In the mid 1980’s, the early years of my start-up university, I placed small, affordable ads in the Los Angeles Times offering MBA degrees through correspondence. One day, I received a call from Mohammed H. (full name withheld), a prospective student in Atlanta, Georgia. Mohammed wanted admission to my MBA program but claimed he had no money and asked if I would accept barter instead of cash. He said his father had sent him to the U.S. both to study business and distribute carpets for his family’s company. Mohammed had many high-quality Persian rugs that he was willing to trade because he had spent most of his college money enjoying his freedom in Atlanta but needed to obtain an MBA to show his father. I felt compassion for the lad, and since I had planned to be in Atlanta in several months to attend an accreditation meeting, I agreed to meet Mohammed H. at his condo.

Mohammed, true to his word, had a 2-foot-high stack of carpets in his living room, which he invited me to examine. At that time, the tuition for a full 36-credit (12 course) MBA program was $1,200 (plus books). I selected a carpet. Mohammed advised that it was not of sufficiently high quality and asked me to examine others. Too large. Too small. Too expensive. Wrong pattern. Colors not right. And so on. Finally, I selected the carpet pictured above: a 5’ x 8’ intricately patterned wool, silk and cotton charmer, just the right size. We signed the enrollment agreement “paid in full; no cancellations; no tuition refunds.” I rolled and carried the carpet over my shoulder and flew back to California with my booty.

Mr. Mohammed H. earned his MBA over the next 5 years by correspondence. In the first few weeks, he often complained he was working too hard for the degree which he believed he had “purchased” rather than having to “earn.” Since there was no possible refund, he settled down and completed his courses. And the carpet? It is impressively stretched out in front of the sitting area in my office where it brings a smile to my face and a chance to tell its story to visitors. As for Mohammed? We met again at his graduation ceremony, when I conferred his MBA.

University Founder & President Emeritus

About Dr. Donald “Doc” Hecht — Doc is an Educator, University Founder, and President Emeritus writing and discussing the trends and challenges facing higher, online, and distance education, among other topics. Please feel free to comment, make suggestions, or ask any questions! You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

One Reply to “Trading a Rug for a Degree”

  1. Hi Doc! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog. Hope you are well and hope to see you next time in town. Kim V.

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