“Has the Department of Education learned nothing?”
April 28, 2015 1:32 PM   Subscribe

Following up on the story of the Corinthian 15 (previously on the blue), Corinthian Colleges has formally ceased operations and is selling or shutting down its campuses. In the meantime, the US Department of Education has helpfully provided a list of "viable transfer options" [PDF]. Minor problem: some of those for-profit schools are also under investigation.

Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), source of the title quote, is urging the DOE to forgive the loans.
posted by Halloween Jack (33 comments total) 15 users marked this as a favorite
For fuck's sake. Community college. The proper answer is your local community college. And then when you have actual, useful, transferrable credits, transfer to a 4-year state school.
posted by hydropsyche at 1:35 PM on April 28, 2015 [10 favorites]

For fuck's sakes it's called Getting a Lawyer . The proper answer to being victimized is to Get a Lawyer. And then when you have won your law case, drive away in your unfinaced car to your non-predatory mortgage house which you can afford.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 1:40 PM on April 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

Yay, justice! On a day full of injustices, this is nice.

Reading the quotes from the Corinthian 15 in the previous FPP, it sounds like the schools were having a major toddler extinction burst.
posted by Melismata at 1:43 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

For fuck's sake. Community college. The proper answer is your local community college.

There are some "in demand" majors that have very long waiting lists at community colleges, plus state legislatures have been increasing the problem by defunding community colleges.
posted by drezdn at 1:49 PM on April 28, 2015 [13 favorites]

For fuck's sakes it's called Getting a Lawyer .

What do they do while they are competing with all the other lawyered students for dollars that will eventually go to better-lawyered stakeholders? Put their lives on hold?
posted by Behemoth at 1:50 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

There's no way Corinthian is solvent enough to refund everyone's tuition. And the lenders still have the law firmly on their side.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 1:56 PM on April 28, 2015

There are some "in demand" majors that have very long waiting lists at community colleges, plus state legislatures have been increasing the problem by defunding community colleges.

Better to be on a waiting list (or consider another major) than throwing away your money at ITT or the Art Institutes, as the government is recommending. I'm not saying that community colleges are the be all and end all of everything, but any recommendation list of where people should go should prioritize affordable and accessible (i.e., your GED is enough to get in). And that means community college.
posted by hydropsyche at 2:00 PM on April 28, 2015 [6 favorites]

P.S. Something I should have included above: the DOE's FAQ on Corinthian, including how to apply for a closed-school discharge.
posted by Halloween Jack at 2:04 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Am I understanding that this is a case where the government actually stepped in and said, "Hey, your entire business is a scam so you have to shut it down" and their response was "OK we'll get right on that"? If so doesn't this seem like an absolute miracle in and of itself? Does this happen often? Why doesn't it happen more often?
posted by bleep at 2:09 PM on April 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

I love helpful advice; just go somewhere else where they can rip you off.
posted by Alexandra Kitty at 2:40 PM on April 28, 2015

Unfortunately, it doesn't look like the US Gov't actually shut them down, but rather tightened the screws on for-profit schools like theirs, which is still a Very Good Thing.

In related news, for-profit schools are suing U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to remove requirements for federal reimbursements to such schools, based on the percentage of former students who are able to pay back their loans.
posted by filthy light thief at 2:40 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Alexandra Kitty: I love helpful advice; just go somewhere else where they can rip you off.

I imagine some staffers were scrambling to put together a contingency plan for students of the now boarded up schools: "quick, let's just find all the other schools that are still open who would accept these students! We don't have time to sort through the school credentials - they just need to be operating as of today!"
posted by filthy light thief at 2:42 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I've said it before: for profit colleges and universities should have no access to Federal loan money of any sort. That would solve this problem pretty much immediately. They are the payday loan shops of Higher Ed.
posted by GenjiandProust at 3:50 PM on April 28, 2015 [20 favorites]

What I find ironic is that university administrators are adopting the for profit model with very open enrollment, prior credits, online courses, questionable equivalencies and a customer based model. Did I also mention the lack of retention support, too?
posted by jadepearl at 4:53 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Good riddance to bad rubbish. In other excellent news, University of Phoenix is bleeding money and students and had its (APOL) stock price took a huge hit in late March.
posted by spitbull at 4:59 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I've said it before: for profit colleges and universities should have no access to Federal loan money of any sort. That would solve this problem pretty much immediately. They are the payday loan shops of Higher Ed.

The trouble with this is that they'd probably just integrate even more tightly with private lenders and trick their students into signing even more unfavorable loans. Taxpayers might save a little bit they would have spent subsidizing loans, but the overall effect could be even more pronounced on the students.

Better to squeeze them out some other way. Maybe a proper national university system? Surely we're pissing away enough cash on wars and police brutality lawsuits to fund a few endowments?
posted by fifthrider at 5:04 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

I taught online drawing classes for EDMC's Art Institute debt mill for a year and half during their mid-recession feeding frenzy.

I took the job seriously and tried hard to be a good teacher, but I still feel gross for participating in what I now clearly see was a vile scam.

Typical AI students were vulnerable people trying to enter or re-enter the workforce following military service, incarceration, the death of a spouse, prolonged joblessness or some other life-altering event. Most of the ones I worked with had been lured by online advertising, hustled through an over-the-phone loan application process and dumped into dubious courses they were totally unprepared for. Very few understood the fields they were trying to enter (interior design, video game design), few had the skills to keep up even with our hokey curriculum, and some didn't even have reliable internet access.

The school's website was loaded with glossy stock photography of attractive people leaning thoughtfully over drafting tables, but the course content was basically worthless. The lessons themselves featured expensive-looking, copyrighted video tutorials on perspective drawing or design fundamentals, but the material wasn't even close to comprehensive. I made my own visual aids or referred students to YouTube videos.

My in-class interaction with students (my title was actually "facilitator" rather than professor, instructor or teacher) was monitored through Cronos, the panoptic timestamping entity, to ensure that I provided a minimum volume of written feedback each day, but there was never any qualitative discussion of course goals or student achievement. My cut-and-pasted performance review comments were just as inane.

It was only after I quit in frustration that I started reading about their marketing practices, low graduation and sky-high default rates, and federal aid parasitism. I remain shocked, disgusted, outraged and ashamed to have had anything to do with them.
posted by ducky l'orange at 5:17 PM on April 28, 2015 [15 favorites]

I'm someone who benefited from a short stint at a community college -- it was cheap, highly targeted at a very practical outcome, and had amazing ties to local employers. It's not the answer for everyone, though -- graduation rates are low, in large part because, in the exact opposite of the support and guidance that one gets at a top-ranked private school, there isn't a lot of hand-holding, and many of the students have a lot of "real life" going on. School is hard when you have kids, legal issues, and family you are supporting, all while going to classes using money from a job retraining program that keeps changing its rules.

That said, even the worst community college is a million times better than the predatory for-profit schools. Outside of maybe some of the industry-supported places, I'd just as soon have the federal government hit the big delete button on the for-profits. At a bare minimum they should have no access to the public loans and subsidies that are meant for real schools.
posted by Dip Flash at 5:32 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

My cousin went to a Heald--she's long since "graduated." I remember her graduation ceremony--two of the uh, "professors" (facilitators?) were conspicuously chomping on their gum like cows with cud throughout the whole thing. Way to be dignified, dudes. I thought they seemed dicey even then and now it's all so much worse.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:01 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Oh yeah, and from the FAQ:

"In the education section of my resume, should I remove reference to the school name?
No. You have worked very hard and in many cases have made significant sacrifices in pursuing your education. We are enormously proud of you, and you should be proud of your education. "

Uh..... I dunno, but I was reading Ask a Manager lately and she said to not put the University of Phoenix on a resume, so.....
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:09 PM on April 28, 2015 [3 favorites]

There are some "in demand" majors that have very long waiting lists at community colleges, plus state legislatures have been increasing the problem by defunding community colleges.

To be fair though, a lot of the times that's because it's a super high quality education and people are being told that by those in the know.

The IT and even just generally STEM courses at the community college in my neighborhood are well regarded as being fucking great. A recruiter at Big Giant Corporation told me right after high school that they actually had the best program in several fields... in the entire state. Better than the well regarded state colleges, etc. She said it produced people ready to do actual work more consistently than any other place.

So i went, and they were right. Best professors or instructors i've had anywhere. Personable awesome people who knew their shit, even to some extent in the busywork low level classes you have to do just to tick off a box.

I tell people this all the time. The facilities are ugly, and it's a community college so eww and they don't really advertise at all so most people don't realize... But the equipment and professors are top flight, and they actually teach you shit.

I would happily go through a waiting list for that place. And i've heard that most community colleges are pretty good. The ones in washington are freaking great though.
posted by emptythought at 6:34 PM on April 28, 2015 [5 favorites]

Ummm, herm, this is awkward. Watched the John Oliver clip. You know he mentioned Ashford? (I did some research and confirmed the Wounded Warriors story.)

One of my little sisters teaches for Ashford.

posted by Samizdata at 7:08 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

Something to think about: most public charter schools are "for profit" schools. Some, I suppose, have legitimate aims, but in my personal experience (I work for a school district), most are about siphoning money from legitimate public schools. The charters are parasites that leech services from the district (plant maintenance, infrastructure support, transportation, child nutrition services, accounting, payroll) but are unaccountable for their spending, hiring and educational decisions.

True story: my school district opened a new charter high school this year. At the beginning of the year, I was tasked with guiding the charter through the process of setting up a high school. "What's your address?" I asked. "Well, we really haven't leased a building yet." "Um, what's your curriculum?" "We don't know. It depends on how many students we get."

Charter schools, in my direct experience, are not there to improve education. They are there to enrich themselves.
posted by SPrintF at 7:30 PM on April 28, 2015 [8 favorites]

I had a long-time Online friend fall for University of Phoenix. He started off so enthsiastic. He tried to get me to go. Maybe a discount was involved. I went to the local community college. I had my challenges, but at least I wasn't ripped off.
I can vouch that Washington State has excellent community colleges. You can actually do WORSE in some 4 year institutions.
It's likelier your instructor will actually be a professor, as opposed to a TA or an adjunct.
And of course, not being ripped off is good.
I think these places like Corintian an University of Phoenix are horrible.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:51 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

Don't even get me started on charter schools. Never did like them.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 7:52 PM on April 28, 2015 [1 favorite]

I can't really blame people for falling for the scam. There's a pervasive message that EVERYTHING WILL BE OK IF YOU GO TO COLLEGE. Most people, even poor people, grew up with that message drummed into their heads. But then everything got switched around... in 2015, skipping college is a better bet for many young people, but the myth hasn't caught up.

Community college is a better option if you live in a place with decent community colleges. Sadly many of the more conservative states never really got around to building a community college system.

Western Governors University basically has the same educational model as all the for-profit schools, but it is nonprofit, so it is slightly cheaper and maybe not actively out to rip you off.

University of the People is a free, fully accredited 4-year online college. They only have two majors right now. But hey, if you can make it work....
posted by miyabo at 9:07 PM on April 28, 2015 [2 favorites]

I don't know if Georgia counts as a "more conservative state", but we have an excellent system of open access public colleges, both 2-year and 4-year, that are part of the University System of Georgia, as well as an entirely separate system of technical colleges for those interested more in trades, 2-year terminal degrees, and certificates. For both colleges and technical colleges, you can expect small class sizes taught by professors who know your name and care about your success (Full disclosure: I know this because I am one of those).

For many students, the lottery-funded HOPE scholarship will cover a substantial portion of the cost of either (with the remainder covered by Pell grants). Students in Georgia who are taking classes at ITT/Devry/Art Institute/Phoenix/etc etc etc are simply not being told of the much better options that exist (quite possibly by the guidance counselor at the for-profit charter high school they attended).
posted by hydropsyche at 3:41 AM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Corinthian 15: O debt, where is thy sting?
posted by El Mariachi at 4:52 AM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

Two words: due diligence. Do a little research to find out if the place you're going to give many thousands of dollars to is actually on the up-and-up. For-profit colleges have been around long enough to be shown to be at worst scams and at best diploma mills... which is just another type of scam.
posted by prepmonkey at 11:10 AM on April 29, 2015

If you read to the end of the Buzzfeed article they explain why. They are referring people to other for-profit colleges because they are generally the only institutions that will transfer credits.

In dealing with the thousands of Corinthian students left stranded partway through their degrees, the Education Department is facing a complex task. Corinthian’s credits are not transferrable to most schools—even community colleges—because of its accreditation. Most schools that accept Corinthian’s credits are themselves for-profits.

I feel bad for the students though.
posted by missmerrymack at 2:28 PM on April 29, 2015

There's a reason accredited not-for-profit schools won't transfer those credits: they're basically worthless. I have mentored more than one student who was upset that they didn't get credit for an "intro to biology" course they had taken at UoP. The reason they didn't get credit was that it was an online only course with no lab component. You can't get credit for biology without taking lab. Also, having taught them, it was clear that they didn't learn the non-lab parts of intro to biology, either.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:23 PM on April 29, 2015 [1 favorite]

More for-profit school closings:

EDMC to close quarter of its Art Institute campuses
posted by octothorpe at 8:21 AM on May 7, 2015

Shit. The Art Institute of Atlanta-Decatur is in our neighborhood, and we know several professors there. They're starving artists, and it's a job that pays. That's also going to leave a bunch of empty office/retail space on the Decatur Square. They share the building with DeVry, so maybe they'll just expand one for profit to fill the space left by the other.
posted by hydropsyche at 8:57 AM on May 7, 2015

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