville, FL is looking for James Smith who used to live in Stoughton, MA many years ago. (4) Judy Lambert who lived in Boca Raton, FL many years ago is looking for her old neighborhood friend who she thinks moved to Plymouth, MA in the late 1960s but they went separate ways. (5) Monty Smith of Phoenix, AZ would like to re-connect with his teenage sweetheart who lived in Tuscon and her maiden name was Cynthia Murray (no relation to Dr. John Murray). (6) Attorney Stephen Miller lived over on the west coast of Florida many years ago (early 1970s) and lost contact with a golfing buddy, Frank Washington of Pinellas Park, FL and wonders whatever happened to him. (7) Ex North Palm Beach, FL resident William Smith (now living in Dallas) recalls dating a girl in high school from in Jupiter and Juno Beach, FL in the 1980s named Virginia Jones and they used to go boating frequently off Juno Beach.

I hope you use this service and sincerely believe that time travel to an interesting and distant past can promote a bright future when old connections are made! Just contact Dr. John F Murray by email and he will post your name and who you are searching for in the next update ( Hope you enjoyed this benefit of the website dedicated to sports psychology.

Granderson Decides to Visit the Swing Doctor

Wall Street Journal – August 13, 2010 – Brian Costa – KANSAS CITY, Mo.—Curtis Granderson was searching for answers.

More than four months into his first season with the Yankees, he arrived in Texas on Tuesday batting just .240 with 10 home runs, hardly resembling the All-Star he was just a year ago.

So when he approached Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long in the batting cage, he was ready to try just about anything.

“What would you suggest?” he said, according to Mr. Long. “I want to do something different.”

Slumping Curtis Granderson is working with Yankees hitting coach Kevin Long to re-invent his swing.

That conversation is what sparked a series of hitting sessions over the last few days in which the two worked on what Mr. Long called “a total reformation of the swing.” Essentially, Mr. Granderson is trying to eliminate excess movement in every facet of his swing, from his hands to his hips.

It does not require an advanced degree in the science of hitting to see that something had to change. Mr. Granderson, acquired in a trade with the Detroit Tigers last winter, is having his worst season since he was a rookie in 2004.

Though his average is only slightly down from 2009, when he hit .249, he is on pace to finish well shy of the 30 home runs he hit last year. He entered Thursday with a .722 OPS, down from .780 last year and .858 two years ago.

The only thing that hasn’t changed is his struggle against left-handed pitchers, against whom he entered Thursday hitting just .206.

But making fundamental changes to a player’s swing this late in the season is a radical move. Even Mr. Long called it “a stretch” to change longstanding habits in a matter of days and weeks.

The question, then, is this: How quickly can a swing be overhauled?

Mr. Granderson downplayed the extent of the changes, saying, “It’s just trying to simplify everything.” But what he is working on with Mr. Long is clearly more than the routine adjustments that many hitters make during the course of a season.

Mr. Long compared it to the work he did with right fielder Nick Swisher after he hit just .128 in the playoffs last year. The difference, though, is that Mr. Swisher made the changes to his swing during the offseason. During the season, he likely could not have done what Mr. Granderson is attempting.

“I asked Swish, ‘Would this have worked with you?’ ” Mr. Long said. “He said, ‘I don’t know. It would have been very difficult.’ ”

Mr. Granderson was benched Tuesday and Wednesday, giving him extra time to work on his revamped swing. But mentally, there will likely be a longer adjustment period, according to John Murray, a sports psychologist based in Palm Beach, Fla.

“What was previously automatic is now having to be re-learned,” Mr. Murray said. “It’s almost like you’re going back to a beginner’s state of mind.”

Mr. Granderson said he has made changes of similar magnitude in midseason twice before, first when he was in the minors in 2004 and again when he was in Detroit in 2006.

Even if it is too late to save Mr. Granderson’s season, Mr. Long said they have little to lose in trying.

“Like he said,” Mr. Long said, “how much worse could it get?”

I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into just another aspect of sports psychology.

Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade building goodwill in 2 worlds

Miami Herald – Michael Wallace – August 1, 2010 – Dwyane Wade’s work in the community includes the Summer Groove, which he leads along with Alonzo Mourning. It was only weeks ago that Irene Brodie sat on her living room sofa in suburban Chicago, leaned over a coffee table and sorted through photos and articles chronicling one of her town’s favorite sons.

Her mind was focused on the task — putting together a collage commemorating what was going to be Dwyane Wade’s triumphant return to Chicago to follow in the legendary, Nike-sneakered footsteps of Michael Jordan and restore the Bulls to elite-level status.

It was set to be a full-circle celebration for Brodie, who was mayor of the Chicago suburb of Robbins, Ill., when Wade left to attend college at Marquette in 2000 and is marking two decades in office this year.

Wade had other plans, opting early in July to join free agent stars LeBron James and Chris Bosh for a championship quest with the Miami Heat.

“This will always be home for him, and he’ll tell you he’s from Robbins,” Brodie said. “But I guess if I want to see him play, I better get down there to Miami.”

Wade is scheduled to return to Chicago later this month to host his annual Wade’s World Foundation weekend of charity events. It will be Wade’s first public appearance in the city he spurned after visiting the Bulls twice and indicating serious interest.

Wade has said a big part of his heart — and family — will always be in Chicago, but there’s no doubt now where his loyalties reside.

After committing to the Heat for another six seasons — and recruiting James and Bosh to join him in Miami — Wade is as entrenched in South Florida as sunshine, sand and salsa.


Wade, 28, was already approaching the regional iconic status of Miami Dolphins Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino after leading the Heat to an NBA title in 2006. But his role in helping the Heat execute the most controversial free agency coup in NBA history may have established him as the No. 1 figure in South Florida sports.

“Across all sports, in terms of his impact, [Wade] was top five down here already,” said Dr. John F. Murray, a Palm Beach County-based sports psychologist who has worked with professional athletes and teams. “As great as Marino was, he never won a championship. If Wade is able to do it again, with what they’ve got in place, he would solidify himself at the top.”


During a recent appearance on ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel Live, Wade said the buzz around Miami is even greater now than after the Heat won its lone title four seasons ago.

Wade also said his decision to take less money — he will earn $107 million over six years compared with the $110 million Bosh and James will get — has been appreciated around town.

With all three players agreeing to take $15 million to $20 million less than the maximum they could have received under league rules, the Heat retained money to fill out a solid supporting cast.

“Everywhere you go, everyone is excited about the opportunity,” Wade told Kimmel, marveling at how often his dinner tab is picked up all around town. “I haven’t paid for anything. That loss [in contract], the city is going to help me get it back. It’s going to be fun.”

Even with the Heat still months from its late October season opener, its three stars have already taken a national victory lap of sorts. There have been talk-show appearances and red-carpet treatment in Los Angeles, star-studded parties in Las Vegas and even an instant declaration by Sports Illustrated that the Heat are one of the top 25 most reviled teams ever.

Wade welcomes the challenge.

“Bring it on,” Wade said during the July 9 news conference at which James and Bosh also signed their new contracts. “We play this game to have that competitive nature, competitive juices. We don’t expect [teams] to say, `OK, Miami’s won it. We don’t want that. I expect people are going to say [negative] stuff. And we accept it with open arms.”

Miami returned the love in a public embrace that capped months of waiting for Wade, who a year ago was in the midst of a public spat with team president Pat Riley about a lack of roster upgrades going into the 2009-10 season.

Wade also dealt with lawsuits over failed business ventures, including a doomed restaurant chain. Even more serious were bitter divorce proceedings and custody issues over his two young sons that dragged on for nearly two years.

“It’s been a lot of stuff I had to deal with, grow through and realize what I was about and what people around me were about,” Wade said. “But I had to go through it for a reason. Everything I went through made me a better person, and I think people see that.”

The down times gave way to better ones. In January, Wade embedded himself deeper in the South Florida community when he joined with former Heat center Alonzo Mourning to raise more than $1 million for victims of the earthquake in Haiti.

A month later, Wade was named Most Valuable Player of the NBA All-Star Game, playing before a record crowd of 108,713 at Cowboys Stadium near Dallas.


It was during those All-Star weekend festivities that Wade, Bosh and James practiced and played on the Eastern Conference team, and also further entertained the idea of uniting as free agents if the chance arrived.

“His leadership ability certainly came to the forefront in this whole thing,” said Chicago-based agent Henry Thomas, who has represented Wade and Bosh since they decided to enter the 2003 NBA Draft. “He’s shown himself throughout the league to be the player and person Chris and LeBron wanted to play with.”

Thomas said the way Wade handled himself through his legal matters and family issues also showed a humility that resonated with Miami fans.

“He’s been through some things off the court human beings go through,” Thomas said. “He’s not perfect. He’s made mistakes. He’s been classy the way he handled that adversity. And I’ve got to believe folks in Miami see that and recognize that beyond what he does on the court, he’s a human being that’s pretty special.”

Hope you enjoyed this story with a touch of sports psychology.

Ericsson Open Winners Emphasize Mental Game

Florida Tennis Magazine – By John F. Murray, PhD – – As a contributing editor to Florida Tennis magazine for over 10 years, you’ve heard from me countless times about the mental game and mental training for top junior tennis players hoping to earn a college scholarship, or perhaps ATP or WTA Tour success. What about players who have already made it? Does the mental game still matter for them? Let’s glance back at the men’s side of the 2010 Ericsson Open – from quarterfinals to Andy Roddick’s impressive win – and listen closely as the pros describe their mental keys to their success. We’ll cover the women exclusively in a future article.

This Key Biscayne Masters series gem continues to rank as the 5th most important tournament on the tour. Mark it official and just call it a grand slam, on par with Wimbledon and Roland Garros. Why not? It’s the biggest and baddest tennis in Florida, the Caribbean and South America, and my prediction is that it will eventually become the second US Open in some future decade as the Latin population of American and South Florida continues to grow beyond expectations. I love it because it is so close and I get to meet with players I am working with and see them play too.

By the quarterfinals of the 2010 event, 8 of the current top 20 ranked players in the world were still standing, so you had the cream of the crop for sure! In parentheses after their names are their current ATP Tour rankings: Rafael Nadal of Spain (1), Robin Sonderling of Sweden (5), Thomas Berdych of Czechoslovakia (8), Andy Roddick of USA (9), Fernando Verdasco of Spain (10), Jo Wilfried Tsonga of France (11), Mikhail Youzny of Russia (14), and Nicolas Almagro (20) of Spain. With Spain just winning the World Cup too, you wonder what they are drinking over there!

Let’s listen to the winner’s post-match comments from the mental perspective, with the key mental principle(s) underlined as a header:


Berdych d. Verdasco 4-6, 7-6, 6-4: Berdych after the match stated: “I brought many positive things even though I was tired.â€? He explained in the press conference how beating Roger Federer in the previous round gave him confidence. He showed just that in saving 7 of 9 break points. Rather than getting defeated in adversity or reacting to a difficult situation in a negative way, Berdych hung in there, knew that he could do it, and did it.

Sonderling d. Youzny 6-1, 6-4: Robin Sonderling explained in the interview how taking the initiative and dictating play with his flat groundstrokes worked like a charm. He also talked about how he won with quickness, and we know from research how important mental processes are in anticipatory quickness. It’s actually equally about physical movement as it is about getting a jump mentally and reading cues properly. Sonderling beat his rival to the punch with better anticipation skills, by taking the ball earlier, and through lightning fast shot-making, and these all begin in the brain.

Roddick d. Almagro 6-3, 6-3: Roddick, off to one of his fastest career starts, described this match in a way that shows he was in a state of pure focus and automatic play or automaticity. He already had played and won a lot in 2010, and described in this match how “things slowed down and muscle memory took over.â€? This is classic in higher stages of learning where auto-pilot predominates. It defines simplicity and perfect focus. Andy found it in this match and he felt like he could do no wrong.

Nadal d. Tsonga 6-3, 6-2: Never neglect the influence of the environment in performance, and social facilitation is a psychological state caused by crowd support. Nadal credited the crowd when he said after the match “I was inspired by the full and passionate crowd.â€? He added, “the crowd is always very emotional here.â€? There is no doubt that despite Nadal’s fatigue, he got a second and third wind from this special social element.


Berdych d. Sonderling 6-2, 6-2: Thomas Berdych knew that he was in trouble if he tried to out-steady the Swede. It’s actually a somewhat absurd concept to try to out-steady a Swede ever since Bjorn Borg hit the scene. Berdych used his noggin to set a couple clear goals: (1) play more aggressively, and (2) reduce mistakes. This combination proved lethal to Robin when packed his bags and went back to the ice bar in Stockholm (I went there a couple years ago and can only imagine that is where Swedes go after they lose a match to cool). Humor aside, Berdych used his frontal lobe well in this match by setting goals to perfection. He had 17 winners and only 15 unforced errors compared with Sonderlings 10 winners and 31 unforced errors.

Roddick d. Nadal 4-6, 6-3, 6-3: Mindsets are crucial in sports. They reflect how you view a problem and solution. I often help players get ready for matches with particular sentences that capture a needed mindset. In this case, Andy knew he was in trouble against Nadal if he played it safe. Playing consistently against Nadal is like trying to beat a wall. So he changed his mindset to high risk/high reward and it drastically changed the course of the match mid way through the second set. Andy showed high intelligence in making this needed risky change and going on the attack. He went on to win 15 of 25 net approaches, found his flat risky forehand, and Nadal went home wondering what had happened.

Roddick d. Berdych 7-5, 6-4: Andy used two important mental skills to take his 2nd career Ericsson title. He won by being creative and stated after the match, “I was smart in chipping and mixing paces which kept him guessing.â€? He also said, “I had a lot of pressure to win this one because I had a pretty good opportunity at Indian Wells.â€? In reflecting on the entire tournament, Roddick said “I haven’t had an off day mentally in this tournament.â€? The end result was the he held serve perfectly and did not even face a break point in this match. By combining smart creative play with urgency on every point (rather than negativity as often happens in pressure) Andy Roddick, the lone American in a draw with 3 fierce Spaniards and all top 20 players by the quarterfinals, showed that he was the mental champion of the week.

I hope you enjoyed this article on sports psychology.

Sports Psychologist Dr. John F Murray Appearing on Tennis Channel Next Two Weeks

DR JOHN IS ON THE TENNIS CHANNEL OVER THE NEXT TWO WEEKS (PREVIOUSLY RECORDED): Dr. John F. Murray to appear on the Tennis Channel in episodes 3 and 4 of “Fit to Hit” with host Danielle Dotzenrod. Episode 3 starts July 26.

—>BEFORE EPISODE 3 OF “FIT TO HIT” (begins July 26, 2010) – Sports Psychologist, John F. Murray will show us why setting goals can do wonders for our game.
—>BEFORE EPISODE 4 OF “FIT TO HIT” (begins August 2, 2010) – If you’ve ever found yourself on a losing streak, you’ll want to watch…we will talk to the sports psychologist, John F Murray, that helped Vincent Spadea come back from the longest losing streak in history!