Archives for category: Higher Education

In one of the most ethically-challenged actions of former Education Department officials, a group made a bid for the for-profit University of Phoenix, whose fortunes were waning due to regulations and oversight by the prospective new purchasers. The Wall Street Journal cried foul when the deal went public months ago, saying that the same government officials who drove down the UP stock price were taking advantage of the low price for their own gain.

Politico reports that enrollment at UP continues to fall, but the deal is moving ahead:

“WITH SALE ON THE LINE, UNIVERSITY OF PHOENIX ENROLLMENT DOWN AGAIN: The parent company of the University of Phoenix reported another sharp drop in enrollment Thursday, while a proposed sale of the for-profit college giant continues to hang in the balance. Apollo Education Group told investors that enrollment at the University of Phoenix was 142,500 as of Aug. 31 – a more than 25 percent decline from a year earlier. New enrollments also fell by nearly 27 percent, to 19,400. A group of private investors with ties to the Obama administration are seeking to buy Apollo. The company had previously warned that if the sale wasn’t completed by early October, its worsening financial condition might sink the deal. But Thursday Apollo Education told investors that it currently meets the minimum financial standards required for the deal to close – and expects to continue meeting those standards going forward. Michael Stratford has more.”

To read the links, read here:

Graduation rates at for-profit institutions are abysmal.

They have been called predators in Cipongressional hearings. They prey on the unwary.

Their defenders and lobbyists are described here.

Just in. A protest against a “Chancellor” who refuses to negotiate, who served as Jeb Bush’s lieutenant governor, who has no academic qualifications, and who was brought in to defund the state university system.

Dear Comrades,

I am emailing you all because as of 5 am this morning, the faculty of the entire Pennsylvania State University System went on strike. Our faculty union, APSCUF, represents more than 7,000 faculty at all 14 state universities, and this strike will affect more than 100,000 students. Picket lines begin at 7 am this morning, and we seek your support.

APSCUF faculty have been working without a contract for more than a year (477 days). APSCUF has been trying very hard to negotiate a fair contract, but the PASSHE System, led by Chancellor Frank Brogan, have repeatedly turned away from negotiations, and then, after nearly a year, they proposed 249 contractual changes, many of which undermine academic quality. The State System wants to cut the pay of our lowest paid professors; increase their powers to retrench any faculty member of any rank; and it has demanded tens of millions of dollars in givebacks from the faculty, especially in terms of health care coverage and costs, and reductions in professional development and sabbaticals.

The situation is complex, as would any contract affecting so many people. But there is a simple and familiar side to this story. Frank Brogan was appointed by our previous Governor of Pennsylvania, Tom Corbett, a Republican who sought to defund and privatize public higher education as much as possible. Prior to his appointment as Chancellor, Brogan (who has never taught in higher education) served as Lieutenant Governor for Jeb Bush in Florida.

Our current Governor Tom Wolfe supports the faculty, and he has requested that the State System continue to negotiate, but the Chancellor has defied these requests.

Please visit the APSCUF web site where many more details are available, and you can sign a petition to tell the State System to settle a fair contract: We also request that you email our Chancellor Frank Brogan at to tell the State System to negotiate a fair contract and to care about the quality of education.

Thank your for your support.

Since I am unable to use my IUP email address by which I am registered on this list, I am grateful that my friend, Jeff Williams, is distributing this message. I can be reached on my gmail account.

In solidarity,

David Downing
English Department
Indiana University of Pennsylvania

On September 30, Wellesley College inaugurated its 14th president since the college was founded in 1875. The new president is Dr. Paula Johnson, a cardiologist with an MD and a Ph.D. in public health. She is a renowned scientist, researcher, physician, teacher, and expert on the subject of women’s health. I met Dr. Johnson when I went to Wellesley for Pasi Sahlberg’s performance/lecture. She is brilliant, unassuming, warm, and very impressive.

I was class of 1960 at Wellesley. Hillary was class of 1969. Obviously, we did not overlap.

But this is what you need to know about Wellesley. Its motto is “Non ministrari, sed ministrate,” which means “not to be ministered unto, but to minister.” Not to be served, but to serve.

Another motto is “Incipit vita nova: here begins new life.”

That’s what Wellesley was for me, coming from the public schools of Houston, from parents who never went to college, from a decidedly non-academic, non-bookish family. The beginning of a new life.

I think that’s what Wellesley meant for Hillary Rodham, coming from public schools in Illinois, from a family of modest means. The beginning of a new life.

Wellesley is where we began a new life. It is the educational environment that shaped us.

To understand that environment, I invite you to watch some or all of the inauguration of Dr. Paula A.Johnson. The video has a table of contents, and you can skip the 30-minute processional and go right to the speakers. Watch the brief speech of Senator Elizabeth Warren. Then watch Drew Gilpin Faust, the president of Harvard University, who delivers a fascinating overview of women’s higher education and the snobbishness it encountered. Then watch Kathleen McCartney, president of Smith College, who speaks with great wit about the sibling rivalry between Smith and Wellesley but assures Dr. Johnson that all her sisters are with her. Listen to Dr. Virginia W. Pinn, a senior scientist at the National Institutes of Health and a medical pioneer, who knows Dr. Johnson’s role in her field.

And of course, please watch and listen to Dr. Johnson, who is simply fabulous. Dr. Johnson grew up in Brooklyn. She is a product of the New York City public schools, having completed her high school studies at Samuel J. Tilden High School, a comprehensive school where she met teachers who inspired and encouraged her. From Tilden, she went to Radcliffe and Harvard, where she began her brilliant career. [Tilden was declared a “failing school” by the Bloomberg administration in 2006 and converted to small schools.]

To understand the environment that shaped Hillary Rodham and me, watch this video. It made us strong, fearless, and prepared us to face the future armed with a strong liberal arts education and the belief that women can do anything. It taught us that we were fortunate to have such a wonderful education and were obliged to use it to make a difference for others.

Jonathan Pelto writes that Rhode Island may impose the SAT as a high school exit examination, despite the fact that the SAT was not designed for this purpose. One of the most basic rules of the testing industry is that tests should be used only for the purpose for which they were designed. The SAT was not designed to be a high school exit exam. The SAT, like all standardized tests, is tightly correlated with family income. Studies continue to show that grade-point-average is a better predictor of college academic performance than the SAT. Back in the old days, before standardized testing became a major industry, the test developers would warn districts and states not to misuse the tests.

Meanwhile, growing numbers of colleges and universities no longer require that applicants for admission submit standardized test scores, neither the SAT nor the ACT.

FairTest reports:



A record number of colleges and universities now have test-optional admissions policies. Half of the national liberal arts schools ranked in the “Top 100” by the recently published U.S. News “Best Colleges” guide do not require all or many applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores. The National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest) released the new tally.

“Top 100” liberal arts colleges with test-optional policies include Bowdoin, Smith, Wesleyan, Bates, Bryn Mawr, Holy Cross and Pitzer. Test-flexible policies, which allow applicants to submit scores from exams other than the ACT or SAT, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate results, are in place at Middlebury, Colby, Hamilton and Colorado College.

U.S. News ranks more than 240 test-optional and test-flexible colleges and universities in the top tiers of their respective categories, according to FairTest. For example, the top three regional universities in the north, Providence College, Fairfield University, and Loyola University, are test-optional. So is the number two university in the south, Rollins, the third ranked school in the Midwest, Drake, and Mills College, fifth ranked among western regional universities.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest Public Education Director, explained the new tally. “Admissions offices increasingly recognize that they do not need ACT or SAT scores to make good decisions. That’s why more than 70 schools have adopted test-optional policies in the past three years. We are particularly pleased by the sharp growth at both selective liberal arts colleges and access-oriented institutions.”

Schaeffer continued, “The test-optional surge gives applicants more control in the admissions process. Teenagers regularly tell us that they are attracted to schools where they will be treated as ‘more than a score.’”

Overall, more than 870 colleges and universities are test-optional for all or many applicants ( The test-optional pace accelerated after the “redesigned” SAT was unveiled (

– FairTest’s new list of top-tier colleges and universities that de-emphasize the ACT and SAT:

The comments about the closing of ITT for-profit colleges by the U.S. Department of Education’s suspension of federal aid reminded me of another story that was published just a few months ago.

A group of men who are friends and former high-level officials in the Obama administration bought the University of Phoenix, the nation’s largest for-profit provider of “higher education.”

The purchase of University of Phoenix involved one of the President’s closest friends, financier Marty Nesbitt, and former Deputy Secretary of Education Tony Miller. Miller had been in charge of cracking down on the for-profit higher education sector. Senator Dick Durbin of Illinois said that the purchase raises the “appearance” of impropriety. On February 16, 2016, the Wall Street Journal ran an editorial called “Regulating For Profit,” accusing the Obama administration of driving down the stock price, so that former officials could then pick it up at a bargain price. (Sorry, I can’t give you the link, as the WSJ is behind a paywall, but you can find it by googling the article name.)

What does this mean? Closing Corinthian and ITT, while Obama pals take over University of Phoenix. I don’t know.

You may recall that the huge Corinthian College for-profit chain closed down last year, stranding over 16,000 students who were saddled with debt and worthless credits. The bankruptcy was precipitated when the U.S. Department of Education cut off federal funding after investigations revealed numerous frauds.

Now the ITT chain of for-profit colleges is going belly-up, after the Feds pulled the plug. The move leaves 35,000 students and employees out of luck. The students will have difficulty transferring their credits to another college or university since the for-profits are not respected by established institutions.

“Just days before the start of a new school term, ITT Educational Services, one of the nation’s largest for-profit educational companies, closed nearly all its campuses on Tuesday.

“The company cited the Education Department’s recent decision to bar the chain of colleges from using federal financial aid to enroll new students as the reason for the sudden shutdown.

“Except for a small school that operates under a different name, the move puts an end to an operation that has been accused of widespread fraud and abuse, leaving roughly 35,000 students and 8,000 employees in the lurch.

“ITT Educational Services, whose recruitment, lending practices and educational quality have been under scrutiny by federal regulators and state prosecutors for years, said in a news release that it had “exhausted the exploration of alternatives, including transfer of the schools to a nonprofit or public institution.””

Given their long-standing record of fraud, false promises, worthless degrees, predatory recruitment of veterans and low-income students, why did the Education Department allow them to get federal aid for so many years? At long last, accountability. Only the students are left holding the bag.

Many people think that getting in to college is the key to life success. There is no doubt that there is a correlation between income and education, but the question remains: Will entry into college guarantee an end to poverty?

In this podcast, EduShyster says that getting into college is not a guarantee of getting ahead. As she shows in this podcast, many young people struggle to get into college, then find themselves burdened with debt and less able to cope with the demands of academic life and working to pay off their debts.

For me, the takeaway is that Bernie Sanders’ proposal to make public college tuition-free makes sense. Higher education should be a right, not a privilege.

Rob Schofield of NC Policy Watch writes here about the Koch Brothers’ latest move to extend their influence in academia.

Here in North Carolina, where the Kochs’ home-grown junior partner Art Pope has played the role of right-wing financier and kingmaker for years, direct Koch tentacles have been somewhat less visible. Recently, however, this has started to change. Last fall, we reported on the establishment of a new Koch-funded propaganda shop at Western Carolina University to be dubbed the Center for the Study of Free Enterprise.

Meanwhile, as is noted in the Mayer piece, another Koch network shop has sprouted and is taking shape 200 miles to the east at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. The Wake Forest operation is called the “Eudaimonia Project” and it is headed by James Otteson – the head of the BB&T Center for the Study of Capitalism at Wake (where the project is based) and the same fellow who outlined the Koch plan at the California retreat in the above excerpt….

As with all of the academic centers in the growing (some would say “metastasizing”) Koch Empire, the Eudaimonia Project and its parent organization do little to disguise what they are all about. The goal is clearly to advance hard right market fundamentalist ideology by cloaking it in warm and fuzzy language and to thereby grace it with the veneer of academic legitimacy.


You may not be surprised to learn that "Eudaemonia" means "human flourishing." It happens that humans can't flourish unless they live in a free enterprise, capitalistic society.

Those of us familiar with the verbal tricks of the reform movement will recognize the deceptive use of language to disguise its true meaning.

This story is shocking. Former officials in the Obama administration, once in charge of regulating predatory the for-profit higher education industry, now want in on the action themselves. Their financier is Obama’s best friend. The story was written by Michael Stratford and Kimberly Hefling. Please read this report as background for what follows.

Mercedes Schneider wrote about it here.

She writes:

Obama’s close friend, Marty Nesbitt, and others are seeking US Department of Education (USDOE) approval to purchase the fiscally-troubled for-profit, University of Phoenix. Nesbitt and former Deputy Secretary of Education, Tony Miller, run a Chicago-based private equity firm, Vistria Group.

Vistria Group is part of a small collective that wants to purchase University of Phoenix, and the for-profit school’s parent organization, Apollo Education, is apparently all in.

USDOE approval would keep the student loan and Pell grant bucks coming to University of Phoenix– which happens to be the subject of three state attorneys general as well as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

The price tag for Vistria et al. appears to be $1.1 billion. As it stands, University of Phoenix receives $2 billion annually in public money.

If University of Phoenix goes under, then all of those student loans are forgiven– which means taxpayers foot the bill. If Vistria et al. acquire University of Phoenix, then the goings-on at the school become private. No more requiring that that public be made aware of the salaries of the school’s executives, or that the public be made aware of litigation against the school, or that the public know about pending investigations.

The story was originally posted at PoliticoPro, which is an expensive subscription; fortunately, it is now available for free at Here is an excerpt from the original story:

As the Obama administration cracks down on for-profit colleges, three former officials working on behalf of an investment firm run by President Barack Obama’s best friend have staged a behind-the-scenes campaign to get the Education Department to green-light a purchase of the biggest for-profit of them all — the University of Phoenix.

The investors include a private equity firm founded and run by longtime Obama friend Marty Nesbitt and former Deputy Education Secretary Tony Miller. The firm, Chicago-based Vistria Group, has mounted a charm offensive on Capitol Hill to talk up the proposed sale of the troubled for-profit education giant, which receives more than $2 billion a year in taxpayer money but is under investigation by three state attorneys general and the FTC.

What stands out about the proposed deal is that several key players are either close to top administration officials, including the president himself, or are former administration insiders — especially Miller, who was part of the effort to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges at the very agency now charged with approving the ownership change. For-profit college officials have likened those rules to a war on the industry, and blame the administration for contributing to their declining enrollments and share prices.

The proposed sale carries high stakes for taxpayers, students and investors: The University of Phoenix’s financial stability may depend on the $1.1 billion acquisition. If the company were to fail, more than 160,000 students could be displaced and the government would be on the hook for hundreds of millions in student loans.

But the investors’ effort to seek Education Department approval of the school’s ownership change also raises questions about potential conflicts of interest.

“There is at least a taste of unseemliness involved in this,” said Mark Schneider, a former top education official under President George W. Bush. “They regulate it. They drive the price down. …They are buying it for pennies on the dollar.”

Vistria Group said it isn’t seeking special treatment. “We expect the Department to evaluate this proposed transaction on the merits,” the company said in a statement.

Vistria is part of a consortium of investors involved in the proposed acquisition, which has already won over shareholders of the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group. But now the investors need the Education Department and the school’s accreditors to sign off on the ownership change to keep the federal money flowing — most of it in the form of student loans and Pell Grants.

With those decisions looming, Miller and at least one other former Obama insider have met with staff to Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) and Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), looking to reassure some of the loudest critics of for-profit colleges in the president’s own party, several Senate aides confirmed to POLITICO. Those lawmakers have pushed Obama’s Education Department to be even tougher on for-profit colleges.

Miller has also met with staff members working for other committee members, including Sens. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.), as well as with Sen. Lamar Alexander, the Tennessee Republican who chairs the Senate education committee. Nesbitt was not part of those Capitol Hill meetings, according to the aides….

But the specter of former insiders pushing the sale of a company in an industry that has long been in the administration’s crosshairs is not lost on critics. For seven years, the Obama administration has waged a crackdown on poor quality and predatory practices at many for-profit colleges, with the president himself excoriating some schools for “making out like a bandit” with federal money, but saddling students with big debts and leaving them unprepared for good jobs. He did not name the schools.

“It’s ironic that a former senior official at the Department of Education — an agency that has intentionally targeted and sought to dismantle the for-profit college industry — would now take the reins at the country’s largest for-profit college,” said Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who leads the House Committee on Education and the Workforce’s higher education subcommittee….

The sale price, which shareholders approved last month after initially balking at a lower price, is considered a bargain by some industry observers. The day Obama was sworn into office on Jan. 20, 2009, the company’s stock closed at $86.54 per share. Today, it’s trading at around $9, although a recovering economy, unfavorable media coverage and the for-profit industry’s general slump have also contributed to that drop.

Some Senate Democrats said they are also uneasy with the investors’ plan to take the university private, which means it would no longer have to publicly disclose information such as executive compensation, lawsuits or when it’s a target of investigations. Those details are useful to prospective students, they say, at a time when the school faces inquiries from both state and federal authorities.

“Essentially, a company that receives more than $2 billion annually from federal taxpayers — nearly 80 percent of its revenue — is going dark, and it’s happening at a time when the University of Phoenix has come under increased scrutiny from state and federal regulators,” Durbin wrote in a March letter to the Education Department.

Republicans think that the Obama officials drove the price down by their regulatory actions, then moved in to buy it at a bargain price.

This transaction is unsavory. It should be stopped. The conflicts of interests and self-dealing are abhorrent.

Joanne Yatvin describes the spread of the concept of free community college for all. This, of course, was one of Senator Bernie Sanders’ campaign promises, premised on the belief that students should not be denied the opportunity to continue their education because of their inability to pay. The irony is that the the community college idea began after World War II as free colleges for all. Over time, states started shifting the costs to students. While community colleges continue to be lower cost than private colleges and four-year colleges, they are not tuition-free in most states. They should be.

Yatvin is a former teacher, principal, superintendent, and literacy specialist who lives in Oregon.

She writes:

A state run program called the “Tennessee Promise” has just completed its first year of operation with 16,291 students enrolled in tuition-free community colleges or technical schools. Much of the money for the program has been available in federal scholarships for several years, but most students and their families did not know about it, and the government applications were very difficult to fill out. Now, in the Tennessee system all students are informed about the program early in their high school careers and given instructions and assistance in filling out the application form. Students who receive a federal scholarship then get additional funding from local sources and the state itself. Although the price of community college in Tennessee is $4000, students and their families pay nothing.

The initial response to this new program has been amazing. In the coming school year all of the 2,291 students at Nashville’s largest high school will apply for the program. According to a student counselor at that school, the Promise is “just part of the culture now.”

Having passed a law creating a similar program, called the “Oregon Promise,” a second state will begin its program this fall. Already 8,500 Oregon students have applied to state community colleges. In many ways this program echoes that of Tennessee, but there are a few differences.

Both programs keep state costs down by being the last contributor. Only after federal Pell Grants and other financial aid sources have been used does the state step in with its funds. However, Tennessee has backed its program with $360 million from lottery revenues while the Oregon legislature has approved only $10 million for this year with no guarantee of future funding.

To qualify for the grant Tennessee requires students to maintain at least a 2.0 grade-point average in high school and maintain that average in college. In addition, they must attend college full time and devote eight hours to community service before the beginning of each school term. Students are also matched with a volunteer mentor to help them stay on track with college studies. In Oregon the grade-point average for students to enroll and remain in the “Promise” program is higher: 2.5. However, students may choose to attend school only half-time. In addition Oregon’s students get $1000 from the state whether or not they receive a federal grant. Finally, undocumented Oregon students also qualify for the Promise grants.

What excites me about these programs is that ten other states are already interested and are closely following the progress in Tennessee and Oregon. In addition, President Obama has proposed a national program based on the structure developed in Tennessee. But even beyond those possibilities I expect to see a positive change in the actions and attitudes of high school students wherever there is a “Promise” for them. Knowing that financial support is available if they work hard and get decent grades in high school will motivate many students who had no hope of college or technical schools before. I also expect to see a big uptick in attendance, behavior and effort in high school students in the two states already committed to the “Promise” and more of the same in any other states that decide to join them.

Meanwhile, instead of strategizing about how to provide free community college to all, the U.S. Education Department and Congress continue to send billions to phony for-profit colleges that rip off veterans and the unwary. Despite expose after expose, despite the financial collapse of Corinthian Colleges, Congress is content to send these institutions money to provide worthless degrees.