Top higher-education technology news: September 2012

Here are some of the top higher-education technology stories in the September 2012 edition of eCampus News.

Several leading universities have joined the open course movement in what is quickly becoming a campus revolution; for-profit colleges, which include some of the country’s largest online schools, face even more scrutiny; and a popular online video forecasts the end of higher education as we know it: These are among the top stories in the September edition of eCampus News.

Our September edition is now available in digital format on our website. You can browse the full publication here, or click on any of the headlines below to read these highlights:

Top schools join the free online course movement…Read More

Report blasts shortcomings of for-profit colleges

In 2010, the 30 for-profit colleges examined employed 35,202 recruiters compared with 3,512 career services staffers.

For-profit colleges are failing their students and saddling taxpayers with an enormous bill, a two-year investigation by the Senate education committee’s Democratic staff concluded.

The harsh report, released July 30 by the committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, found that federal taxpayers spent $32 billion on for-profit colleges in 2009-10, while more than half of the students who enrolled in them dropped out without a degree after about four months in 2008-09.

“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation,” Harkin said. “These practices are not the exception—they are the norm.”…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

For-profit lobbying group questions federal stats after unflattering report

For-profit officials pushed back against Duncan's latest comments on federal regulations.

The president of the country’s for-profit college association said school officials have “severe concerns” about an Education Department (ED) report that showed 5 percent of for-profits are in danger of losing access to federal student aid.

For-profit colleges, which have some of the country’s most expansive online learning programs, that have not met any of the federal government’s three “gainful employment” requirements would be cut off from federal aid, which accounts for as much as 90 percent of for-profit schools’ annual profit.

Losing aid would force many colleges or universities to shut down, higher-education officials said.…Read More

Veterans’ groups level harsh criticism against for-profit colleges

Eight of the top 10 recipients of GI Bill educational benefits are for-profit colleges.

Veterans’ advocacy groups demanded at a recent Congressional hearing that for-profit colleges stop flooding military veterans’ eMail inboxes, Facebook newsfeeds, and Twitter accounts with advertisements, saying the ad campaigns “mock the sacrifices of our men and women in uniform.”

A Washington, D.C.-based organization called Veterans for Common Sense released an extensive statement submitted to the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs May 16 as members of Congress considered an executive order from President Obama meant to provide more college information to military veterans.

Paralyzed Veterans of America (PVA) also lent its support to Obama’s executive action, which would trademark the term “GI Bill” so it’s not used in deceiving online and TV ads.…Read More

Republicans pounce after Obama targets diploma mills catering to military

A Florida Republican has called for a hearing on the president's April 27 executive order.

Congressional Republicans and officials from the for-profit college industry have excoriated President Obama’s executive order meant to provide more college information to military veterans with ample federal education benefits, with one influential House Republican calling for a hearing on the order.

Obama on April 27 signed the order at the Fort Stewart Army post in Georgia, after years of complaints about for-profit colleges catering to military service members who have GI Bill benefits. For-profit schools receive about 90 percent of their funding from federally-backed student loans.

The executive order, lauded by many in higher education who have raised questions about the quality of for-profit college courses and the sector’s skyrocketing dropout rate, could allow military veterans to more easily calculate loan repayments on money needed outside of GI Bill benefits, along with a school’s policy on course credit transfers.…Read More

Report: Technology not the answer to bolstering community college access

Almost half of community colleges increased online course offerings in 2011.

More than 400,000 Americans were turned away from community colleges last year not because schools couldn’t keep up with the demand for online courses, but because deep state and federal budget cuts have left two-year campuses without educators to head those online classes.

Community colleges are, by most national measurements, at the forefront of web-based education, with campus administrators looking for any way to keep up with the growing demand for classes that began after the economic downturn of 2008.

But no amount of technological experimentation will compensate for good old-fashioned government investment in community colleges, according to a report from the Center for the Future of Higher Education Policy, which presents a series of arguments against the short-term goal – pushed by President Obama and House and Senate leaders – to arm workers with certificates to fill private sector job openings in the lackluster economy.…Read More

Recruitment ads by for-profit colleges targeted

Almost 2 million students withdrew from large for-profit colleges over a three year period.

Where do for-profit colleges get the money they spend on all those highway billboards and television and radio ads?

Mostly from the government, at least indirectly. Federal money, most of it through the financial aid that students get, accounts for up to 90 percent of for-profit colleges’ revenue — even more in some cases if veterans attend the school on the GI bill.

And while figures vary, some institutions spend a quarter or more of their revenue on recruiting, far more than traditional colleges. In some cases, recruiting expenses approach what these institutions spend on instruction.…Read More

Vets group suspends campus chapters at for-profits

For-profit colleges enroll about 9 percent of student veterans.

A leading student veterans group is suspending chapters at 40 for-profit colleges, saying it’s concerned they’ve been set up by the colleges as shell organizations to help them appeal to veteran students who carry lucrative government tuition benefits.

The schools may be creating what are essentially fake SVA chapters to help them qualify for lists of “military friendly” or “veterans friendly” colleges that are proliferating in guidebooks and online, Student Veterans of America executive director Michael Dakduk said April 5.

On some lists, the existence of an SVA chapter at a school figures into the formula.…Read More