Frontline Program About For-Profit "Universities"


#1

Tonight I watched the Frontline documentary called College, Inc. that originally aired last May. The spotlight was placed on the serious student debt problem involving for-profit "universities", such as University of Phoenix, Argosy University, and others that get students to sign up for student loans to earn degrees that don't hold water.
According to the program, 10% of our nation's college students attend such schools, and yet they account for almost FIFTY PERCENT of U.S. student loan debt.

I highly encourage any parent or person who is interested in these schools to watch this program. It can be viewed here

Any comments or insights on this issue is welcomed.


#2

I watched the video. According to Frontline, for-profit universities account for 10% of the student population, 1/4 of the student loans and approximately 1/2 of the defaulted student loans.

Part of the reason for having a large share of student loans and defaults is that tuition is 2X traditional colleges. They are able to charge more for tuition because they offer flexibility that is not traditionally available, accept students who would not be admitted to traditional colleges, and mostly because they have aggressive counselors and recruiters who convince prospective students that they offer strong value. Financial counselors insure that the students are eligible for loans.

The main requirement for admission is ability to pay, not ability to pass classes and graduate. Their target demographic is under served and naive.

Student loans are granted based upon the perceived ability to achieve gainful employment post graduation. The federal government does not acquire post-graduation employment statistics for individual schools. The only data is from the school itself. :shrug:


#3

[quote="Musicadmirer, post:1, topic:226140"]
Tonight I watched the Frontline documentary called College, Inc. that originally aired last May. The spotlight was placed on the serious student debt problem involving for-profit "universities", such as University of Phoenix, Argosy University, and others that get students to sign up for student loans to earn degrees that don't hold water.
According to the program, 10% of our nation's college students attend such schools, and yet they account for almost FIFTY PERCENT of U.S. student loan debt.

I highly encourage any parent or person who is interested in these schools to watch this program. It can be viewed here

Any comments or insights on this issue is welcomed.

[/quote]

Thanks for the info - that really infuriates me. Seems like the student loan program is becoming a direct pipeline from the taxpayers' pockets to these highly profitable businesses, with society seeing little or no benefit. If we're going to fund education, far better to put the money into state schools and community colleges.

The Department of Education is/was proposing rules to reduce the problem, by requiring that the schools show a certain percentage of their graduates finding "gainful employment". The schools pushed back hard with an advertisig campaign highlighting success stories and making the government out to be the bad guy, limiting peoples' access to education.


#4

I tried to watch the video but it froze repeatedly at about the 25 minute mark. Based on what I saw and some of what is posted here, I want to make just a few comments.

I used to teach for one of these for-profit universities. I taught online and in the classroom.

  1. Yes, they mostly follow an open admissions policy. They don’t requires SATs or a certain high school GPA. But guess what, so do many other schools. You can get in the door easily but it’s not so easy to stay. You have to do the work. They do have a high drop out rate and a high failure rate (so do many state schools and community colleges). In the online program especially, there is a high rate of students who are kicked out for plagiarism too.

  2. The video compared the cost with community colleges and state schools. But they don’t get any tax money like those schools do. The cost is much less than many private univiversities.

  3. There is little in the way of lecture as pointed out in the video. But while the video mentioned that most of the class interaction was in the form of online discussion, it didn’t mention that most of the evaluation of student learning is in the form of writen academic papers. How many of your own undergrad courses required 4 research papers and a presentation? I know when I was in school - at a top ranked public university, most classes had a single term paper. If other writing was required, it didn’t involve research.

  4. The student loan piece needs some work, I agree. But in my own classes, the overwhelming majority of students were attending on company paid tuition assistance programs, not the taxpayers dollar. And by the way, those are loans that get paid back unlike the money pumped into many public institutions that goes to such things as better football stadiums and funded extracurricular programs. Not that there is anything wrong with sports or extracurriculars but that’s tax payer expenses with no pay back.

  5. These schools, for the most part, aren’t an alternative that should be considered by a new high school graduate who is applying to traditional universities. These schools are populated by students who either wouldn’t be able to attend a traditional school or not be welcome. There are lots of older adults making career changes. There are also many disabled students for whom online is their only real option. I lost count of the number of babies born during the time span of my classes. The moms were able to keep up in class discussion from the hospital in some cases. Students have posted from cruise ships, on thier iphones, and in overseas internet cafes. For many working adults who have jobs that require travel, this is an educational opportunity they could not get with a traditional school. I have had many deployed military personnnel in my classes as well.

I don’t want to post the name of the institution since I don’t want to sound like an advertisement. But I wanted to point out that the video seemed to be attempting to make an apples to oranges comparison and then complain that the round orange thing wasn’t apple-y enough. The for-profit model, especially the online university, is relatively new and it isn’t the same thing people are used to. There is much that can be improved on but the industry also seems to be the focus of a lot of bashing.


#5

I was hoping that some professors and students from for-profit colleges would post. Thanks. ;)

My guess is that these institutions cannot be painted with a broad brush. I am sure that many students have positive and productive experiences that would not otherwise be possible. There are also those with less than satisfying results.

I was once going through a stack of resumes, with the Director of Engineering, for an engineering position that my company had listed. He quickly sorted them into two piles. The smallest pile was to read. Devry graduates were eliminated on the first pass. He said that they clearly are not very smart. They paid more and got less for their education dollar.

If 10% of the students attend for profit schools and are responsible for nearly 50% of the defaulted student loans, there is a problem.


#6

Their aggressive telemarketing turned me off before I had a chance to give them fair consideration. Serves 'em right!


#7

[quote="MtnDwellar, post:5, topic:226140"]
I was hoping that some professors and students from for-profit colleges would post. Thanks. ;)

My guess is that these institutions cannot be painted with a broad brush. I am sure that many students have positive and productive experiences that would not otherwise be possible. There are also those with less than satisfying results.

I was once going through a stack of resumes, with the Director of Engineering, for an engineering position that my company had listed. He quickly sorted them into two piles. The smallest pile was to read. Devry graduates were eliminated on the first pass. He said that they clearly are not very smart. They paid more and got less for their education dollar.

If 10% of the students attend for profit schools and are responsible for nearly 50% of the defaulted student loans, there is a problem.

[/quote]

Well, as someone who worked in HR for 20 years (and taught HR at that for-profit), your director might have wanted to take a class at a for-profit school in employment law. My students would all be able to clearly explain why that kind of pre-screening process is an open invitation to a law suit. ;)


#8

[quote="mark_a, post:6, topic:226140"]
Their aggressive telemarketing turned me off before I had a chance to give them fair consideration. Serves 'em right!

[/quote]

I think that's somewhat of a sign of the times. I have been looking at an additional degree and checked off an interest box somewhere along the line. The school that calls me incessantly is a state university. My son is also bombarded by emails and print advertisements from all kinds of public and private schools. One state schools sends him an email at least every week, some of which start with "why haven't we heard back from you?" He's only a sophomore, for heaven's sake. The only for-profit I hear from is my old employer who has me on a list to call every six months to see if I want to do any CEUs.


#9

[quote="MtnDwellar, post:2, topic:226140"]
I watched the video. According to Frontline, for-profit universities account for 10% of the student population, 1/4 of the student loans and approximately 1/2 of the **defaulted **student loans.

Part of the reason for having a large share of student loans and defaults is that tuition is 2X traditional colleges. They are able to charge more for tuition because they offer flexibility that is not traditionally available, accept students who would not be admitted to traditional colleges, and mostly because they have aggressive counselors and recruiters who convince prospective students that they offer strong value. Financial counselors insure that the students are eligible for loans.

The main requirement for admission is ability to pay, not ability to pass classes and graduate. Their target demographic is under served and naive.

Student loans are granted based upon the perceived ability to achieve gainful employment post graduation. The federal government does not acquire post-graduation employment statistics for individual schools. The only data is from the school itself. :shrug:

[/quote]

Forgot to type in "default" in the original message. Thanks.


#10

[quote="Corki, post:7, topic:226140"]
Well, as someone who worked in HR for 20 years (and taught HR at that for-profit), your director might have wanted to take a class at a for-profit school in employment law. My students would all be able to clearly explain why that kind of pre-screening process is an open invitation to a law suit. ;)

[/quote]

It didn't seem right to me!! He had other rather superficial tests that he performed on the first pass. He was reducing a pile of 100 to less than 10. I didn't know that discriminating based upon education was illegal??

His actions did pose a theory. People like to hire others who are like themselves. He graduated from a prominent four year engineering school.


#11

[quote="Corki, post:4, topic:226140"]

4) *The student loan piece needs some work, I agree. *

That's an understatement. As long as the for-profits get that loan money, nothing else matters. Lying to students about their accreditation, employers not accepting their "degrees", because they weren't adequately trained, resulting in rapidly growing debt is a black eye for such schools.

5) These schools, for the most part, aren't an alternative that should be considered by a new high school graduate who is applying to traditional universities. These schools are populated by students who either wouldn't be able to attend a traditional school or not be welcome.

Exactly. These students don't cut the mustard at regular schools, and are naively drawn into these schools that pop up along highways like the McDonald's franchise, with the promise of a short and sweet training program.

There is much that can be improved on but the industry also seems to be the focus of a lot of bashing.

The so-called bashing is warranted due to the facts. There's a lot of corporate wolves in sheep's wool in the for-profit field.

[/quote]


#12

My perception of a degree from a for- profit is that it can only hurt, not help, my chances of getting a job. It may not be fair but that is the system that is currently in place.


#13

[quote="MtnDwellar, post:10, topic:226140"]
It didn't seem right to me!! He had other rather superficial tests that he performed on the first pass. He was reducing a pile of 100 to less than 10. I didn't know that discriminating based upon education was illegal??

His actions did pose a theory. People like to hire others who are like themselves. He graduated from a prominent four year engineering school.

[/quote]

ok - here's your short course in employment law.

Discriminating based on education is not illegal. In fact, if he said he only wanted to consider students with degrees from IVY league schools or top-tier engineering programs, that would probablly be fine. It would especially be fine if it was part of the position description or the recruiting process. I know some hiring managers (engineers by the way) that only recruit at a few schools. That's fine as far as non-discrimination goes (might not pass muster with the Affirmative Action folk -- but that's another class ;-))

The big BUT here is that any time an employer uses a criteria that is not based on actual qualifications for the job, he opens himself up for legal trouble. One of the only affirmative defenses in a claim of discrimination is that the only thing that was considered were job related qualifications and that the best qualified person was ultimately hired. Someone with DeVry on his/her resume might have actually been as qualified or more so than someone who just barely passed a middle of the road public university program. If that person was passed over and decided to pursue it legally, the Director would have given up his affirmative defense against discrimination.

Several of the courses I taught were part of the certification series in HR. At the end of the series, the students are encouraged to take the PHR (Professional in Human Resources) certification test. It's a hard test. I know many grads from my alma mater that did not pass the first time. If someone passed the test but got passed over for a HR job because her degree was from a for-profit school, there would be no way to defend a claim that she wasn't as qualified due to the origin of her degree.


#14

[quote="KostyaJMJ, post:12, topic:226140"]
My perception of a degree from a for- profit is that it can only hurt, not help, my chances of getting a job. It may not be fair but that is the system that is currently in place.

[/quote]

I feel the same way. I have heard from way too many HR departments about how they ignore applicants with for-profit degrees to think it would ever be worth pursuing one.


#15

My husband and I watched this program when it originally aired. I remembered being infuriated about the student loan racket at the for-profit universities (talk about a money laundering scheme!). At the same time, it really is sad how they take advantage of so many students who usually are naive and uninformed about what they are getting themselves into.

This is what happens in a society where the goal is for everyone to go to college, though. College SHOULD NOT be accessible to all people, regardless of ability, as this devalues the actual value of a college degree. The only differentiating factor when ability and level of difficulty in obtaining the degree are removed from the equation becomes the price of tuition.

"Degrees" such as the ones offered by for-profit universities (and even at other not-for-profit 'traditional' schools) should really be called certifications and marketed as advanced career training, not as college degrees.


#16

[quote="Corki, post:8, topic:226140"]
I think that's somewhat of a sign of the times.

[/quote]

Well, I didn't really consider that. It must be my age.


#17

There are many junior colleges where you can earn an associate’s degree starting with nothing more than a checkbook and the ability to fog a mirror, but I don’t know of any reputable 4-year places that don’t require either a certain score on a college placement test or else a certain number of transferrable credits from an accreditted junior college as demonstration of the applicant’s ability to succeed.

As for the loan issue, that is hardly confined to “for profit” schools. There are a lot of people who get themselves into back-breaking debt while earning arguably-very-valuable-yet-not-remotely-lucrative degrees from very well-regarded private universities. (AKA, in some circles, as “Useless Degrees”.) In those cases, though, the people have very good college placement scores. It could be argued that protecting people with a demonstrated aptitude to understand a financial statement from the financial foolishness of not being inclined to use that aptitude on their own behalf is one thing, while protecting those who did not gain college-level proficiency in either math or literacy from predatory student lending is quite another. I could go for that. I really don’t think that it is possible to write laws to protect people from taking on loans for “Useless Degrees.” There are just too many people out there who want to earn one.


#18

[quote="EasterJoy, post:17, topic:226140"]

As for the loan issue, that is hardly confined to "for profit" schools.

[/quote]

The loan issue is not confined to the for profit schools, but, if we believe the Frontline report those schools have more than their share of the problem. For profits have only 10% of the students, yet account for nearly 1/2 of the defaults.


#19

[quote="MtnDwellar, post:18, topic:226140"]
The loan issue is not confined to the for profit schools, but, if we believe the Frontline report those schools have more than their share of the problem. For profits have only 10% of the students, yet account for nearly 1/2 of the defaults.

[/quote]

For profits may be far better (or shall we way far worse) at selling the product regardless of need and ability to pay than not-for-profits, I won't argue that. Having said that, the law still needs to reflect that some people, including some who gain entrance to prestigious non-profit liberal arts universities, want the option of going up to their ears in debt for an education that will never give them a monetary return that repays their investment.

The answer may lie in the truth of the advertising. Prestigious universities do not go around trying to convince prospective students that they'll ever get the money back that it cost them to get their degree in environmental studies with a minor in comparative religion. The for-profits, in contrast, do advertise that they offer the way to better-paying jobs. For instance, a well-known cooking school was sued recently because it implied its students could easily find jobs, when in fact relatively few of the students found that their student loans bought them enhanced job prospects. I don't know if the plaintiffs won their suit, but that is unethical, IMHO.


#20

[quote="EasterJoy, post:19, topic:226140"]
Having said that, the law still needs to reflect that some people, including some who gain entrance to prestigious non-profit liberal arts universities, want the option of going up to their ears in debt for an education that will never give them a monetary return that repays their investment.

[/quote]

You are correct that some people are willing to run up their debt with little chance of repaying it. The problem in this case is that the loan is from the Federal Government. If private lenders are willing to take those risks, that is their right. When the money is coming from the taxpayers, or insured by the Feds, it is another story.

Since the loan is based upon the student's ability to repay after finishing school, the lender has the onus of verifying that risk is manageable. We cannot rely upon the schools themselves to properly inform the students and let the students decide whether they are taking too much risk. That's the job of the lender.


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