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!)