Archives for category: Higher Education

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.

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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 politico.com. 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.

A shocking new study concludes that one in 10 students at Cal State University is homeless, and one in 5 lacks steady access to food.

About one in 10 of California State University’s 460,000 students is homeless, and one in five doesn’t have steady access to enough food, according to the initial findings of a study launched to better understand and address an issue that remains largely undocumented at the nation’s public universities.

“This is a gasp, when you think about it,” Cal State Chancellor Timothy P. White said Monday at a conference in Long Beach, where more than 150 administrators, researchers, students and advocacy groups gathered to exchange ideas, case studies and their personal experiences with the issue.

White, who commissioned the study, emphasized the need for Cal State, the largest public university system in the nation, to tackle the issue systematically across its 23 campuses.

“We’re going to find solutions that we can take to scale,” he said. “Getting this right is something that we just simply have to do.”

David Berliner, the esteemed researcher, sent this story to me, and commented:

I am a proud graduate of CAL State LA, and Gene Glass and I happily teach a summer school course at Cal State San Jose.

These are great “people’s colleges,” not elite, but with quite good staffing, often U of California and Stanford grads, and with some very good students, as well.

Last year they graduated their 3 millionth undergraduate, most of whom in previous decades went there almost free. This why, I think, California is such an economic dynamo, even with its high poverty rates and high ELL rates.

But how can quality education AMONG OBVIOUSLY MOTIVATED STUDENTS take place with 1 in 10 homeless and 1 in 5 with food insecurity?
Shame on us.

What is happening in this country? The best way to make America great again is to address the poverty that is eating away at our people, destroying lives, homes, and families.

Thanks to politico.com, where I found a link to this fascinating report on the predatory for-profit higher education sector. The report is a bombshell. It was written by D.C. lawyer David Halperin. It is carefully researched and sourced. It is long, but has the interest level of a detective story. You will find villains in both political parties. You will find distinguished academics who sold their reputation to bolster a predatory for-profit institution. Behind most of the political squalor is one unifying theme: the power of greed.

It opens like this. I invite you to read the entire report to find out who is protecting the for-profit colleges that rip off American students:


Timothy J. Hatch and Ronald L. Olson are two of the most prominent and successful lawyers in Los Angeles. Hatch is a partner at the national litigation powerhouse firm Gibson Dunn. Olson, a name partner at Munger, Tolles & Olson, has represented some of America’s biggest corporations. He is a former chair of the American Bar Association’s Litigation Section, and today he serves on the boards of directors of Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway, the RAND Corporation, the Mayo Clinic, and the California Institute of Technology.

Both Hatch and Olson also have been for years key parts of the protective infrastructure that has shielded predatory for­profit colleges, institutions that have deceived and abused U.S. students and taxpayers. Hatch has represented the giant publicly­traded for­profit college businesses Education Management Corporation (EDMC), Kaplan, and ITT Tech against charges of fraud, and he has sued the U.S. Department of Education to halt regulations that would hold poorly­performing colleges accountable. Olson is on the board of directors of Graham Holdings Company, which owns Kaplan, and his law firm has represented Corinthian in major fraud litigation ­­ which is fitting, as the Graham company owned a significant stake in Corinthian until its 2015 collapse. In the fraud case where Olson’s firm represented Corinthian, the other party that whistleblowers were suing was Corinthian’s auditor, giant accounting firm Ernst & Young. Their lawyer in the case was Timothy Hatch.

Although the notorious Corinthian Colleges is gone (sort of), many bad actors remain in business. Seven of America’s ten biggest for­profit college companies, which collectively received about $8 billion dollars in taxpayer money last year, have in recent months and years been under investigation or sued by federal and state law enforcement agencies for deceptive business practices. Despite the mounting evidence that these seven companies ­­ Apollo/ University of Phoenix, EDMC, ITT Tech, Kaplan, Career Education Corporation, DeVry, and Bridgepoint Education ­­ have engaged in predatory behavior against their own students, they continue to market themselves as affordable places to build successful careers, and they continue to enroll new students and deposit their federal grants and loan checks. These companies also have continued to fight reform measures by government to hold bad schools accountable for abuses.

A key reason why such predatory for­-profit colleges have been able to continue receiving billions annually in taxpayer dollars while ruining the financial futures of students across the country is that national power players ­­ politicians, lawyers, academic leaders, celebrities ­­ have been willing to vouch for these companies, serving as their paid lobbyists, board members, investors, and endorsers. It’s not just Donald Trump who has made big money off a deceptive college operation.

Read on to learn who these power players are. You may be shocked. I was. After reading this, I felt that the whole political system is rigged to protect the predators. I went to wash my hands. Why is the “money all gone,” as reformers like to say when they explain why budget cuts are necessary? Because it is lining the pockets of the rich and connected.

Imagine if that $8 billion dollars were used to make community college free for all those who wanted higher education at a reputable university?

Hear are a few tidbits from this report:

● Department of Education data has shown that the University of Phoenix’s g raduation rate for first­time, full­time students is about 16 percent, and that graduation rate for the school’s online programs is about 4 percent.

● A 2012 comprehensive investigative report on for­profit colleges by then­ Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) found that the University of Phoenix spent $892 on instruction in 2009, compared to $2,225 per student on marketing, and $2,535 per student on profit. “This,” the report found “is one of the lowest amounts spent on instruction per student of any company analyzed.”

● Around 25 percent of University of Phoenix students default on their loans within three years of leaving school.

Read and gasp.

Kamala Harris, the state attorney general and candidate for the U.S. Senate, has called for the U.S. Department of Education to strip recognition from the accrediting agency that approved Corinthian Colleges, the now defunct for-profit university that defrauded many thousands of students.

Harris has written the U.S. Department of Education, urging it to revoke federal recognition of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), which among its other accomplishments accedited the now-defunct Corinthian Colleges, Inc., which left tens of thousands of students with useless degrees and millions of dollars in debts.

“The predatory scheme devised by executives at Corinthian Colleges, Inc. was unconscionable. And despite enforcement actions by the California Department of Justice and the federal government against Corinthian, ACICS continued to accredit Corinthian, hurting thousands of students in the process,” Harris said. “Students relied on Corinthian’s accreditation status, believing they were obtaining a high quality-education with real job prospects.”

ACICS boasts of accrediting more colleges than any other agency but a quick perusal of its roster finds that most of them are small vocational training institutions, offering certificates and associate degrees in such fields as dental assistance and office management.

Harris joins 13 other state AGs who are opposing the renewal of ACICS as an accreditation agency. Harris and 10 other AGs are also calling for tougher standards for college recruiters on military bases.

Mercedes Schneider noticed something curious in the reports of the Gates Foundation:

 

Despite the CEO’s pledge to “double down” in shoving CCSS on unwilling schools and teachers, the Gates Foundation has not handed out a single CCSS grant in 2016.

 

Oh, also, Sue Desmond-Hellman cites ACT data.  As Peter Greene pointed out in another post, the student who is gifted in music and the humanities is not “college ready” unless she also gets high scores in science. And the brilliant young scientis is not “college ready” unless his test scores in the humanities are equally stellar.

 

Standardization has downsides.

 

 

 

 

The Boston Globe published an alarming story about the college student debt crisis. It goes like this: colleges recruit/lure low-students with promises of a better life; the students are poorly prepared; they don’t graduate; they start life with a heavy debt, not a better life.

 

 

An example:

 

Dean College sits on a pretty, leafy campus in Franklin. A former two-year college, it began offering a selection of bachelor’s degrees only about a decade ago. It now accepts about 70 percent of the students who apply, the same rate as Fitchburg State University. Last year, Dean sent a financial aid award letter to an accepted student whose family, the federal government had determined, was so poor that the “expected family contribution” (EFC) to that student’s education was zero. The college awarded the student a Dean Presidential Grant of $17,000 and another nearly $13,000 in institutional, federal, and state grants, meaning that almost $30,000 of the bill was covered and never had to be paid back. Sounds great, right? Yes, until you look at the larger numbers on the award letter. The total cost of attendance — tuition, room, board, and fees — was $53,120. That meant the gap that this “zero-EFC” student had to cover through loans and other means in order to attend was more than $23,000. Per year. Over four years — and with only modest rises for inflation factored in — that total gap could be expected to climb to around $100,000, not counting future interest payments. That’s a ton of debt, particularly for a degree from a college whose median annual salary for alumni 10 years after enrolling is just $32,700.

 

To Dean’s credit, about half of its students who pursue a bachelor’s degree manage to graduate. Contrast that with Becker College in Worcester. On its website, Becker talks about being able to trace its roots back to two signers of the Declaration of Independence. It does not, however, mention what US Department of Education data from 2012-2013 show: namely, that just 16 percent of Becker’s students managed to graduate in four years, a number that inches up only to 24 percent when the time frame is extended to six years, the federal standard for completing a bachelor’s degree. In other words, 3 out every 4 students who enrolled as freshmen at Becker failed to graduate. Nor does the website mention that, after all grants and discounts are applied, a typical zero-EFC low-income student is required to come up with more than $25,000 every single year to cover the costs of attending Becker.

 

This seems to be the operating calculus at many small, private, nonselective or less selective colleges across the region, which routinely accept more than 60 percent of applicants. Consider the average annual “net” prices — after discounts and grants have been deducted — that these colleges are charging students coming from families whose total adjusted gross annual income is $30,000 or less. At a surprising number of colleges, this annual net price represents nearly all of that family’s total income for the year.

 

It is hard to remember that college was once affordable, that community colleges were once free, that all public colleges were heavily subsidized by the state and federal governments. As these examples show, many young people and their families simply can’t afford the high cost of college, even though a diploma will increase their lifetime of earnings.

Last week, the New York Times published an editorial criticizing the nation’s public schools for the rate of remediation courses taken by college students. It relied on a report prepared by Education Reform Now, which is part of Democrats for Education Reform, the advocacy group created by hedge fund managers to push charters, high-stakes testing, and Common Core.

 

 

Aside from the partisan advocacy of the funders and sponsors, there are basic questions of fact and interpretation, i.e., spin.

 

 

I didn’t go into the underlying study, but others did.

 

 

Alan Singer posted a blistering critique and suggested that the editorial writer would not have gotten through middle school with such faulty logic and weak evidence. While the editorial promotes Common Core, it fails the most basic expectations for textual analysis.

 

 

He reviewed the numerous flaws in the report and concluded:

 

 

“I don’t know if the New York Times considered any of these issues before it endorsed the propaganda report by charter school and testing advocates promoting their political agenda. Apparently the Times editorial team has difficulty when it has to “[d]istinguish among fact, opinion, and reasoned judgment in a text, “ another area where they failed middle school Common Core. Instead of praising colleges for raising standards and providing support so students can reach these standards, the Times and the testing and charter school people take pot shots at public schools. ”

 

 

Russ Walsh wrote about what he called “the college remediation course hoax.”

 

 

Walsh explains why remedial courses ballooned and how the colleges responded inappropriately.

 

 

He writes:

 

 

“With the growing number of students attending college since the 1960s, colleges found that not all students had the skills in reading, writing and mathematics that professors were expecting when they entered the classroom. The colleges responded by creating non-college credit remedial courses that students were forced to take, almost always because of some score they received on a college “placement” test. And so a cottage industry of remedial, non-credit courses was created on campuses across the country, often taught by adjunct faculty of dubious qualifications and most often completely separated from the for-credit courses that other students were taking.

 

 

“The results were inevitable. Students began collecting huge tuition debt paying for courses for which they did not receive credit. Often these students had to take these remedial courses over and over again because they could not pass the exit exam, which was frequently another standardized test. The students never got the chance to feel like they were regular college students. Within a year or two these students, frustrated with their lack of progress, dropped out of school burdened with student loan debt and without a degree or good job prospects.

 

 

“Colleges, certainly the four-year colleges, I am addressing here, should not have and did not have to go the remedial course route. The schools could have and should have known that reading and writing courses that are removed from the context of a real course have very limited impact. (I will not address math remedial courses here because it is outside my expertise, but I believe the same principles would hold.) Rather than place students in courses designed for writing improvement or reading improvement, the colleges would have been much better off placing these students in the regular classroom and then providing them with the support they needed to succeed in these courses.”

 

 

Others have weighed in.

 

 

Jersey Jazzman reviewed the data and raised important questions. Why did the report use public schools as a punching bag (what % of the students in need of remediation attended private schools, religious schools, or charter schools)? How credible was it to claim that affluent students had higher rates of remediation at four-year colleges than economically disadvantaged students? Does that mean that the high schools attended by kids in poverty are better than those in posh suburbs? Jersey Jazzman questions the Times’ faith in the idea that high standards and hard tests are the key to college readiness. He threw down the gauntlet on Common Core, challenging anyone to produce evidence that adherence to Commin Core increases college readiness.

 

 

Audrey Hill challenged the study authors’ decisions about which families should be considered affluent, middle-class, and low-income. She compares their data with federal guidelines defining poverty and concludes–unlike the ERN study–that only 6 of 100  students receiving remediation come from middle-class or upper-income families.

 

It seems odd that sensible people have to argue that low-income students are less likely to get a good education than students from middle-class and upper-income communities. If that were true, as the ERN report and the New York Times believe, then upper-income students should be clamoring to get into the schools attended by low-income students. Are the wealthy kids on the losing side of the achievement gap? What a ludicrous claim.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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