Students, lawmakers question value of for-profit colleges

A Senate report revealed abysmal graduation rates at some for-profit schools.

Taryn Zychal thought she’d be working as an industrial designer after graduating from the Art Institute of Philadelphia. Instead, it’s the debt collection agencies that are working overtime, calling her nearly 30 times a day from 8:30 in the morning to 9:30 at night.

The 27-year-old says she has around $150,000 due in loan payments from attending the private, for-profit university, but Zychal said she couldn’t get a job in her chosen field, and not one of her credits would transfer when she tried to switch to another school.

With what she says is a useless degree, she can’t pay her loans, which cost $1,500 a month.

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“I don’t think I learned anything at the Art Institute other than how to get scammed by somebody. I don’t think I learned anything to go into an entry-level job in my field,” Zychal said.

The Art Institute’s parent company, Education Management Corp., declined to comment.

There are about 2,000 colleges operating in the U.S. as profit-seeking businesses eligible for federal student aid.Many of these schools have seen enrollment numbers skyrocket with the rise of online courses in higher education.

For-profits offer various degrees, both online and on campus, from certificates and two-year associates degrees to MBAs. Some for-profits — such as Kaplan, owned by The Washington Post Co.; Bridgepoint Education; and the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix — are publicly traded corporations.

Because Zychal’s story is similar to thousands of other students who’ve attended certain for-profit colleges, the Obama administration in early June approved new regulations requiring for-profit schools to make sure their students are able to pay back federal loans, and a Senate committee is poised to begin drafting legislation.


20 most Googled colleges: Analytics skills or pure luck?

Duke University's Google search ranking is well below that of several small campuses.

Why is a two-year college in Georgia among the country’s most Googled campuses? It could be happy coincidence, web search experts say.

A compilation of the 20 most searched-for colleges and universities on Google was published June 15 by CampusSplash, a website offering news and advice to college students.

The top-20 list made waves in social media, but one question was asked again and again: How did a handful of tiny schools rank among higher education’s largest, most visible institutions–like the University of Florida, which ranked No. 1, or the seventh-ranked University of Arizona?

The answer could be generic names.

South University – a for-profit school in Savannah, Ga. – is the second-most Googled college in America, according to the CampusSplash rankings.

And Central College, a 130-acre private liberal arts campus of 1,650 students in Pella, Iowa, ranked No. 16 on CampusSplash’s top-20 list, just five spots behind Harvard University and one spot ahead of Duke University.

“It’s definitely exciting in the sense that we’re getting traffic from Google,” said Jacob Oyen, Central College’s online communications director, who added that appearing high in generic web searches translates into a steadily high bounce rate from the school’s home page. “Just because they Google us, it doesn’t translate into more people coming to our school.”

Generic school names can help a campus rank high in thousands of variations of Google searches, meaning prospective students and parents search for “universities in the south,” for example, see a link high in the results, and often click on it, said Allen Gannett, co-founder of CampusSplash, a Washington, D.C.-based site launched last winter.


U.S. News to collect online education data

As early as mid-July, U.S.News & World Report will begin a first-ever effort to collect in depth data from all online bachelor’s and five master’s degree level education programs in the United States. To that end, U.S. News Editor Brian Kelly reached out to college presidents to inform them about the new and exciting online education project and to urge them to help facilitate a response from their campuses…

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Will a college savings account inspire college attendance?

A pilot program will give students at KIPP urban charter schools college savings accounts–along with education about college readiness–in hope that college savings will inspire them to go to college, reports the Washington Post. The Partnership for College Completion is a collaboration of KIPP, a vaunted urban charter education provider; the United Negro College Fund; and the nonprofit Corporation for Enterprise Development. Promoters said in a news release that their initiative is the first of its sort to combine an incentive-based savings account, college-readiness education and scholarship aid into a comprehensive program…

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What’s the most expensive college? The least? Education Dept. puts it all online

Students and families can compare colleges’ tuitions, the pace at which they are rising and the net cost of attending each college on a new Web site the Department of Education made public on Thursday, fulfilling a legislative mandate, reports the New York Times. The new lists, required by the Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, show the institutions with the highest and lowest tuitions, the highest and lowest percentage tuition increases over the last two years, and the highest and lowest net price–that is, the actual price full-time students pay, including room and board, after financial aid like grants and scholarships are taken into account…

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Blackouts linked to future drinking injuries in college students

According to HealthDay, the more memory blackouts a college student experiences when drinking, the more likely he or she is to suffer an injury while drinking at some time in the future, a new study says. U.S. and Canadian researchers analyzed data collected from almost 800 undergraduates and more than 150 postgraduate students who were monitored for two years at five North American universities…

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Are gay professors discriminated against by students?

Do gay and lesbian professors face discrimination from students? A new study–just published in The Journal of Applied Social Psychology–suggests that they do, with regard to perceptions of political bias, Inside Higher Ed reports. The study (abstract available here) notes the difficulty of judging the legitimacy of professors’ claims that students don’t treat them the same as they do straight professors…

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10 universities with largest financial endowments

Harvard University has about $10 billion more in its endowment than any other college in the country, according to data reported by schools to U.S. News & World Report. In 2010, the prestigious university reported that its endowment in fiscal year 2009 was $26,035,389,000. The next-highest endowed school in the country, Yale University, reported its 2009 amount to be $16,103,497,000…

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