U.S. Department Of Education Cracking Down On For-Profit Colleges

The combination of record unemployment and federal stimulus money destined for education has led to an education boom of sorts. Especially for for-profit colleges. Now the U.S. Education department is taking another look at for-profit schools…particularly the tactics used by their admissions staff, and the compensation structures for employees.

For-profit schools get a large portion of their revenue from the federal government through student loans and Pell grants. According to the Associated Press, the five institutions receiving the most money in Pell grants are all for-profit colleges. Put together, these schools receive $1 billion in grants It’s a good idea for the Education department to make sure that colleges aren’t actively recruiting unqualified students, and that those students’ educations actually lead to some kind of meaningful employment.

For-profit colleges say the country has little choice but to accept their help to achieve President Obama’s goal of getting every American to enroll in some form of education beyond high school. The for-profit schools have space while community colleges are bursting at the seams. Besides, their convenience and career-focused curriculum are clearly winning customers, who are free to use their aid where they choose.

But critics say the increased federal aid has unleashed a new gold rush. They complain the industry has too many incentives simply to enroll students and tap the spigot from Washington – and not enough to make sure students succeed.

The industry is “an aggressive sales operation that has a voracious appetite for recruiting the poorest students,” said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of AACRAO, a group representing admissions officers and registrars at traditional colleges. “The victims here are the students themselves and the taxpayers, who have to pick up the tab.”

Let’s take a look at recruitment strategies–not for students, but for admissions counselors. Kaplan University, owned by the Washington Post Company, is looking to hire an entry-level admissions advisor. Among the expected requirements for an office job–basic computer skills, an associate’s degree at minimum–are a few mandatory and preferred requirements that are a little bit unusual for academia.

  • Demonstrated ability to use persuasive skills.
  • 2 years sales experience
  • May consider customer service or hospitality industry experience that demonstrates an ability to effectively use persuasive skills
  • High commission or inside sales experience preferred, preferably sales of intangible products or services.

Instead of paying regular commissions, colleges are allowed to adjust the pay of admissions staff twice per year, which is also mentioned in the ad.

Officials of For-Profit Colleges See Department’s Proposed Rule Changes as ‘Aggressive’
[Chronicle of Higher Education]
AP Impact: For-profit colleges haul in gov’t aid [AP]
Admissions Advisor: Kaplan Higher Education [Inside Higher Ed] (Thanks, Mike!)


Edit Your Comment

  1. nofelix says:

    So admissions advisor is basically a salesperson to persuade people to take places at the school. In normal schools the admissions staff have to turn away pupils. Says it all really.

  2. RecordStoreToughGuy_RidesTheWarpOfSpaceIntoTheWombOfNight says:

    Will I be stirring a flamewar if I assert that not everyone is cut out for college and that universities really should do a better job of separating the wheat from the chaff? The vast majority of people in my lower level core classes really should have found something more their speed, like burger flipper, or professional competitive texter. Regardless, they should CERTAINLY stay off my lawn.

    • Rectilinear Propagation says:

      I thought lower level core classes were how they weeded people out. Did any of the people you were talking about pass those classes?

      • GearheadGeek says:

        That sometimes depends on the major, or the school. I attended a major public university that has a reputation as an engineering school… LOTS of the first 2 years of classes were “weed-out classes.” I don’t think that’s as much the case in more liberal-arts-oriented schools.

      • theblackdog says:

        My computer science program definitely had “wash out” classes at the lower level. Of the original class of 35 I started with in the first class, about 20 of us went on to the next one (others decided to change degrees or leave school) and by the time I graduated, there were about 10 of us who went all the way through it.

      • kexline says:

        Yeah, as stated above, it depends on the school. Thanks to youthful malfeasance and undermedicated parents, I attend (for the next four days) a large low-bar catchall public university. I suspect it is more than a little like a for-profit school.

        The kids are smarter in junior- and senior-level classes, so there must be some degree of weeding out, but it’s hard to detect. I can’t really give the core classes credit for getting rid of anyone. It seems like professors only give D’s or F’s in lower-division classes when they absolutely can’t avoid it, can’t justify a steep enough curve, and hear no last-minute remorse from the students in question. I’ve seen plenty of phenomenally dull and lazy kids get one B after another, thanks to extra credit, retests, dropped grades, and all the other fruits of whining.

      • Skankingmike says:

        In the lower level classes I recieved much lower grades than in my higher level classes, or classes that are in my major. I found that they were boring and repitive.

        So while it may weed people out it may often times weed the wrong people out.

      • BytheSea says:

        Professors do pass the dolts through these classes b/c there’s enormous pressure not to lose students (read:customers). Also, a failing grade means a poor review which means losing a chance at tenure or not getting your contract renewed.

    • diasdiem says:

      The world needs ditch diggers, too.

      • lihtox says:

        But who aspires to be a ditch digger? There are grunt jobs in all fields (c.f. grad students), but ideally there should be a track for people to live a middle-class lifestyle without studying Calculus or Shakespeare. My favorite example is Archie Bunker: obviously not a college grad and yet he was able to support his entire family comfortably. Is it really our goal to send today’s Archie Bunkers to college?

    • myrna_minkoff says:

      No, I agree. There is no shame in being a plumber, and frankly, you can make a lot more than the average liberal arts grad without incurring all the costs of higher ed. (Note: I was a liberal arts grad.)

      We’ve made a B.A. the minimum prereq. for a lot of jobs for which it isn’t really neccessary. A lot of people would be better off taking some classes on technical skills, basic finance, how to run a small business, etc.

      • webweazel says:

        People who go to traditional college should be the ones who want to work with their brains. People who go to vocational schools should be the ones who want to work with their hearts. Take it from someone with a really high IQ, excellent HS grades and who got a assoc. degree in auto body. And now does furniture restoration. Some people just can’t push paper all day.

        I’ve got personal experience with two engineering divisions in the same company, one, the oh-so-special engineering dept. (40+ workers) and the other dept. deals with a specific area of the same product (12 workers). The oh-so-special engineers almost all have degrees, the other department doesn’t generally have degrees. The engineering department couldn’t design a pencil in less than 3 months, and it probably wouldn’t even work in the end. They can’t add measurements together, they use part numbers that do not exist, they design items to be put directly through windows rather than walls, and just stick things in their drawings according to where the dart sticks, I assume, with no rhyme or reason. The other group does all the engineering work, including their own work just to get things done correctly. A degree does not necessarlty make a person competent at their job. And in this case, it almost guarantees incompetence.

    • GearheadGeek says:

      You may indeed generate some flame activity for the comment, but I can’t help adding the suggestion that the same sort of people you describe as being mostly qualified as a “professional competitive texter” (I may plagiarize that later, by the way) are the sort who don’t have the critical thinking skills to avoid the worst of these for-profit schools. If they’re advertising late-night on cable channels, perhaps they have more in common with Snuggies and Sham-Wow than with Stanford and SUNY.

      In Texas, for example, we have a system of state technical colleges (TSTC) that offer good programs in vocational areas. One of my oldest friends is a successful automotive technician who went through the TSTC program and his experience suggests that TSTC and other public tech schools turn out better grads than the for-profit places, because they’re concerned more with the students learning the material than with the students continuing to pay tuition and fees…

    • DeathByCuriosity says:

      No, you’re right. I was a TA for two years while getting my MA, and I saw plenty of students who had no business being in college. They just couldn’t cut it. They couldn’t write coherent sentences and they struggled to grasp the material even while receiving individual tutoring. Sometimes they’d try but clearly were incapable of getting it, and sometimes they wouldn’t try at all, opting to sleep or text in class or skip class altogether.

      Then there were the cheaters…good grief, they made me so mad…people who lacked the intelligence to pass the class would find all kinds of stupid ways to cheat. The worst offender was a guy who copied an essay off the internet and submitted it for an assignment where you wrote an autobiographical essay. The essay was about being a young Jewish boy in Chicago in the 1950s, and let’s just say he was a far cry from meeting any of that criteria.

      • BytheSea says:

        This is why I don’t want to teach, even tho i have the creds. I could deal with serious students, but it seems you’d have to go to Johannesburg to find them.

    • bravo369 says:

      I hope not because I agree with you. Not everyone is cut out for college. The problem with sending everyone to college is that college is now dumbed down for those people who shouldn’t be there in the 1st place. On top of that, now every idiot has a college degree so you need a masters to differentiate yourself. What next? PHD?

      • Powerlurker says:

        Welcome to the natural sciences where a Ph.D has been the standard requirement for most any sort of career track employment in the field. At least you get paid to get the degree.

      • Bohemian says:

        It is a circular argument. Companies start demanding a BA degree for a receptionist to answer phones or drone CSR phone jobs. Then everyone thinks they HAVE to go to college, colleges change to a more diploma mill style. Now a masters is the new BA.

    • Naame says:

      I agree that not everyone is cut out for college, but your alternatives (while I did detect sarcasm) need work. I have a proposed solution though.

      Modernize and bring back effective vocational schools. Rather than focus so heavily on typical academic subjects, let them focus on modern skills which are big sell points. For example, you don’t need a computer science degree to learn how to create websites considering the tools they have out there now. You may not be as good as someone with a degree, but you most certainly teach people to be more valuable to today’s industry.

      Need another example? How about all of those green technology jobs out there that can’t find qualified people. Can we teach people in vocational schools to become qualified to do some of those jobs within a 12-24 month time period?

      I’m not sure if those examples are the best or not, but you should get the point. We need much more useful and accessible/affordable options for people such as vocational schools in order to provide America the skills they need to be useful in today’s modern workforce. College just isn’t cutting it for enough people.

      • ARP says:

        Agreed. The UK has a good system for this. If you don’t go to “Uni,” you usually take a 1 year or so Vocational program to give you a particular skill. And you’re right, maintaining windmills and solar panels, installing smart grids, etc. would be a great opportunity for some people. If we ever get around to doing regional rail and other public transportation projects, those projects require a variety of skills from engineer to ditch digger.

        • Naame says:

          Here’s to hoping that those at the Job Summit heavily consider vocational schools or a program which would fulfill the same need. I really want to see something like that included in the Job’s Bill which is coming. I want modernized vocational schools to be just as available to America as both high schools and community colleges are today. I really do not see how we are going to remain competitive without it.

      • thisistobehelpful says:

        We have no more apprenticeships. It always seems that unless you’re born into a family of tradesmen you can’t get into it anything like that anymore. Couple that with job training that fluctuates with what jobs are popular as opposed to what might be useful over all and there’s even less. I can go to school to be a medical billing assistant anywhere but I can’t get trained to assist civil engineers without the military or a full degree of some sort. How much sense does that make?

        Then again we kind of outsourced all of our skilled labor for cheap labor. Anything that can be delivered is made somewhere else now but if it needs on-site maintenance there should be institutions to train the people that do that and not just a thousand places to get dental assistant training.

        • BytheSea says:

          We really need more on-the-job training instead of assuming that a four year degree should prepare you for a job, or else you can’t get the job. For instance, I’m good at websites and I know a little C++. Most people my age are from hanging out online for most of our youth. But without a corporate server, I can’t learn professional skills like flash or CSS. I could learn those skills in a month or two if I had someone to teach me, at least well enough to work with one company’s website, and then over a year or so I’d learn more skills to take on more responsibility. Like you said – an apprenticeship. But we don’t have that in America. You have to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get into websites as if it’s your one true chosen thing. Because if you’re paying off those loans for 10-20 years, it better be the One True Thing. But websites isn’t my passion, it’st just something I enjoy well enough to get paid to do for a while, at least until the economy picks up.

          • saturnleia says:

            That’s not really true – you can teach yourself Flash and CSS pretty easily without spending almost any money, and if you want to host your own website on a dependable server it will only cost around $8 a month. I do this, and I taught myself XHTML and CSS after getting degrees in English and Theatre.

          • thisistobehelpful says:

            This is actually how I feel about pretty much everything. I keep getting told to focus on something in order to complete a degree but I really don’t want to focus or complete a degree. I would rather learn as much as I can about all the things that interest me and then apply those skills. I can’t pick one thing I want to pay $100,000 in five years to learn how to do. Like a lot of people, I’m not without ability in several areas of knowledge but I’m told that I MUST focus on this one thing that will rule my life forever or basically not ever matter because so few places even require specific degrees anymore thus making the entire point of focusing in the first place completely unnecessary. Exercise in futility…

    • Nemesis_Enforcer says:

      I agree as well. I did not go straight into college after High School. I joined the Air Force and spent years away from home. Now I work full time and try to fit in classes as I can. I go to a CC to build up my basic requirements cheaper than if I went to a major college. Once I have my AA and I max out all the classes I need to transfer to a Cal State Univ. I will move on. In almost every class at least 1/3-1/2 of the students either don’t care and are just there to make their parents happy or they only show up on test days. Then they complain when they either fail an assignment or turn it in late. I work full time, have a Wife and a 3 year old and I get it done. Yet these schmoes can’t do their work when that’s all they have to do in life? It makes me angry because I am there to learn and they take valuable time away from everyone with their BS. It’s not that hard people! I make mostly straight A’s and B’s and I know I don’t put forth as much effort and time as I would like to.

    • ptocheia says:

      I so strongly agree to this. First, as other people have mentioned, the fact that it dilutes higher education and makes it more mandatory to have degrees for positions that might not have required them before.

      Another thing is I suspect it will only increase dissatisfaction with the lack of “good” jobs out there. If pretty much everyone has a degree, there will be entirely too big of a pool of applicants for jobs requiring degrees and not enough applicants for those that don’t. Degrees can create this level of expectation, that because you spent a bunch of money to get a bachelors, you deserve a better job then you otherwise would get, and if you can’t get that job because everyone else has a bachelors, you might be less then happy with what you do get. That, and it creates the idea that there’s something wrong with not getting a degree, and that jobs that don’t require degrees are not as important as those that do, despite the fact that non-degree requiring jobs need doing as much as degree-requiring jobs.

      I’d love to see more focus put on trade schools, and less focus put on getting everyone to college.

  3. Rectilinear Propagation says:

    Speaking of which, whatever happened to the lady that sued her school? A bunch of us, myself included, jumped all over her before someone pointed out that the school she was suing was one of these places.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      Still, picking one of these scam schools was actually indicative of her poor decision making skills, and didn’t necessarily excuse from her bad decisions. Sure, the school was scammy – but she clearly didn’t see the forest from the trees when it came to her education. Despite the school being greedy, she did choose it and it is clear from her court filings that she was not the brightest bulb in the pack.

  4. Smiley Massacre says:

    So, I assume this includes ITT Tech as well?

  5. Trai_Dep says:

    We really need a One Strike And You’re Out rule barring for-profit schools from ANY government loan aid.
    If Zero Tolerance is good enough for our kids, it’s good enough for these sharks.
    Besides, if they’re so Free Market Ãœber Alles regarding education, shouldn’t they rely solely on private financial aid?

    • TuxthePenguin says:

      The story did a horrible job explaining this (as most do). The colleges are not receiving the aid – the students are.

      Lets say I am going to sell you a car. But your dad is going to pay for it for you. I give you the car, he gives me the money. Who received the aid? Me or you? The correct answer is you. Its the same with the colleges here.

      What got my attention – and something I think would be good for all colleges – is if we examined all universities like we keep threatening to do against for-profit schools. “It’s a good idea for the Education department to make sure that colleges aren’t actively recruiting unqualified students, and that those students’ educations actually lead to some kind of meaningful employment.” Its that last part that I think we need to focus on.

      • TechnoDestructo says:

        If Dad is paying for 9 out of 10 cars you sell, he’s not just helping his kids, he’s helping you. The correct answer is “both.”

      • Notsewfast says:

        But the federal government issues aid to students to help them graduate from universities and colleges with the hope that their future income will a.) pay back the loan and b.) increase the tax base. If the university is just accepting massive amounts of students that they know won’t be able to cut it in a college environment, then taking their loan money for as long as possible until the student drops, they are benefiting.

        knowing someone who spend a short amount of time at the University of Phoenix, I can tell you these places are all about maximizing your expenditure at their university while minimizing their face time with you.

      • treimel says:

        That’s a semantic quibble–the real question is, who actually pockets the money? The school, of course. What, exactly, would be the difference if the aid was paid directly to the school, instead of filtered through the students? Nothing. In the corporate financing world, the student would be called the “flow-through” entity.

        • treimel says:

          Forgot to add: in your example, the kid gets a car–at these places, they don’t get anything, certainly not a college education.

      • Tim says:

        Actually, I’d have to disagree with you. In Grove City College v. Bell, the Department of Education wanted to force GCC to comply with Title IX. GCC refused direct federal and state funding, so it claimed that Title IV didn’t apply, since Title IX only applies to schools that receive federal aid. But DoE said that since GCC enrolls students that receive federal aid, the college itself is receiving federal aid. The Supreme Court agreed.

        Of course, then GCC decided that it wouldn’t allow students to use federal aid to pay for tuition, and now they’re Title IX-free.

      • Trai_Dep says:

        That’s either simplistically naive or disingenuous.
        Gov’t (backed) money that’s funneled directly from the student to the “school” is, for all effective purposes, the same as though the government was directly aiding these “schools”. Except for the ripped-off students, of course.

      • littleAK says:

        I do think there is a difference between a grant and a loan. With a grant, that money is paid by the government to the school, with no requirement of repayment by the student. Government backed loans, while the school still receives money, are government backed, but not government paid (except for interest in the case of subsidized loans). While it would be advantageous for everyone except an unaccredited school if the government only backed loans for accredited/reputable colleges; they aren’t really funding for-profit schools in the case of loans. The lender is. The student must repay that money and it must be repayed to the lender, not the government.

    • frodolives35 says:

      What about the loan default rate. A goverment guarantee is as good as a grant if its paid out on a default. There are alot of people who never repay their loans and not only do they get no education they start down the path of a lifetime of bad credit etc…

  6. Borax-Johnson says:

    I live in a community of about 250,000 that has a private university that’s been here almost a century. It was recently revealed that the outgoing president had been paid $1,500,000 per year plus expenses and housing!

    Holy crap! No wonder college is so f-ing expensive. Someone should shine the light of truth on what these folks are getting paid!

    • Wachusett says:

      I always thought the same way about university “executive” salaries too, until I was introduced to the world of academic fundraising. The guys with these salaries generally have great corporate or political connections, and bring huge pledges of money to the school. (And at a lot of schools, I was amazed to see how little of the budget “tuition” covers.)

      • TechnoDestructo says:

        Their connections wouldn’t matter so much if corporate executive compensation weren’t also out of control.

      • nybiker says:

        Yeah, I keep hearing that from my alma mater, Pace University, too. Same with my high school.

    • Aesha says:

      I can’t help but wonder if you live in the San Joaquin Valley… the President of my alma mater located there retired after the last academic year. And we have a President’s residence on campus (pretty damn nice, too – I wouldn’t have minded growing up there).

  7. QuantumRiff says:

    Most of these schools have popped up relatively recently. One of the things that is going to start biting them in the ass very soon, is the Dept. of Ed looks at student loan defaults after a certain number of years (I think its 5). If too many students fault on their student loans, the school can lose their ability to qualify for Federal student aid. At a minimum, they have to jump through tons of hoops and red tape to show that they are teaching the students that they do have to get paid back.

  8. DAK says:

    Great timing, I considered asking you guys about Kaplan last night. They’re the worst. They got my wife’s name from some online info request she filled out somewhere, and they call a minimum of once a day, and have for months. Sometimes they leave a message, sometimes they don’t. They don’t take no for an answer, either.

    Look around the web, and you’ll find nothing but complaints from former “students” and employees. I didn’t realize that they were owned by the Post, though. I might have to cancel my subscription now.

    • Trai_Dep says:

      Except Kaplan and Princeton Review don’t get Federal aid, and they have a demonstrable impact on students that go through their programs.
      (Not to say that students could do the same thing on their own with the right materials, but these programs offer a structure that some students need)

      • Laura Northrup says:

        Are you talking about Kaplan and Princeton Review test prep, or Kaplan University? They’re related, but very different things.

  9. Nidoking says:

    Well, isn’t there at least some incentive for the colleges to have successful students? I think more prospective students consider college ratings than consumers in general consider reviews before choosing what business to frequent. If a college has a low job placement ratio, or a reputation for turning out less desirable graudates, they’ll lose enrollment.

    • treimel says:

      These places are not generally targeting sophisticated, qualified students who make those kinds of comparisons.

  10. Razor512 says:

    when you give private companies or profit companies control over the financial future of the people of the country, they will hold your future up for ransom and they will get as much money from you as possible before handing you the sheet of paper that says you are allowed to get a job

  11. Laffy Daffy says:

    My SIL has gotten some bad feedback from prospective employers on her Phoenix U education. One HR exec told her she would have been hired if she had a degree from a “real” school. In another interview, she said she wound up defending herself after the interviewer implied that she had a “fake” degree on the same level as those places that give you a degree based on your “life experience.”

    • bravo369 says:

      My wife did a few classes at U of phoenix and promptly switched. what a waste of time and money. I have also heard that the state of NJ is not accepting university of phoenix as an accredited college

      • funkright says:

        Wow.. that’s funny.. I went back and finished a BSc. Business Management at the University of Phoenix, I have had no issues or comments from prospective employers

        AND I was just accepted to a “tier 1” graduate program.

        So, I guess someone does see value in the education I completed??

    • littleAK says:

      I, too, completed a degree at UoP and had no employment issues. Neither did any employer tell me my degree wasn’t valid or from a substandard university. The program I completed was accredited, as was the university. One of the prerequisites for my program was Calculus. The instructors were experienced in their fields, well informed, and readily available whenever we had questions. I didn’t find it to be a diploma mill.

  12. quirkyrachel says:

    I work in higher education administration and I’ve seen the resumes for people applying to us (non-profit) for jobs who’ve worked at such places. They seem to burn out pretty quickly, with stints of about 1-3 years.

    Also, I’m glad that the DoE is looking into these schools more. They’re often deceitful about what can be done with their degrees/credits. At my old work, a community college, we often had students who had taken classes at a for-profit school and then found that the classes weren’t transferable. This is after sinking thousands of dollars in the for-profit schools’ classes, of course.

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      This happened to someone I work with. He is very, very talented … would not even be considered for my job (which he had done at another employer before) because he didn’t have a bachelor’s degree. All the stuff he did at a for-profit school will not transfer; he really doesn’t want to start a bachelor’s degree from scratch.

  13. chargernj says:

    I used to work at one of these colleges in NJ. One of the worst experience of my working life, and I used to be a driver for a porta-potty company, so that’s really saying something. They expect you to cold call prospective students, and really give them the hard sell. Always travelling to college fairs and begging people to come to the place you work for. Then these students are more or less railroaded into maxing out their Stafford loans and encouraged to get private loans to make up the difference. The school I worked for cost over $30000/year, so they are also real expensive. I hated that place.

    Please though, recognize the difference between these schools, which are called proprietary schools, and private colleges. Proprietary schools are for-profit businesses, where a private college has to be set up as non-profit (though their top administrators can still make crazy salaries). For the record I now work as a financial aid counselor at one of those prestigious private colleges.

  14. jesusofcool says:

    To be fair, a lot of these complaints also apply to so-called non-profit private universities. Sky high executive salary and big retirement pay-outs, heavy focus on admissions quotas and lavish recruitment that takes away from current students, acceptance by means of connections or ability to pay rather than merit, tax-free ownership of large amounts of land, especially in urban areas…we all know these things happen at times at some private universities.
    I know it’s a radical viewpoint so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone disagrees, but I think it’s time for all private universities to lose non-profit status or reform their administrative practices.

    • pecan 3.14159265 says:

      You’re right, some nonprofit colleges do some things as well.

      The difference is, these forprofit colleges that are obviously not what they purport themselves to be, are lying to people and are duping people into attending and paying much more than they could have been paying. These are not legitimate colleges. Most of them are not accredited through the Dept. of Education, and most of them will not transfer to graduate school programs. You cannot go to most of these colleges, earn some kind of degree, and expect to apply that degree toward a graduate program at any major or Dept. of Education accredited university. They will not accept the degree. However, these forprofit schools don’t tell people this when they try to lure them in with promises of a better future.

      It’s the blatant lying that separates them. It’s the fact that they’re not in it for the education, they want the money, and they make ludicrous promises they know are lies, and they count on people who aren’t very bright to fall for them.

  15. jesusofcool says:

    To be fair, a lot of these complaints also apply to so-called non-profit private universities. Sky high executive salary and big retirement pay-outs, heavy focus on admissions quotas and lavish recruitment that takes away from current students, acceptance by means of connections or ability to pay rather than merit, tax-free ownership of large amounts of land, especially in urban areas…we all know these things happen at times at some private universities.
    I know it’s a radical viewpoint so I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone disagrees, but I think it’s time for all private universities to lose non-profit status or reform their administrative practices.

    • jesusofcool says:

      oops double submit sorry!

    • john says:

      I completely agree. These complaints shouldn’t be relegated to only for-profit schools. They are doing the same things in non-profit schools, except maybe the hard selling.

      After working for both non-profit and profit companies, the only difference is that the non-profits HAVE to get rid of the money they have left over at the end of the fiscal year. Can anyone say “bonuses” and “parties” or “junkets”? Of course, the left over money never goes to the employees, just like in a for-profit company.

  16. masso says:

    I only have to ask… Why are people even consider enrolling For-Profit Colleges?
    There are plenty of cheap online and offline course for public and private colleges, correspondant courses for professionals, adult schools. Why even considered expensive For-Profit colleges?

    • azntg says:

      Part of the reason is explained in the article itself: “The for-profit schools have space while community colleges are bursting at the seams”

      In New York City, CUNY (the public university system based in NYC) has long held an open admission policy for New York City residents. About 10 years ago, they limited their open admission policy only to 2-year community colleges. That worked fairly well, until we come to this year: A few weeks ago, I’ve heard all but one community college has stopped accepting new students (and that one community college was close to capacity as well).

      Guess where city students with less than stellar academic credentials who really want to continue their education have to go? Not much other than “for profit” schools or to a SUNY community college if they’re willing to make the long commute to Long Island or Upstate (not realistic at all).

      • Mozoltov, motherfucker says:

        Pretty much this. I am currently taking classes at a community college, the school doesn’t have admission requirements, you just have to be 18.I am going to transfer to a non profit school I have been doing research on because it is difficult to get classes here, with the mass of students and classes being cut. And the state schools are not much better, classes are being cut also.

        So the alternatives are going to the tons of for profit schools that advertise on late night tv, or plow away in a community college for who knows number of years. It is possible to graduate from a CC in 2 years but difficult.

    • Skankingmike says:

      Because we get suckered into their cool.

      Serioulsy they are sales people. I was 16 and they came in showed us some MTV animations and said they had a partnership with them. I fell for it went to AIPH and wished i cut off my left arm instead or listened to my Mom and went to community college.

  17. Underpants Gnome says:

    Mrs. Gnome used to work admissions for one of these places. She hated it, complained that it was just sales and all your performance and ratings were based on getting as many people signed up as possible (I think the admissions process was basically a FAFSA or a sufficient bank account).
    I won’t say which school, since she still works in a different capacity there now, but I know they were very close to having their accreditation pulled for their admissions tactics. (they’ve since changed to a less stringent accrediting body)

  18. daveinva says:

    Huh. We keep giving students and colleges more federal financial aid, yet tuition keeps getting more expensive every year! I don’t get it.


    If a school charges $5,000 a year, and they know their students can get $5,000 from the government, then school will charge $10,000 a year. It’s Econ 101.

    Get the government out of the financial aid business. That money would be MUCH better spent on K-12 education (well, that is, of course, if spending more money had any correlation with a better education, which alas, it does not).

    • kmw2 says:

      It would also make it so that a college education is only available to the elite, strictly enforcing social immobility and the class structure and severing some of the few real “bootstraps” that actually exist. Good plan!

  19. RandomHookup says:

    I interviewed for one of these jobs a few years ago. Despite my years of recruiting, I wasn’t enough of a sales type for their tastes (and mine too). It was basically, “Here’s a phone and a phone book and a computer. Get calling.”

  20. Nolarchy says:

    Call me crazy, but all universities really for-profit enterprises, regardless of their tax status. Additionally, plenty of colleges and universities admit students they shouldn’t in an effort to get additional cash, whether that cash is generated from athletic departments or state land federal sources. Personally, I’m not shedding all that many tears for the non-profit schools, they play just as dirty as the for-profits do.

    • Verdant Pine Trees says:

      You’re not crazy, at least I wouldn’t call you that… but… I’ve been steeped in the higher education world my whole life (faculty/staff brat), having worked public, private, R1, SLAC, and 2-year. I have seen some slimy things in that time – in fact, in the 90s, my mother’s boss became a nationally known whistleblower who made it into all the papers, talking about mismanagement of funds at an acclaimed R1.

      But I’ve seen nothing quite on the level of the for-profits, as chargernj describes in some detail, in terms of taking advantage of students.

      Hit the “fora” at the Chronicle of Higher Education or the hilarious Rate My Students blog for more insight.

  21. morganlh85 says:

    I applied to the Art Institute at one point. The lady called me literally every day for a week and left me these long rambling messages that I could only describe as sales pitches. She kept telling me how I needed to act now to lock in my tuition rate, blah blah blah. That was when I saw through their little scheme and went to a real college. I felt like I was buying a used car or something. Plus everyone I know who attended an Art Institute has said they regret it and it was a waste of money.

  22. littleAK says:

    I have more than one degree, but one of them is from the University of Phoenix. My program was accredited, I have never had issues with credit transfers, and I am quite gainfully employed. (I did check its accreditation before I applied.) This was some years ago, so perhaps it has gone downhill. I chose the UoP because fully online colleges were almost unheard of at the time. I wanted to continue my education, but be able to complete coursework around my very hectic work and family schedules. I have a degree from a ground college (University of Akron). I have attended one other ground and one other online university. My experience is that ground colleges are not conducive to working adults that can flourish in a college environment otherwise. Since more state and city colleges are providing online curriculums, the allure of for-profit colleges may have lost the appeal it had for me at the time, but there was (and I bet there still is) definitely a draw for these types of institutions for working adults.

    • funkright says:

      “My experience is that ground colleges are not conducive to working adults that can flourish in a college environment otherwise” this is why institutions like UofP exist and will continue to exist. It has been interesting to see the evolution of other universities around my region, they now are becoming more ‘adult’ friendly and offering programs geared to the over 25 crowd.. All in all it’s good to have choice and that competition has driven a better level of service from all institutions.

      • littleAK says:

        I would think from a business perspective that more universities would want to have online offerings. It is less overhead to conduct classes online, students do not have to be from a specific geographic location (or willing to move on campus), and the universities can staff professors from anywhere in the world. When I took online courses my classmates and instructors where from all over the US. Some were even in Europe or Asia. Some students were active-duty soldiers!

        It wasn’t just advantageous for us as students to be able to meet people all over the world without leaving our computers and be able to complete coursework in a more flexible environment; it was beneficial for the instructors, too. Some taught at several universities simultaneously. Their availability to us was greater, but they could still work “office hours” around their own schedules. I know online education receives bad press, but it has so many benefits (and as continuing education becomes a necessity), I would be surprised if that mentality continued forever.

  23. Verdant Pine Trees says:

    I’m really happy about this, but the main thing we can do is just get these kids headed away from the for-profits and towards community colleges, especially those studying a glamorous field like video games, animation, or studying the liberal arts. You’ll have a steep climb anyways to get a job, but you’ll have much higher loans to pay back, and you’ll have graduated from a place people have either not heard of, or worse case, snicker at. Like my coworker I mentioned up thread, whose for-profit credits and for-profit degree are not considered valid, because his stupid school couldn’t make accreditation… or a talented friend and colleague I’ve worked with who is struggling to find a retail job, only months after paying $200,000 for an animation degree.
    It’s tough getting one of these glamor jobs and often you have to make your own buzz. All of these people would have a lot more money to do their own indie thing if they had gone to a community college. But none of them had family members who went to school, and they just didn’t know about their options.
    I do disagree that “some people just aren’t cut out for college”, i.e. the implication that some people are better off flipping burgers, digging ditches, and plumbing. [Plenty of us do admire plumbers at least, but we tend not to admire the other fields as “work”, and thus, they don’t provide livable wages (which at least cops and teachers can earn).]
    We focus way too much time on the end result: a degree. College has benefits that have nothing to do with the degree, like exposing you to new people, and new skills (like critical thinking – or doing CAD). Why can’t someone who works as a plumber also take a couple of history courses, if he’s a history buff? … Why can’t someone who works at McDonald’s take some accounting courses, and be able to make better money doing bookkeeping as a office manager?
    Having worked in several schools, I firmly believe that a lot of kids just aren’t mature enough *right now* for school. The minority of horrible kids I saw, working at one prestigious SLAC, came from well-off families where one was expected to go to school. The kids at community colleges seem to be more grounded and less likely to take it all for granted. One very motivated, bright kid I’ve worked with is now in his early twenties, and had a terrible GPA in high school (barely above 2.0). He got the experience of working for a living, realized he wanted more, and now is in an Honors Program.
    The nub is that not everyone needs a *degree*, whether they’re 18 or eighty. The degree has become a credential to get a foot in the door, for plenty of jobs where a high school certificate should suffice. Part of the problem is that our entire educational system has been dumbed down … 9th grade textbooks today cover material that is 2-3 years behind, sequentially, what a 9th grader in the 1960s or ’70s would have studied.

    • littleAK says:

      If you think for-profit schools are considered a joke and will not get a student a glamorous job, then community college is certainly not the best option either. A community college degree will be snickered at a company that considers itself prestigious as much as for-profit degree will. A highly sought after job at a high-status company will look at where the piece of paper is from, not just that the candidate has the degree. Community college, where many can easily enroll with a decent GPA and entrance exam scores, will not place a candidate at such a company above the others.

      My experience with interviewing is that regardless of where one obtained his education, if he didn’t learn anything and lacks marketable skills, this will show when he interviews. If you can demonstrate to an interviewer that you have something to contribute to the company’s success, that will take you pretty far, especially at an entry-level position.

      If the focus is on learning skills, meeting new people, and truly educating one’s self, then the place of education (community college, for-profit school, trade school, etc.) should matter less than if the school is a proper fit for the student. Yes, the school should be accredited. In addition, the student should research if the course offerings are appropriate for his career goals. As he is taking classes, he should take exception to the university if professors and teaching assistants are routinely not available for questions and help, specifically for his schedule. Proper job placement assistance should be part of the exit process. If the student must work while attending school, and/or has a family, the university should have a focus on life-school balance and offer courses for the working student’s schedule. If a student finds he is not getting the quality of education he expected, or the course offerings aren’t appropriate for his goals, then he should transfer.

      Basically, one type of school is not a fit for all types of students. I agree students don’t always consider what type of educaton they need to succeed and simply enroll in a school knowing only they need some type of degree to secure a job above minimum wage (or they only know their parents wish them to go to college, not really what is important about college education).

  24. LESSTHANKIND says:

    I saw a commercial for one of these schools today, and the pitch was “want a career in the medical field, but can’t stand the sight of blood?”

  25. vdragonmpc says:

    I posted a while ago in the forums about a school I worked for a few years ago. It was horrifically managed and to any halfway intelligent person it obviously was not there to educate students. In the time I was there they rolled through no less than 5 directors (to be fair one was promoted while the replacement was demoted to the position) Getting equipment was a nightmare for my department and they made it clear many times that instructor salary was to be kept to a minimum.

    What did this mean? Woefully unqualified staff who were managed by insanely unqualified staff. We at one time had a education chair who had no advanced degree. Matter of fact they used MY degree for SCHEV certification and I was no longer working there in a teaching position!! They had students in classes with NO teacher (they called it independent study which translated to they couldnt find a qualified instructor who would teach academics for 10-15$ for one to two paid hours a night)

    They changed their name and the stigma of the unqualified graduates has dissipated some but word is spreding about the new school name. They dropped most of the old programs and have gone for a new group of programs. The big thing to look for is regional not local standing for a school. Regional will mostly transfer.. Something like SCHEV or UNITECH or COMPUMASTER mean nothing to a community college or University. Worse if you move the employer may have no idea who the heck Maxtech is or whatever fly by night school you spent double the tuition at.

    Be warned and be informed

  26. mbz32190 says:

    There are problems with the entire educational system in this country. Not to say people should not go to college, but all colleges today (save for some Vo-Tech and Community colleges) are just being run like greedy businesses. They keep increasing fees ever-so-slightly, while pushing more and more students through who are simply there to gain that oh-so-magical piece of paper in the hope of a job. While some find college really interesting to them, from my experience, most people would not be there if they did not have to be (the “learning” aspect that is). Everything is about cramming and passing but what good is that material do when it comes time for a job and you have no experience?

  27. nybiker says:

    I like the fact that of all the for-profit schools out there, the photo used shows the one who wastes the money on naming rights for football field. You know there’s something wrong with the whole concept of for-profit schools when they have enough money to pay for naming rights. If I ever see a Pace University Field [where it’s not actually a Pace location] (or stadium or golf tournament or arena or half-time show), they will never get another donation dollar of mine nor will I support them in any other fashion (as in attending alumni events). Hell, I would even send my school ring to Cash4Gold to melt down. Yeah, I hate naming rights as a matter of policy.

  28. Verdant Pine Trees says:

    I agree with you that one’s education is pretty much what you make of it, no matter where you go.

    When I referred to glamorous jobs, I did not mean a top investment bank or legal firm. I meant the kind that people aspire to but often have no clear trajectory for, specifically the fields I listed: animation, video game development and film. You know, you’ll see advertised on G4, and in the back of Premiere magazine: New York Film Academy, Westwood College, etc. For-profits.

    After getting this training, you often have to do your own thing to make a name for yourself – develop your own online animations, write your own script, put together a short “calling card” film, even if you went to a excellent program. (I went to a pretty good undergraduate film program and I put in my time, but it was years before I got paid to do this… and some of my old classmates still have to do other things to pay the bills.)

    So, since getting film or video game training doesn’t promise any kind of job at the end of the rainbow, what’s smarter? Borrowing $100,000 to go to a for profit film or art school for two years, where the credits may not transfer if you need or want to get a bona fide degree later on — or borrowing $5-8,000 to take the same classes at a community college, where the credits will almost certainly transfer?…

    And… you can bank more money to make independent projects and build your portfolio. My friends and colleagues who did the Art Institute/ITT Tech route are not happy about the debt they carry today, and yes, they think that their choice was a “joke”.

    By no means am I suggesting that getting an Associate’s degree at a community college will automatically get people in the door at any place – unless it’s technical or vocational, most jobs won’t want an Associates, but a Bachelor’s… I said that a degree is not even desirable for many people, but the cheap but quality education that can be gotten at a community college is.

    On the other hand, one of my best friends transferred from another community college into one of the top liberal arts schools in the country, and ended up working for the Getty Foundation. Transferring from a community college to a solid or even top-notch school – many state universities have reciprocal agreements if you reach a certain GPA level – is much more common than most people realize. When you transfer like that, your diploma still says “NYU” or “Kansas State”. My friend’s in a top grad program at a “Public Ivy”, and I think the sky’s the limit for her. I think that my friends who went to for-profits like DeVry and the Art Institute also can achieve great things, but they have a lot more debt to contend with, and frankly, don’t feel like their alma maters care what happens to them.

    I think people also don’t realize that some community colleges have an excellent reputation in their region. Anyone can enter, yes, but not everyone automatically passes. The district where I started working has an early high school and dual credit programs for high schoolers, and is competitive with four year schools in terms of athletics and programs like forensics, theatre, and dance. When I say competitive – I mean, literally – they compete against older students in national competitions.

    If you’re not interested or not ready for a four year college, or if you plan to work and go to school at the same time, or if you’re trying to get into an open admissions school, yes, absolutely, I would always recommend the less expensive and more teaching-focused community college over the University of Phoenix, DeVry or another for-profit.

    • Spöönmann says:

      “Transferring from a community college to a solid or even top-notch school – many state universities have reciprocal agreements if you reach a certain GPA level – is much more common than most people realize. When you transfer like that, your diploma still says “NYU” or “Kansas State”.”

      Too true. I am currently enrolled at a CC, but will graduate from a respected school with a B.S., with the advantage of paying CC prices and having the CC’s large distance learning catalogue to pick classes from. I am a full time student this semester and I have a schedule that only requires me to be on campus for 2.5 hours, once a week.

    • littleAK says:

      I didn’t realize you were specifically talking about trade school or associate degrees as opposed to Bachelor’s. I completely agree that many types of jobs require a healthy portfolio as well as a degree. In these cases, a community college degree is a good plan for the reasons you indicated. Transferring from a community college to an Ivy league school – that’s a smart idea!

    • littleAK says:

      I think you have touched on another issue, too. Some people are blaming schools when they aren’t handed a job out of college, when there really is more to becoming marketable than obtaining a degree. Portfolio creation and finding ways to put experience on your resume (internship, co-op program, etc.) are equally important, if not more so.

  29. akuma_619 says:

    A lot of these for profit schools are a joke. They aren’t accredited so if you want to transfer to a major university they wont accept their units. This family guy joke says it all “My son got into Devry? What did he have to do, open the door?”

  30. frodolives35 says:

    I totally agree with the concept of get a degree that will get you a job. My son is making a fair living with his criminal justice degree my daughter inlaw is a teacher ,good use of degrees there. My son inlaw just finished his degree from the unv. of mem in film and I don’t think he will ever use it. Thankfully he is a very smart guy and got a double major so the business degree will work for him. Its kind of funny that hes making a good living selling new cars while my daughter finishes her bsrn but I am proud of both of them. I think there is alot to be said for learning the art of critical thinking and learning how to learn. Now if my youngest follows through with the pre med plans after she gets this freshman year under her belt they will all be set. Yah I am doing a little on subject bragging but it is on topic and coming from a 9th grade graduate(With a GED) who makes a fair living with the military training I got serving my country I do understand the value of a good education.

  31. kenposan says:

    Having attended a for-profit online college and currently teaching part time online, I thought I’d chime in.

    The work I did in my online degree was as rigorous as a local, private, brick and mortar school. I had a friend who was doing the same basic degree program though the local school and our work was basically the same. The difference? Her integrated project would have been accepted at my private, online school. It was for shit. Still not sure how she passed.

    Univ. of Phoenix has a bad reputation. I refused to go there because of the hard sell I got from the admissions department.

    Online schools have an unfair stigma as being diploma mills. While some may be, most are not. I had some slacker profs but I also had some challenging ones. No different than a brick and mortar school.

    As an instructor, I can tell you, at least in my courses, you get the grade you earn. In my last class, I handed out 3 As, 3 Bs, 3 Cs, 3 Ds, and had three people drop the class because they couldn’t cut it.

    I have no problem with a for profit school so long as they maintain academic integrity. The line between non-profit and for profit is a very narrow one.

    • littleAK says:

      University of Phoenix has a bad reputation for advertising so heavily and hard-selling to potential students (which I didn’t experience), but that has nothing to do with the quality of school it is or whether it is accredited.

      Your experience at your online school was similar to the one I had at UoP. The courses were challenging. There were those who couldn’t make the grade and dropped. Critical thinking courses were required for graduation. While UoP may not have been desirable to you because of your pre-admission experience, that doesn’t make it a diploma mill or low-quality school.

  32. kenposan says:

    Oh, I should probably have noted that I have not had anyone challenge the validity of my degree.

  33. grapedog says:

    Lets not single out college education here either, lets also consider the K-12 system that gets graded on the amount of students it passes through its door. Like the school my sister works at, student CANNOT get a 0 on an assignment. It’s impossible to give a kid a 0 for a grade because they have so many chances to make up the work. It’s not the students job either to come up with creative ways to re-assign work the student missed, it’s the teachers job. So, now she gets to teach the rest of the class the proper work and the students falling behind she gets to spend time re-working old lessons over and over again.

    It sucks that most college students today end up many thousands of dollars in debt, as soon as they get their degree. Talk about digging yourself out of a hole, right off the bat.