As for-profit college sector grows, employment drops

Higher-education employment saw its lowest increase since 2003.

The for-profit college industry, featuring some of the most expansive online learning programs in the United States, was the only higher-education sector that saw a drop in employment last year despite massive growth over the past decade, according to newly-released federal statistics.

The U.S. Education Department’s National Center for Education Statistics on Sept. 25 released its latest higher-education employment numbers, showing that colleges and universities have slowed hiring to rates not seen since 2003.

For-profit colleges, mostly catering to nontraditional learners who earn degrees and credentials online, were the only schools to end 2011 with fewer employees than they started with. The number of for-profit college employees dropped to 288,890 in fall 2011 from 295,495 in 2010, according to the federal report.…Read More

House cracks down on for-profit recruiters targeting GI Bill benefits

Veterans advocacy groups lobbied lawmakers on Capitol Hill this spring.

The U.S. House of Representatives responded to military veterans’ scathing criticism of for-profit colleges last week and passed legislation that will prevent schools that accept GI Bill benefits from paying commission to recruiters.

House members passed the bill Sept. 11, four months after veterans advocates took to Capitol Hill to testify about for-profit colleges targeting service members with generous government educational benefits, many times to the detriment of the prospective students, who are recruited into schools or programs not suited to their educational needs.

The legislation drew support from Republicans and Democrats, who passed the bill and curbed for-profit schools’ incentive to push for former service members – a well-documented and controversial practice that has been at the center of several government reports since 2009.…Read More

Senators go after ‘worthless’ college degrees

Half of students who defaulted on their loans say they shouldn’t have to pay them back.

Three Democratic senators, including the chamber’s foremost critic of for-profit colleges, are sponsoring a bill that would bar federal student aid from being used in college programs that lack state licensing, even if the school has institutional accreditation.

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) this month joined Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) in introducing the Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act, a law that would effectively eliminate a loophole that has allowed many colleges with programs that don’t have local licensing to reap the benefits of billions in federally-backed student loans.

Many for-profit colleges, with some of the nation’s most expansive online course offerings, attain regional and national accreditation but offer unlicensed courses and programs. Even if a student graduates with degrees from these unlicensed programs, local employers are hesitant to hire them.…Read More

Students say for-profit college targeted African Americans, women in online and TV ads

Virginia College students said they weren’t employable after graduation.

For only the second time in the U.S., a college has been formally accused of targeting minorities and women in TV and online advertisements. And a group of students claims the for-profit institution fell well short of accreditation requirements, costing graduates jobs over the past two years.

The Mississippi Center for Justice, a nonprofit, public-interest law firm, filed a formal legal complaint July 18 against the Virginia College, which has national accreditation, but allegedly lacks regional accreditation. Many medical assisting students were only made aware of this after earning their degree and being turned down for jobs because they lacked basic experience.

Virginia College, the recipient of $292 million in federal student loans last year, has also been accused of targeting African Americans and women in local advertising campaigns, which included online efforts like pop-up ads. The school’s recruiters guided these prospective students toward hefty educational loans, some as high as $26,000 for a 15-month course in medical assistance at the college’s Jackson, Miss., campus.…Read More

College cost website raises questions about Romney’s higher-ed stance

Full Sail's CEO has donated nearly $50,000 in support of Romney's presidential campaign.

The for-profit Florida university that Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney supports as a model for holding down college costs is one of the country’s priciest schools, according to a new Education Department (ED) website that helps prospective students compare tuition costs.

The College Affordability & Transparency Center, launched June 12, compares college and university net prices, or the tuition and fee costs minus grant and scholarship money given to its students. The federal website also lets students see where net college prices are rising at the fastest rate.

Full Sail University, a school based in Winter Park, Fla., has the third highest net price of all U.S. for-profit colleges, and it costs more for students than any public or nonprofit college, according to the Transparency Center’s online calculator.…Read More

Online for-profit colleges compared to ‘predatory lending industry’ in whistleblower lawsuit

South University recruiters were told to target low-income families.

Allegations brought by a former admissions manager at an online for-profit college describe a systematic attempt to deceive incoming students into signing up for pricey college loans while the school overstated students’ success in finding jobs after graduation.

The whistleblower lawsuit is the latest legal blow to Education Management Corp. (EDMC), a Pittsburgh-based for-profit college company that drew scrutiny from the Department of Justice last year after a former employee charged that EDMC violated federal law by awarding bonuses to school recruiters based solely on the number of students they enrolled.

The latest whistleblower suit, made public March 15, accuses EDMC of defrauding U.S. taxpayers by enrolling “as many students as possible for as long as possible to maximize financial aid” while targeting “a troubled population, including … the poor, the undereducated, the homeless, those who were the first in their families to attempt higher education, those with criminal records … and those living in shelters and halfway houses.”…Read More

For-profit colleges defend controversial recruitment practices

There allegedly were widespread recruitment violations at schools run by EDMC.

Education Management Corp. (EDMC), one of the nation’s largest operators of mostly online for-profit colleges, filed a legal defense Feb. 6 of its scrutinized compensation program for recruiters who were paid according to how many students they roped into classes and school loans.

Pittsburgh-based EDMC, which manages more than 100 private for-profit colleges attended by 158,000 students across the U.S., said in a court briefing that compensating student recruitment officers wasn’t illegal because the federal government had yet to institute regulations against the practice.

The U.S. Department of Education (ED), along with whistleblowers, Washington, D.C., and five states, has charged that EDMC violated clearly-states federal laws that prohibit colleges and universities from linking recruiters’ pay to the number of students they enroll.…Read More

Romney’s support for Full Sail University raises eyebrows in higher ed

A Full Sail official gave money to a ‘super PAC’ that supports Romney.

Adrian Davila Saenz, a recent graduate of Full Sail University in Orlando, did a double take when he read this week that Republican presidential candidate and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has touted Full Sail as a paradigm for American higher education.

Saenz, who took seven online classes on his way to a film degree from Full Sail in October, wasn’t alone in scratching his head after Romney mentioned the 15,000-student for-profit university by name several times on the campaign trail during the fall and winter, saying Full Sail was able to “hold down the cost of education” and serve as an example of how competition can improve higher education.

Romney’s praise for Full Sail—sometimes without being prompted by Republican primary voters or reporters on the campaign trail—comes as for-profit schools face scrutiny from the Obama administration, which pushed through “gainful employment” rules in 2011 to enforce basic graduation and student debt standards as a condition for for-profit colleges to receive federally-backed student loans.…Read More

Kaplan University: Preying on ‘pain’ and ‘fears’ of low-income students is not ‘remotely deceptive’

“Boiler room” sales tactics at some for-profit colleges have attracted unprecedented government and law enforcement scrutiny over the past two years, the Huffington Post reports. But at Kaplan University, owned by the Washington Post Co., marketing techniques such as preying on the “pain” and “fears” of low-income students should come as no surprise, according to the company’s lawyers. There was “nothing remotely deceptive” about the flyers guiding Kaplan recruiters, according to the Washington Post Co.’s defense against a recently dismissed shareholder lawsuit that claimed the company had fraudulent business practices…

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Federal report slams online for-profit colleges

Harkin requested the GAO report released Nov. 22.

Undercover investigators from the federal Government Accountability Office (GAO) earned course credit while skipping classes and submitting substandard work in online for-profit college programs – findings the for-profit industry has labeled politicized and unreliable.

“For-Profit Schools: Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges,” a GAO report released Nov. 22, is the second government examination of for-profit colleges’ practices, which have been called into question by many in higher education and lawmakers in Congress.

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), head of the Senate’s education committee, ordered the yearlong investigation in which GAO agents pretended to be online students at 15 for-profit colleges.…Read More