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The Government Accountability Office discovered that "23% [of for-profit university graduates] default [on their student loans] after four years compared to fewer than 10% of public-university grads." Unless for-profit universities can prove at least 45% of their students repay their debts (one among a number of benchmarks,) said universities may lose federal funding.
posted by griphus (72 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite

 
So the Hollywood accountants will be doing a bit of freelancing?
posted by new brand day at 1:36 PM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Early reaction was mixed, with a Republican senator and a for-profit college lobbying group panning it and advocates for tougher regulation questioning whether it does enough to protect students and taxpayers.

Lolboma

Not really criticizing - it's just funny how he always seems to consistently shoot straight down the middle
posted by heathkit at 1:38 PM on July 23, 2010


Oh my dear, that should really be "lolbama". Sorry! Sorry, everyone!
posted by heathkit at 1:39 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Yah. Public university tuition is much, much less than private university tuition. I think Harvard's over $50,000 a year now. No wonder people default.
posted by musofire at 1:39 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


musofire: not private - for profit. Think University of Phoenix.
posted by contessa at 1:42 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


They should have compared for-profit to non-profit, not public.
posted by smackfu at 1:44 PM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Does anyone have a link to the report? I would love to see how even the distribution is across institutions, and how they compare to community colleges rather than public universities.
posted by honest knave at 1:46 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


@smackfu : i agree. comparing state schools to for-profit universities is misleading. for profit vs. "non-profit" private colleges is a whole different thing. am going to assume the rates of default are about the same.
posted by liza at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2010


Oh, I just have to relate this anecdote, barely having to do with the FPP. A few months ago, the University of Phoenix took out a two-page spread in the New Yorker, advertising their illustrious credentials. Except the ad copy used the phrase "beg the question" by the "folk" definition (i.e.; "ask the question") rather than the strict definition.

Sure, that might have flown over at Time or People, but again, this was the New Yorker. The magazine with a style guide so strict it insists on "coöperate" and "focussed." It was great.
posted by griphus at 1:47 PM on July 23, 2010 [14 favorites]


Ahh. From the washington post article.

The rule would become final Nov. 1, after a public comment period. Duncan estimated that it would disqualify 5 percent of the for-profit industry from receiving federal aid.

"That 5 percent would be, frankly, the bottom of the barrel," he told reporters in a phone briefing. "The industry as a whole, unfortunately, has been given a black eye by a few bad actors."

posted by honest knave at 1:48 PM on July 23, 2010


Oh, hell, I really shouldn't have assumed they were using "public" as short-hand for "not-for-profit." I'm not even sure why I did.
posted by griphus at 1:49 PM on July 23, 2010


GAO report: Stronger Department of Education Oversight Needed to Help Ensure Only Eligible Students Receive Federal Student Aid (PDF)

Interesting things include that private non-profit default rates are lower than public 4-year schools, and that 2-year school default rates are much higher.
posted by smackfu at 1:50 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"I think Harvard's over $50,000 a year now."

Jaysus effin' christ. I'd need RealLife™ cheat codes to handle that.

*Tries F-U-N-D..*
posted by pyrex at 1:54 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


You only pay $50k if you can afford it.
posted by smackfu at 1:58 PM on July 23, 2010


Wikipedia has a handy list of for-profit universities and colleges.

See also: Private, For-Profit Colleges Under the Microscope (short summary: credits from private for-profit universities don't always transfer to other institutions, they can cost 10x as much as public universities for residents of the state, and target people who don't know community colleges serve many of the same functions as for-profit colleges).
posted by filthy light thief at 1:58 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I was wondering if the stock market had any idea who was among the 5 percent expected to fail the benchmarks, but it appears publicly traded educators are up on the news overall.
posted by pwnguin at 2:01 PM on July 23, 2010


@smackfu : i agree. comparing state schools to for-profit universities is misleading. for profit vs. "non-profit" private colleges is a whole different thing. am going to assume the rates of default are about the same.


you would be assuming wrong. I'm leaving the office now so I don't have time to post the data. Private not-for-profit is in line with public default rates - maybe a touch higher. For-Profit is a whole magnitude higher. They really are a scam. Enroll'em, get'em loans, forget about'em.

Actually I just googled this presentation for Steve Eisman at the Ira Sohn investment conference. It is totally biased as he is a short and he is pumping his book so the data while from legit sources I am sure is cherry picked. This recent coverage BTW is mostly a result of these guys manipulating the media. I mean I agree with them but...
posted by JPD at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


Before everyone gets all OMG Harvard morons pay $50K!!1 (too late?) maybe read this: Our new financial aid policy has dramatically reduced the amount families with incomes below $180,000 are expected to pay, and parents of families with incomes below $60,000 are not expected to contribute at all to college costs. We no longer consider home equity as a resource in our determination of a family contribution, and students are not expected to take out loans, which have been replaced by need-based Harvard scholarship.
posted by rtha at 2:02 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


And the link for my quote. /did not go to Harvard
posted by rtha at 2:03 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


really please read that presentation - it will infuriate you.
posted by JPD at 2:04 PM on July 23, 2010


mildly related: U.S. continues to fall farther down the list of countries ranked by percantage of college graduates.
posted by mbatch at 2:06 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Ok last post.
2008 Defailt Rates
Public Not for Profit - 6.2%
Private Not for Profit 4.1%
Private For Profit - 11.9%

Not to mention that ~90% of revenues at for-profit schools come from these loans and grants
posted by JPD at 2:07 PM on July 23, 2010 [4 favorites]


All these for-profit universities were previously private non-profit collages in financial ruin, but usually market forces would keep their tuitions low. You make the university for-profit by expanding enrollment through advertising, usually eradicating your already abysmal admissions standards. And you hike the tuition since advertising not reputation now creates the demand.
posted by jeffburdges at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


"23% [of for-profit university graduates] default [on their student loans] after four years compared to fewer than 10% of public-university grads."

So the for-profit business schools are better at preparing you for the real world...
posted by oneswellfoop at 2:10 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


There goes half the advertising for the Interweb, apparently. And for publications with an online and traditional media like "Good." (I recently noticed--and loved--the irony of seeing an article in "Good" brought to you by the University of Phoenix.)
posted by raysmj at 2:18 PM on July 23, 2010


Frontline's College, Inc. discussed this to some extent. IIRC, they said that at least some for-profit institutions only kept 2 yrs worth of data, so as long as their students were in repayment for that first 24 months out of school, they didn't give a rat's ass what happened thereafter, because that didn't impact their accreditation. Really scuzzy stuff.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 2:21 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


families with incomes below $60,000 are not expected to contribute at all to college costs. We no longer consider home equity as a resource in our determination of a family contribution, and students are not expected to take out loans, which have been replaced by need-based Harvard scholarship.

I think this was a wonderful development - Standford did something similar, right? I do think it's worth noting though that this came about because there was some big newspaper expose on their absurdly enormous endowments, wasn't there? I think I'm remembering that right.
posted by serazin at 2:27 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


why am i thinking that the biggest (if not only?) difference between private not-for-profit, public, and for-profit schools is the ability of the institution to receive state & federal funding?
posted by msconduct at 2:32 PM on July 23, 2010


Feenix University may loose it's funding do to being a diploma mill for all intense purposes.
posted by Babblesort at 2:34 PM on July 23, 2010 [13 favorites]


Wasn't there something in Gladwell's Outliers about the differing attitudes to debt among (broadly) working vs middle/upper classes? I think it may have been in the chapter to do with increasing home ownership but I'll have to go and find which pile I filed the book in to be sure.

mildly related: U.S. continues to fall farther down the list of countries ranked by percantage of college graduates.

I'm not sure how we compare, but in the UK my impression is that we've increased the ratio of further education graduates by a general deflation in the value of further education.
posted by robertc at 2:39 PM on July 23, 2010


why am i thinking that the biggest (if not only?) difference between private not-for-profit, public, and for-profit schools is the ability of the institution to receive state & federal funding? Like for grants and such? well yeah because for-profit schools don't research anything. They exist though solely due to federal lending subsidies.
posted by JPD at 2:51 PM on July 23, 2010


why am i thinking that the biggest (if not only?) difference between private not-for-profit, public, and for-profit schools is the ability of the institution to receive state & federal funding?

Do you mean student aid funding? Students at institutions of all of these types are eligible for federally subsidized and guaranteed student loans.

State funding typically only goes to public (i.e. state) schools, though some states (CA, MA, maybe others) have competitive research grant mechanisms that will also fund researchers at private schools.

I know of no for-profit institutions that are really competitive for research funding at the federal level.

Other differences include (maybe this is obvious) the structure of business units. Business operations (and legal requirements) are very different for the three types of institutions.

In general, you won't find as many professional programs at the for-profit schools. Business degrees, maybe, but no law or medicine degrees (there might be a few for-profit law schools, but they're rare beasts). You'll only find full professional programs (law, medicine, dentistry, nursing, engineering, education, public health, the whole shebang) at large private non-profit and public universities.

I'm not sure why you are thinking what you're thinking. It seems vague and not particularly well informed.
posted by mr_roboto at 3:08 PM on July 23, 2010


that pretty much sums me up, mr_roboto: vague & not particularly well informed.

when you talk about no for-profit institutions that are really competitive for research funding at the federal level, would those same schools be doing competitive research without the federal funds? that's the kind of difference i'm talking about (admittedly without articulating it very well).

there's tulane, which i always understood to be a private school, but it's surrounded itself by non-profit institutions (the stone center, sophie newcomb, etc.), which means it qualifies for mucho federal dollars. it also has some agreement with the city of new orleans so it pays no taxes & get other sorts of perks, but i'm even more vague with those details. so as a private institution, i would assume they are exempt from some of the financial strictures placed on a public school, and yet ... they seem to benefit from public money at least as much as public schools.

and then there's my alma mater, for example, a public school which has a HUGE research facility attached to it--separate, but a symbiotic relationship. i could be wrong, but i suspect that neither would exist without federal monies & state support. battelle does impressive research, and the money goes ... somewhere ... probably back into the institution and not to repay government subsidies. same with research done by the university alone--it's funded by the feds & the state but the money goes back into the institution. (i suppose this is why it's called a public school.)

i have little or no knowledge of for profit schools, but i would assume no one at university of phoenix is getting any richer than say, the head coach at ohio state or the president of tulane. and phoenix is, again i assume, doing it without getting the benefit of federal subsidies and tax breaks.

i guess my bottom line is that i don't see anything intrinsically more noble about public or private/not-for-profit schools than i do in for-profit schools. in the end, it seems to me, it's all about the benjamins. and the more tax dollars an institution can justify, the better chance it has of survival.
posted by msconduct at 4:03 PM on July 23, 2010


> Before everyone gets all OMG Harvard morons pay $50K!!1 (too late?) maybe read this: Our new financial aid policy
> has dramatically reduced the amount families with incomes below $180,000 are expected to pay

The H-school has been around since 1636. This new policy, they sure gave it due and full deliberation.
posted by jfuller at 4:09 PM on July 23, 2010


i have little or no knowledge of for profit schools, but i would assume no one at university of phoenix is getting any richer than say, the head coach at ohio state or the president of tulane.

But why on earth would you make that assumption?
posted by Halloween Jack at 4:12 PM on July 23, 2010


i would assume no one at university of phoenix is getting any richer than say, the head coach at ohio state or the president of tulane. and phoenix is, again i assume, doing it without getting the benefit of federal subsidies and tax breaks.


firstly - University of Phoenix only exists because of a massive subsidy from the government in the form of student loan guarantees

secondly - look at the presentation I posted - the managements of the biggest for profit schools have paid themselves 130 million dollars in the past few years
posted by JPD at 4:25 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


btw Tulane is private non-profit - so it is not the same thing as these schools. Tulane has professors and post-docs and what not who are there to perform research. Whether that gets paid for by the govt or from private grants they are there to do that, although there would be a lot less w/o federal subsidies.
posted by JPD at 4:28 PM on July 23, 2010


But why on earth would you make that assumption?

because of this:

The university spent $5 million last year just for its three highest-paid head coaches -- Tressel (football), Matta (men's basketball) and Jim Foster (women's basketball). That's 2.5 times the price tag in 1998, after adjusting for inflation, for those sports.
posted by msconduct at 4:28 PM on July 23, 2010


the CEO of APOL (U of Phoenix) paid himself 7 million dollars last year - and his school objectively does a bad job of educating its students and rips off tax payers.

Not to say it isn't crazy what coaches make.
posted by JPD at 4:32 PM on July 23, 2010


robertc: I'm not sure how we compare, but in the UK my impression is that we've increased the ratio of further education graduates by a general deflation in the value of further education.

I think I can see what you're trying to get at, but isn't that logic turned upside down? You're saying that by decreasing the value of having a college degree, more in the UK have earned one. I more commonly hear the opinion that by increasing the numbers of college-goers, what is actually happening is a degradation of the quality of college-level education, and also the advantage of having it.

Either way, you'd be very, very hard pressed to convince me that any society is better off having fewer educated types. Education is always good. To stay topical however, I'm not sure that Univ. of Phoenix etc. are providing real educations, rather than simply profiteering off of the desires of your average person to become more educated than they are.
posted by StrangerInAStrainedLand at 4:38 PM on July 23, 2010


when you talk about no for-profit institutions that are really competitive for research funding at the federal level, would those same schools be doing competitive research without the federal funds?

When I say "competitive", I mean competitive for the federal funding itself: federal research funding is typically awarded in competitive, peer-reviewed processes. For-profit institutions do not have the infrastructure or personnel to compete for this funding.
_____

there's tulane, which i always understood to be a private school

Tulane is a not-for-profit institution.
_____

and then there's my alma mater, for example, a public school which has a HUGE research facility attached to it

The Ohio State University is itself a large research facility. $720 million in research expenditures in 2007. Research is what most of the faculty and graduate students in the science and engineering fields spend most of their time doing.
_____

battelle does impressive research, and the money goes ... somewhere ... probably back into the institution and not to repay government subsidies.

It goes to pay for the research. Scientific research is very, very expensive, and this is how our society has decided to fund it.
_____

same with research done by the university alone--it's funded by the feds & the state but the money goes back into the institution. (i suppose this is why it's called a public school.)

I don't know what you mean by "the money goes back into the institution". The money pays the salaries of the people doing the research, builds research facilities, and buys materials and equipment. It also goes to the operating costs of the university. The money is spent, not locked in a safe. None of it is going to dividends for shareholders, and there are no stock prices that fluctuate based on quarterly profit results.
_____

i have little or no knowledge of for profit schools, but i would assume no one at university of phoenix is getting any richer than say, the head coach at ohio state or the president of tulane.

Your assumption is incorrect. Sperling is worth $1.8 billion; he certainly makes those coaches look like small change, no?
_____

and phoenix is, again i assume, doing it without getting the benefit of federal subsidies and tax breaks

Did you read the linked article? Federally subsidized loans are the major source of income for these institutions.
posted by mr_roboto at 4:40 PM on July 23, 2010


For profits appear to me as the payday loan lenders of the academic world. The Economist puts it well:

The reality is that for-profits are the best chance for the disadvantaged to get an advanced degree—a key qualification in the economic recovery—and they offer flexible schedules and training courses in growing sectors. The Obama administration’s penchant for community colleges is insufficient: a Pew report shows that state funding for in-state and community colleges is plummeting, classes are being cut, and tuitions are going up.

The plain fact is that they serve a need. The unfortunate part is that they seem to exist as an possibly less efficient alternative to an easily shunned public alternative, the community college. The big question remains. If the realistic result to cutting off government loans for for-profits results in fewer educational opportunities for disadvantaged students, are we really better off in the end?
posted by 2N2222 at 4:46 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


JPD wrote: "Not to say it isn't crazy what coaches make."

The top line numbers seem crazy, but usually only a small fraction of the total compensation is paid by the school itself, and that small fraction is more than paid for in the big conferences by the revenue sharing from the TV deals, licensing, and whatnot.
posted by wierdo at 5:16 PM on July 23, 2010


Frontline eviscerates for-profit universities.
posted by Crotalus at 5:19 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


I'd need RealLife™ cheat codes to handle that.

Tragically, all of the cheats in Real Life have to be executed from the command line. I hear "reallife.exe -richdad" is a handy one.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:24 PM on July 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


2N222,
The unfortunate part is that they seem to exist as an possibly less efficient alternative to an easily shunned public alternative, the community college. The big question remains. If the realistic result to cutting off government loans for for-profits results in fewer educational opportunities for disadvantaged students, are we really better off in the end?
As you say above, these schools are in some cases less efficient alternatives to community colleges. Disadvantaged students would certainly qualify for community college. Perhaps someone needs to learn why they are shunned and address those issues. That covers the certificate and 2 year degrees being offered by for profits. Increasing numbers of state and non profit schools are providing online access to some classes and/or have satellite branches.
I think part of the issue is that we need to educate the public. The for profit schools use "university", "college", "institute" etc so I'm guessing many of their students are not even aware that the for profit they are attending is different from the public or non profit they could be attending. There are already issues where students are graduating from for profit schools unaware that their credits may not transfer. Are the fundamentalist Christian schools such as Regent U and Patrick Henry for profit? I have seen descriptions of them, but it is certainly not clear.
posted by Librarygeek at 5:28 PM on July 23, 2010


thanks for the presentation, jpd; i (obviously) didn't see that the first time around. and thanks for the CEO of APOL (U of Phoenix) paid himself 7 million dollars last year. that's considerably more than The presidents of Northeastern University, Philadelphia University, and Johns Hopkins University made $2,887,785, $2,557,219, and $1,938,024 respectively in 2005-6 according to the Chronicle, but you got to admit those private university president salaries are impressive! and johns hopkins was also leading the pack in federal reserach dollars: In FY2005, our researchers attracted nearly $1.3 billion in federal R&D funding and $1.4 billion in overall R&D funding.

now you already think i'm nuts; please don't think i'm trying to equate johns hopkins with u. of phoenix. even i am smarter than that. but i don't think johns hopkins would be johns hopkins without the federal dollars, regardless of the form it takes when it's bequeathed (tuition aid vs.research dollars). so i guess i think they *all* exist because of federal dollars.

on preview: great point, librarygeek.
posted by msconduct at 5:34 PM on July 23, 2010


you realize those big comp numbers appear to be from buying out contracts. Most of the really big name schools comp is around 600k. A lot, but then they run big non-profits.

And again - whereas APOL et al get 90% of revenues from student loans, those other school have much more diverse funding sources.
posted by JPD at 5:42 PM on July 23, 2010


StrangerInAStrainedLand: You're saying that by decreasing the value of having a college degree, more in the UK have earned one.

Not really: I am saying that to allow more people to earn a university degree, they've made them easier to get.
posted by robertc at 5:45 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


thanks for the feedback, y'all. will try to digest it & see if it makes any more sense to me.
posted by msconduct at 5:48 PM on July 23, 2010


Non-profit schools are learning that adult learners are a nice, steady stream of revenue. Previous difficulties of schedules not suiting professionals or working adults have declined a great deal. Payment structures have been adjusted so that people can pay for higher education with better cash flow management from their personal funds in addition to student loans, and Federal subsidies. Universities have become more entrepreneurial in serving segments of population not traditionally catered to, including, post bacc, certification seeking and continuing education.

Really, the more established universities could really sweep the market, if they chose but I am seeing certain universities mimic University of Phoenix and Argosy more than establishing a more rigorous online and adult learning environment. If you are faculty, I would really see what your intellectual property rights are regarding your research and material for courses, because certain institutions think its all about the course material (monetized, packaged, re-sold) and not the teaching that elevates a course.
posted by jadepearl at 5:49 PM on July 23, 2010


I think Harvard's over $50,000 a year now. No wonder people default.

Harvard's not the problem.

The problem is universities like Boston University or Northeastern across the river. Places that are… meh… basically "respectable," but not going to knock anyone's socks off. Not going to open any doors for you. But will still happily charge you $10k more a year in tuition than Harvard or MIT.

Hell, Harvard's law school reimburses tuition if you aren't making $X / year (to encourage people to go into public service). You think B.U. law is going to give you back your $200k because you decided to work with lepers in the third world or become a public defender or some shit? Fuck. No.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:12 PM on July 23, 2010 [7 favorites]


As someone who works for a non-profit, private, expensive university where the default rate is exceedingly low, I cheer this. The quip about Harvard above is inaccurate. The elite universities have extremely low default rates. It's the fly by night trade schools that pitch to the lowest common denominator that are both for profit and heavily subsidized by taxpayer guaranteed loans, and that are fucking the system up for everyone. (They're also heavily dependent on what eventually becomes illegal immigration, as foreign students come in on student visas, do a semester or a year at one of these schools, usually paying cash, and then disappear into the undocumented workforce, or terrorist cells for that matter - remember the flight school attended by some of the 9/11 attackers?)

Serious, non-profit schools, from community colleges up to Harvard and Yale, will only benefit from toughening these laws and standards, as will their working-class students, most of whom are terribly exploited by these scheming for profit bastards.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:06 PM on July 23, 2010


Or what civil_disobedient said. If your family is lower middle class and you can get in, you pay almost nothing to attend an Ivy League school these days, and that's not based on federally guaranteed loans.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:07 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


The plain fact is that they serve a need. The unfortunate part is that they seem to exist as an possibly less efficient alternative to an easily shunned public alternative, the community college.

I agree. They definitely serve a need, but it's one community colleges do not always serve. I'll out myself as someone with a degree from a for-profit school. I'm not really expecting it to make me a lot of money, although those who just need a degree to get a promotion certainly get some value out of it.

As for community college, it wasn't an option for me because none of my local community colleges offered any online degrees. I don't know if they didn't have the infrastructure or they just didn't have the will or what. I certainly kept checking. If I couldn't get a degree online I probably would never have taken the opportunity to go for it. Other schools really don't reach out to people in my situation, don't make the process smooth, and are quite frankly intimidating. And then I wouldn't be able to go online anyway, not to get the degree I wanted.

A lot of that's changed now. My degree is available online at a few non-profit schools now, but it wasn't when I started the program. My local community college does seem to offer a small selection of online degree programs when it didn't as recently as last year. I think in large part the increase in online and other diverse offerings is because of competition from the for-profit schools. University of Phoenix really was a pioneer and helped put significant pressure on other schools to offer more options for non-traditional students, particularly online degree programs.

I'd agree that many for-profit schools need to raise their standards or be shut down. These schools are often able to charge exorbitant amounts of money and it's not so clear that it's going toward academic standards (and certainly not paying the teachers, which to me is one of the worst thing about these schools: horrible adjunct pay). But they also take all comers and nobody else will. I'm sure many of you probably think nobody else should, but I'll just say that I'm intelligent, always loved school, love everything I've learned, and it's not my fault I'm disabled (and therefore poor). Many of my classmates have been overseas in the military, hard-working parents, or disabled people like me. I've learned that a lot never thought they would go to college.

I guess I should be sad that so many are certain that the quality of my education will leave me lacking. But that's all right. I wouldn't mind if these schools didn't exist anymore, as long as there are viable alternative. So I'm the first person in my family to get a degree, and yeah, it's from a for-profit school. And my high school diploma was from an independent adult program for people who dropped out of high school (as I did because I was sick). But I did get it, even if I didn't have prom or a huge graduation or AP classes.

It's important that at-risk groups not be preyed upon and taken advantage of, absolutely. But it's also important that their goals and needs not be ignored. I'm happy that with each passing month and year, more schools are taking up the challenge to give people a chance at earning a degree.
posted by Danila at 7:10 PM on July 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Except, C_D, it's not Northeastern or BU either, and certainly not law schools, that are most of the problem. I'd bet those schools (at the undergrad level) certainly have repayment rates comfortably within the proposed limits.

It's the Fly By Night HVAC and Dental Assistant School (get your GED while you earn your Associates Degree! Financial Aid [taxpayer financed] Available!) that are fucking the system for everyone else.
posted by fourcheesemac at 7:11 PM on July 23, 2010


"If we were a good university, we wouldn't have a commercial."
posted by chalbe at 7:41 PM on July 23, 2010 [2 favorites]


I dont know if I condemn for profit schools, but they definitely shouldn't get federal funding. I have a friend who works insane hours at a job at a nonprofit that pays crap, she has loans from her expensive GW master's program and is trying to do coursework so
she can go get a BSN. She can't afford any schools that have evening programs that are in the area and her job requires flexibility that made it impossible for her to attend school at UDC, so she did some online courses through the CC system in Colorado or Kansas online. She lives paycheck to paycheck, has no partner or family she can lean on financially, and it's been difficult for her. If the for profit universities were cheaper, I wouldn't disrespect her for doing her courses there because she needs flexibility. Those CC courses she took were expensive out of state, but cheaper than having to quit her job or pay $6,000 for 4 credits at Georgetown or GWU.
posted by anniecat at 7:49 PM on July 23, 2010


If the for profit universities were cheaper, I wouldn't disrespect her for doing her courses there because she needs flexibility.

but that's what really matters - they aren't cheaper.
posted by JPD at 7:56 PM on July 23, 2010


Marketplace did a piece on this issue today, with a focus on the way these places are marketed: The ad said Obama's government was handing out $10,000 scholarships to single mothers to go back to school. There are lots of ads like these online. Some appear next to e-mail. Others pop up in social networking sites.
posted by rtha at 8:07 PM on July 23, 2010


>
Or what civil_disobedient said. If your family is lower middle class and you can get in, you pay almost nothing to attend an Ivy League school these days, and that's not based on federally guaranteed loans.

For profits aren't really for the people you describe. If your family is lower middle class and you can't get in, you're in a tougher spot. They're the alternative for folks who have no other alternatives.

I don't doubt the existence of shady outfits. But the part of this whole thing that kind of bothers me is that using the stick to threaten for-profits like this will affect the good students who are not defaulting along with the bad. The for-profits exist because they fulfill a need. Simply making them go away doesn't change that.
posted by 2N2222 at 9:35 PM on July 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


what need? your hypothetical cohort is the intended audience for community colleges - which every study I have ever seen surpass the for-profit schools in terms of output. Even the whole flexibility canard is bogus
posted by JPD at 5:16 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Disadvantaged students would certainly qualify for community college. Perhaps someone needs to learn why they are shunned and address those issues.

I suspect one of the primary reasons may be grades At my CC, we work hard to match the grading rigor of the universities where many of our students will transfer, as we'd endanger our articulation agreements if we didn't. When we've brought instructors over from some of the non-profits, more often than not, they're not teaching college-level work, and while they're not giving A's to every student, they rarely fail anyone. From their experience, every F means losing a potential customer who is paying several times the amount than any cc student ever would.

Also, from my understanding, for-profits are wary of requiring remedial courses to underprepared students. The author of Confessions of a Community College Dean, who was an administrator at both a for-profit and then a cc, and who offers more nuanced comparisons between the two types of schools than I ever could, observes that insisting on remediation was not a good business model for propriety schools (or PU, as he calls his former employer).

At PU, we did everything humanly possible to avoid remediation, since students wouldn't pay premium tuition to remediate. If we told them they needed remediation, they usually walked. (“I'm not paying good money for a course that doesn't count!”).

Why go to my cc, where you might have to take three math classes to get to the one that will actually count toward your degree, when you could take one at a for-profit school? But this also ties back to my earlier comment about easier classes.

Another reason may be classroom space. Almost every required English and Math class at my community college is full for the fall, and we still have almost a month of registration to go. We've maxed out our physical classroom space. We are not shunned, we are full, but since we don't have profits from high tuition to go along with our ever-dwindling government aid, we're having a hell of a time trying to grow to meet this increased demand.

And even though we have more than tripled our online sections in the past three semesters, we're competing with schools that have extensive marketing budgets, a high-pressure sales office, and promises of fast degrees and instant (but often illusory) employ-ability. We've only recently started to put more resources towards growing our online programs, so I have no idea if we'll eventually be more of a competitor to these larger for-profits. But for many students who want to get their degree, but don't want to (or can't) devote a large part of their life to college, we probably will always remain the less sexy option - a traditional educational model without any of the cachet of a four-year school.
posted by bibliowench at 7:27 AM on July 24, 2010 [1 favorite]


Interesting points bibliowench. I suspect that this GAO report could lead to a government crackdown on these schools because the government is laying out so much money that is gong unrepaid. So there's going to need to be better alternatives.

I wish people would do as you did and focus more on what the students are getting out of going to these schools then insisting that they could just go to community college and everything would be fine so the only reason they don't go to community college is they must be foolishly elitist. Many of these students are low-income and/or come from disadvantaged minority groups. Plenty of them already have GEDs (already looked down upon) and are not sneering on going to community college. Community college really does not serve the needs of everyone.

Then of course there are plenty of students who need some business or health care/human services administration degree to move up in the field they are already in. A 2 year liberal arts AA from a community college doesn't help them at all really (that's what my local community college has as its online degree offering). There is also the ability to go to school year round and get done faster rather than be treated like an 18 year old fresh out of high school still used to summers off. Does your community college offer that option for non-traditional students, or is that a common offering do you know?

The blog you linked to is surprised at UoP's low graduation rate. I'm not sure UoP is really as easy as people seem to think. For example, you asked why someone would go to a community college and have to take "three math classes" when they could take the one relevant one at a for-profit. When I went to UoP I was required to take multiple math classes, multiple English classes, and several others that were not at all directly related to my degree nor were they electives I would have chosen if I had the chance.

Reading forums about UoP (most of them are anti), I've noticed a LOT of students stop going when they're still taking those required courses. Many of them think it's a waste of money and drop out, and I'm sure some just couldn't hack it. Those are the ones who wouldn't hack it at community college either, but it's not necessarily true that schools like UoP are easier for them. That might be why UoP has such a high drop-out rate.

I'll read some more of the Dean's blog because I like hearing it from someone who has experience with both types of schools, for-profit and traditional. I would also recommend the forums at degreeinfo for online students (some of whom go to online programs at traditional schools, some of whom do not), where there has been plenty of discussion and debate about this.
posted by Danila at 10:14 AM on July 24, 2010


bibliowench: as your target market, I strongly suspect that online is going to be HUGE, regardless of the other factors. It's the asynchronous nature I need, 100%. I'm not fooled by the marketing budgets, I just have little choice. I'd go to a CC in a minute if it were as simple as watching a video of the lecture*, dropping my assignments off to my professor to be graded, and communicating by email or public message board.

The reason I can't (fully) go to my local CC (and the reason I can't go to the state university, which is why I'm looking at CCs to begin with) is because I have to work full time during the day. I know there are stories of super-dedicated kids pulling themselves up by their bootstraps and killing themselves to work full time, support 8 kids, and get a Harvard degree at the same time, but that's just not realistic for most people. At the rate I could take classes in the evening, it would take ten years to get a degree.

I'm taking one class at a CC near me (in addition to 3 online classes**), and I'm kind of uncomfortable about even that, because my job requires occasional overtime in the evening, sometimes (but rarely) switches my work shift, and often switches my work site. Halfway through the term I could find myself working 45 minutes away from the school with only 30 minutes between the end of my shift and class start time. Or I could find myself working in Japan on short notice, which is one of our sites. I hate to be the whiny special snowflake to our resource manager at work, but I'll get over that. Problem is, everyone is a special snowflake, and sometimes whining isn't going to help me.

That's why the for-profit schools are attracting people. The distance/asynchronous learning opportunities. It's unfortunate that CCs so far have very little to offer in that category.

*what about getting with the cable TV companies and getting videos of CC courses in the "on-demand" library? iTunes U?

** I'm doing Thomas Edison State College, which I think is more legit than say, UoP. In any case, the state U. masters degree program I want to do next said they will accept it, so that's good enough for me.

posted by ctmf at 10:17 AM on July 24, 2010


There is also the ability to go to school year round and get done faster rather than be treated like an 18 year old fresh out of high school still used to summers off. Does your community college offer that option for non-traditional students, or is that a common offering do you know?

We do. I happen to think we (Colorado) have a pretty good community college system (if one of the most underfunded in the country). But in the past decade or so, we've expanded our schedule to offer summer classes, accelerated sections, sections that start as early as 7am and sections that end as late as 9:45pm, classes on military bases, hybrids and, of course, online classes.

That's why the for-profit schools are attracting people. The distance/asynchronous learning opportunities. It's unfortunate that CCs so far have very little to offer in that category.

Again, this isn't the case with us. Pretty much any class you'd need to take for an associates degree, and for some certificate programs, has an online option, and Colorado also has an online-only campus that offers even more sections than we do. And we're under orders from our President to offer as many sections as needed to meet enrollment demands (never mind that I'm already chronically understaffed - anyone want to teach college English?)

But again, the problem isn't that we're hurting for enrollment. It's that we're not getting enough help from the state and federal government to keep up with the demand, and it feels like a slap in the face to see so much government money going towards these for-profit institutions, many of of which are overselling their educational value (although not all, as Danila points out), so that their graduates can't earn enough to pay back their debt, when cc's (often) provide a better education at a much lower cost.
posted by bibliowench at 10:42 AM on July 24, 2010


Does anyone here really think that this law and some of the media reporting on for-profit educational institutions is unbiased? Why do these schools even exist, in the first place? They exist because traditional educational institutions - many supported by taxpayer dollars are not meeting the demand for flexible scheduling and very specific occupational instruction that the for-profit's provide.

America's community college systems are woefully underfunded, and on top of that controlled by academic and bureaucratic layers that keep them from being agile enough to turn on a dime and adapt to new needs.

In fact, to meet Obama's mandate to see America graduating more college graduates per capita by 2020, for-profit institutions are going to be necessary, because there is not enough capacity in the current non-profit system to meet that demand.

This new legislation is meant to weed out the weaker schools, the bottom feeders who are all about enrolling students, getting their money, and providing no support. Most of the for-profits really do work hard at trying to provide a good educational experience. As this sector evolves, less expensive alternatives will begin to appear and drive prices down. For instance, check out StraighterLine, as one of a a new breed of for-profit.

Last, as for the Frontline piece; I think it was well done, but biased purely against the for-profits. What about public institutions that suck up taxpayer dollars and layer over their operations with fossilized bureaucracy and ineptness? Look at teh salaries of the University of California Regents. How about the fact that UC and Cal State programs now compel many to spend 5 years getting a degree, because they don't offer enough core course sections for undergraduates to finish in their agreed-on 4 years? How many History majors coming out of Harvard are making enough to pay for their education (working in the field of History, which would put Harvard in the same place as for-profits, relative to underemployment.

All said, I think the for-profits charge to much, but so do the non-profits. Education in the world of the Internet should not have to cost a lot of money. In any case, all this is going to evolve, and much of the problem would not exist if the DOE would force the non-profit sector to get off its bureaucratic ass and learn to adapt to modern times. Again, for-profits exist because non-profits have not done their job, with the latter still soaking in the glow of post WWII enrollments and baby-boomer hubris. These schools need to wake up, and stop using their undeserved hubris to slow down progress in post-secondary education. That's the real problem here. Everything else is a smoke screen.
posted by Vibrissae at 11:24 AM on July 24, 2010


Why do these schools even exist, in the first place?

...for-profits exist because non-profits have not done their job...

They are a for-profit institution. They exist to make money above and beyond all else. They are able to do so because of the reasons you list. You can't compare a business model to the shortcomings of the university system. For-profit institutions are bloated vocational schools, and that is not the goal of higher education.

Most of the for-profits really do work hard at trying to provide a good educational experience.

What's your standard of evidence for this? Do you have any citations?

posted by griphus at 3:09 PM on July 24, 2010


Vibrissae wrote: "All said, I think the for-profits charge to much, but so do the non-profits."

Interesting that the average debt load at private non-profits is significantly less than that of the for-profits.
posted by wierdo at 4:23 PM on July 24, 2010


Thirding the Frontline College, Inc. documentary. This loan-default statistics ruse is one of the topics they cover.

I'd been waiting for years for a documentary like this to come out. The for-profit "university" business is an obscene racket -- hard sell tactics by admissions, students getting into massive loan debt, flimsy curriculums resulting in useless degrees, accreditation shell games ... This is like the subprime mortgage racket 3 years ago, but hasn't had its cover sufficiently blown off yet. If you know someone considering a for-profit (U of Phoenix, Capella, Strayer, even DeVry, pretty much any of those that you see advertised on local TV constantly) PLEASE have them watch this first.

(note also that we're not really talking about the private universities like the Ivy League, Duke, Stanford, etc. )
posted by intermod at 8:12 PM on July 25, 2010


Go ask anyone in Silicon Valley who they would rather have as an IT graduate. Someone from Phoenix, or someone from a traditional school. Phoenix graduates are way better prepared.

I have worked with a few for-profits, and have been impressed with their dedication to educational excellence. Yes, their loan default rate are higher, but don't forget, their constituency tends to be the more challenged demograhics. Sorry, there is a lot of inaccurate assumption on the blue re: this topic.
posted by Vibrissae at 1:40 AM on July 26, 2010


You're simply going to have to provide evidence for your claim that companies in Silicon Valley would rather hire people from University of Phoenix. That's completely and directly against my experience, but I just have anecdote. Please show me your data.
posted by stoneweaver at 12:11 PM on July 26, 2010


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