Archives for category: Higher Education

The industry that has been the most effective in buying protection in D.C, for its predatory practices is the for-profit college industry. It has hired the top lobbyist in both parties. It makes generous campaign contributions. It collects billions from taxpayers to underwrite its behavior. All of this money is used to enrich the industry leaders. Need I add that these institutions are known for predatory practices and for supplying a lousy education.

This article, written by David Halperin and published in The Nation, lays bare the power of this industry and how well it has used its resources to avoid scrutiny of it. The article appeared nearly one year ago.

Now Halperin has published a new article, predicting the end of the predatory colleges. He cites the bankruptcy of mega-chain Corinthian Colleges as a hopeful sign. He thinks that Washington is ready to take them on. Count me cynical. I will believe it when it happens.

For years, for-profit “colleges” have been criticized for false promises and preying on veterans, low-income students, and students of color. Congressional efforts to rein them in have been stymied by their high-priced lobbyists from both parties. They pay protection money and continue to fleece their students, many of whom Re saddled with debt and no education or job prospects.

Corinthian Colleges was one of the biggest and worst. It recently collapsed in bankruptcy, despite the US Department of Education’s bailout.

Thousands of students were left holding the bag, and they are threatening not to repay their student loans for a worthless education.

Bottom line: For-profit colleges should be prohibited or closely regulated. Instead they ate left free to rip off unausoecting students and to continue their predatory practices.

Don’t expect any change during the remaining days of this administration. Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell is in charge if this issue, and he is a supporter of for-profit education. When he was chosen, he was CEO of NewSchools Venture Fund, which helps build charter chains and advocates for for-profit education.

Thanks to for highlighting this shameful story.

Politicians in the Florida legislature love to regulate public schools, demanding accountability. They live to launch charters and vouchers that are deregulated, to prove that deregulation is a very good thing, except for public schools.

But now we learn that the politicians have been busy deregulating for-profit colleges while sweeping in campaign contributions from these institutions and their sponsors.

“The rules are different for for-profit colleges. Despite fraud lawsuits and government investigations involving for-profit colleges all over the country, Florida’s Legislature continues to encourage the industry’s growth while reducing quality standards and oversight. Florida’s attorney general has been less aggressive than some counterparts in pursuing the schools when they skirt laws involving the hundreds of millions they receive in state and federal money.

In one city, Homestead, a school owner gained enormous influence with the local government, working through the mayor, whose wife the owner secretly hired as a $5,000-a-month consultant. The Miami-Dade state attorney’s office looked into the connection but decided it was no crime.”

The groups with the biggest checkbook tend to set the agenda, said one critic.

Is this helping American education? Of course not. Is it helping students? Nope.

Read more here:

MOOCs are Massive Open Onliine Courses. Many see them as the grand destiny for higher education, opening access for all at a low price. Some courses are taught simultaneously to thousands of students by star professors.

But here is a shocking statistic, reported by

“A dismal 7 percent of MOOC students finish their courses.”

I can imagine huge improvements in online courses. They could take advantage of graphics and intetactive tools. Maybe they are the future. But we aren’t there yet.

In response to a post about the predatory for-profit higher education industry, reader Chiara sent the following comment to remind us of how the for-profit industry buys influence in Washington, D.C. and avoids regulation:

To get a sense of how powerful the for-profit lobby is, read this:

“Anita Dunn, a close friend of President Obama and his former White House communications director, worked with Kaplan University, one of the embattled school networks. Jamie Rubin, a major fund-raising bundler for the president’s re-election campaign, met with administration officials about ATI, a college network based in Dallas, in which Mr. Rubin’s private-equity firm has a stake.
A who’s who of Democratic lobbyists — including Richard A. Gephardt, the former House majority leader; John Breaux, the former Louisiana senator; and Tony Podesta, whose brother, John, ran Mr. Obama’s transition team — were hired to buttonhole officials.
And politically well-connected investors, including Donald E. Graham, chief executive of the Washington Post Company, which owns Kaplan, and John Sperling, founder of the University of Phoenix and a longtime friend of the House minority leader, Nancy Pelosi, made impassioned appeals.”

This is why I cannot believe anyone is seriously suggesting we can contract out public schools and it will be on the up and up and “well-regulated”. No, it won’t. Lawmakers will be captured and it will be a free for all. The big losers will be poor people, just as the big losers are poor people in the for-profit college scams.

Ed reformers are freaking kidding themselves with this “well-regulated! non-profits!” fantasy. It’s a weirdly arrogant assumption that they are all honorable and well-intended, so immune to this stuff. They’re not immune.

The burgeoning of the for-profit college industry has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars, sent many thousands of students out into the world with shoddy educations, and made a few people very rich.

One of the organizations that should have been closed down by the U.S. Department of Education is Corinthian Colleges. Here, Peter Greene reviews its sordid history, including the fact that the U.S. Department of Education bailed it out when it needed money, and Corinthian sold off many of its campuses to be run by a DEBT COLLECTION AGENCY. I put that in caps because it is incredible but true.

Greene writes:

“Folks who find themselves in debt for Corinthian educations, but without any marketable skills that would allow them to make money– those folks got in this mess by driving past a dozen corners where there should have been big bright neon red flags. But there were no flags there, because the gatekeepers had taken the flags down and stuffed them in their back pockets.

“Corinthian has a repeatedly gotten in trouble for lying, false advertising, misrepresenting itself, and promising what it could not deliver. But the feds did not shut them down, did not demand they put a warning label on their applications, did not publicly chastise them in a manner that might have given applicants pause. And when Corinthian actually started to suffer the free-market consequences of bad behavior, the feds stepped in to protect not the students, but the investors and operators. They actually crafted a plan to allow Corinthian to draw in more students!

“And the loans? If I go to buy a house, and I visit the bank for a mortgage loan, generally speaking the bank (excepting the years between, say, 2002-2008) will make sure that they don’t lend me more than I can pay, and they will also demand an assessment of the house so that they know I’m getting their money’s worth in my purchase. Who was exercising such oversight of these college loans? Apparently, nobody.”

In North Carolina, a state senator has filed a bill requiring all professors to carry a heavy course load. It seems there’s no institution free of the heavy hand of government, when legislators grab the reins of power.

University spokesmen said such a provision would kill research and cause a flight of top talent from research universities.

Lindsay Wagner writes for NC Policy Watch:

“Senator Tom McInnis (R-Richmond) filed a bill last week that would require all UNC professors to teach no fewer than four courses a semester. It’s a move that, McInnis says, is an effort to make sure classes are not taught primarily by student assistants — but some are concerned it could hamper research and development at the state’s prestigious institutions of higher education….

University of North Carolina–Chapel Hill Professor Stephen Leonard, who teaches political science and is chair of the UNC system-wide Faculty Assembly, said the legislation is nothing more than an attempt to kill public higher education in North Carolina.

“I think it’s pretty simple,” said Leonard. “Talented faculty would start looking for work out of state, it would be hard to attract junior faculty coming out of graduate school, and it would be impossible to attract senior faculty who bring a lot of resources to our institutions.”

Leonard says the most problematic consequence of the proposed law would be that the discovery and production of knowledge would grind to a halt.

“Which I suppose is okay if you don’t want to cure cancer, fix infrastructure or make new discoveries about manufacturing processes,” said Leonard.

“SB 593 would tie professors’ salaries to their course loads—those teaching fewer than four courses each semester would earn less than their full salaries, determined on a pro-rata basis.

“The legislation also allows for the salary difference to be made up by an individual campus’ endowment, should they determine a professor should take on a lighter course load in order to conduct research – but Leonard says that’s an untenable scenario for most campuses…..

“The bill comes at a time when the state’s university system is undergoing considerable turmoil thanks to recent controversial decisions to raise tuition, close three academic centers and fire UNC’s widely-praised president, Tom Ross. The system has also been handed substantial budget cuts over the past five years by the state legislature, including a $400 million cut in 2011.”

– See more at:

Read this article in the Boston Globe and ask yourself: “What’s the point of a college degree?”

The article assumes that one gets a degree to get a better job and make more money. It describes a program that is cheap and enables low-income students to get a degree, in large extent through online learning.

A couple of liberal arts professors complain that this bargain basement approach is not really a college education. Because they are poor, the students have no exposure to real education.

““The whole premise of College for America is bargain education,” says Amy Slaton, a Drexel University history professor who has been a vocal critic of the model. “Instead of saying, ‘We’re going to help everyone reach the best of the best,’ we’re saying, ‘Here’s the generic, no-frills version for you.’ It pegs the value of the education to what you’re able to pay, instead of helping everyone to achieve the richest, most varied education they can. Why aren’t we asking about how we can bring more classroom time, more expert teaching to everyone?”

Or another question:

Why aren’t we bringing down the cost of higher education with greater student aid? Why trick poor and minority students with a cheap substitute for a real college education? If having a degree matters most, just give out a generic degree that means nothing except you can say you have one. That’s cheaper still. There are so many fake universities these days, who will know the difference?

If we really cared about students and education, higher education would be free, at least in the public sector.

Breitbart News reports that Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker has entranced some conservatives with his success at crushing labor unions, but has tried to distract their attention away from his incoherent position on Common Core and Common Core testing. Some Republicans–like Jeb Bush and Susanna Martinez–are strong supporters of Common Core. Others–like Bobby Jindal–once supported it but now oppose it. But Scott Walker has everyone confused. He is both for the Common Core standards and against them. He is in favor of the federal tests and against them.


But on one issue, Republicans appear to be united. Many are eager to cut the funding of higher education to balance the budget, and to avoid raising taxes on the rich. (There may be some Republican governors who are supporting higher education; I invite readers to tell me their names.) Scott Walker (who dropped out of Marquette University) has proposed slashing $300 million from the University of Wisconsin, which is one of the finest higher education systems in the nation (or has been until now). UW campuses are preparing for the worst, with some planning to eliminate entire majors or to reduce faculty by as much as 25%. In Illinois, newly elected Governor Bruce Rauner, a graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Business School) has proposed a $400 million cut in higher education funding. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal (a graduate of Brown University and Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar) wants to cut higher education funding by $200 million in a state that desperately needs more intellectual capital. Doug Ducey, the new Republican Governor of Arizona (a graduate of Arizona State University), proposed (and the Legislature passed) a $99 million cut to the state’s universities, as well as eliminating all state funding from several community colleges.


This is a display of free-market fundamentalism at its most extreme. These governors (and there are undoubtedly others) would rather cut the funding of colleges that educate the professionals and brainpower of the state’s future than raise taxes on the wealthiest in their state. Or is this just an example of someone who succeeded and then decides to pull the ladder up so that no one else has the same opportunities unless they are born rich?

Thanks to Valerie Strauss for reporting that the University of Phoenix is experiencing a huge enrollment decline and a consequent drop in its profitability and stock price. I am not at all sorry to see this, as I am not an aficionado of online “colleges” or for-profit education institutions.


She writes:


The University of Phoenix, the largest for-profit university in the United States, has lost a few hundred thousand students in the last five years, according to its parent company.


Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, announced Wednesday that revenues and enrollment had fallen in the last quarter about 14 percent compared to the same period in 2014. What’s more, the school’s enrollment five years ago was 460,000 students and now it is 213,000, CNN Money reported. The news on Wednesday sparked a 30 percent drop in Apollo’s stock. (Apollo stock was at $19.57 a share in Thursday morning trading, down 2.4 percent.)


The University of Phoenix, which started in 1976 in the Phoenix area, delivers education largely online but also has brick-and-mortar classrooms. In recent years it has been forced to close some of its classrooms and has faced competition from traditional universities that have started their own online courses.


Studies have shown that many of the for-profit institutions are predatory and concerned more with profit than with learning. Education should be profitable but intellectually and spiritually, not on the stock exchange.




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