• September 17, 2014

Lawmakers Focus Ire on Accreditors for Abuses at For-Profit Colleges

Six weeks after vowing to cull the bad apples from the for-profit higher-education sector, some Senate Democrats are asking whether the whole barrel is spoiled, and largely blaming accreditors for the rot.

At a hearing on Wednesday, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the education committee, repeatedly referred to "systemic" problems in the sector, asking witnesses whether the fraud and deception uncovered in a recent government investigation into for-profit recruiting is the norm.

"I hear a lot of talk that these are just rogue actors," Mr. Harkin began one question to Gregory D. Kutz, who led the undercover investigation for the Government Accountability Office. "Would you say that misleading and deceptive practices are the exception, or are these more widespread?"

Mr. Kutz responded that while investigators found "good practices" at a handful of colleges, none of the 15 colleges it visited were "completely clean." At each of them, recruiters and admissions officers made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to investigators posing as applicants.

"It certainly gives the indication that this is more widespread than a few bad actors," he said.

To illustrate, he played a series of video clips that showed recruiters encouraging fictional students to falsify their financial-aid forms and providing misleading information about their colleges' costs and graduates' earning potential.

In one clip, a recruiter tells a prospective student that barbers could earn up to $1,000 a day, even though 90 percent of barbers make less than $43,000 a year, according to the Labor Department. In another, a college representative assures an investigator that students loans aren't like car loans, "where if you don't pay, they come after you." In fact, student loans are one of the only forms of consumer debt that can't be discharged in bankruptcy.

In a third clip, a recruiter tells an investigator that he can't speak to a financial-aid adviser until after enrolling. When the fake student hesitates, the recruiter agrees to get a financial-aid adviser, but returns with his supervisor, who badgers the student and eventually rips up his application.

Scant Oversight and 'Safe Harbors'

The rest of the hearing focused on assigning blame for the abuses. Pressed by lawmakers, Mr. Kutz faulted the Education Department, saying it has failed in its oversight of the sector. While there are regulations in place to protect students from misleading and aggressive sales, they're not being enforced, he said.

"It certainly seemed like a wild, wild West out there," he said, urging government regulators to step up their monitoring of for-profit recruiting and to punish colleges whose employees violate the rules.

"Consistent oversight is going to be necessary," he said. "If you don't make an example of the bad actors, you have a system where people think there are no consequences."

Another witness, David Hawkins, director of public policy and research for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, blamed the abuses on the department's decision, in 2002, to add a series of exemptions, or "safe harbors," to a ban on incentive compensation. That change, which the department is now considering reversing, "chipped away at the law's ability to be enforced," Mr. Hawkins said.

Stripping the safe harbors from the rule, as the department has proposed, "would really put the teeth back in the statute," he said. (See a related item, on Head Count.)

But Joshua Pruyn, a former recruiter for Alta College who testified about unethical practices he observed on the job, said that while eliminating the exemptions would help, "I don't think it would fix the problem." While incentive pay might motivate some recruiters to lie, others are simply uninformed or are repeating lies they've been told by management, he said. Mr. Pruyn said he had been on the job for months before he learned that a paralegal program he'd been promoting wasn't accredited.

Senator Harkin called the department's proposed changes to the incentive compensation ban "a nice first step," but repeated his threat to legislate.

"Another administration could overturn that regulation," he said. "I think where we're headed is clear-cut legislation that can't be overturned by another administration, tightly designed legislation to correct these practice."

Sharp Exchanges With Accreditors

While criticizing the department, Senate Democrats focused most of their ire on accreditors, grilling the head of one national agency about the standards it uses to judge institutions. In one pointed exchange, Sen. Al Franken asked Michale S. McComis, executive director of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, how that organization could claim to have "rigorous" standards when three of the institutions it accredited had been cited for abuses in the GAO report.

"Do you think maybe your rigorous standards aren't rigorous enough?" asked Senator Franken, of Minnesota.

"I believe the standards themselves are rigorous," Mr. McComis replied. "In these cases, the schools' compliance with the standards fell short."

Asked by Senator Harkin why the accreditor hadn't found problems at the three institutions, Mr. McComis replied that the accreditation process isn't designed to catch "the sort of fraud the GAO has alleged."

"We don't secret shop," he said. "So in the normal course of an evaluation, I'm not sure we'd find those occurrences."

That answer appeared to infuriate Mr. Harkin, who said it was "apparent to me that we need a hearing on accreditation."

"If your process doesn't detect readily apparent fraud, who is protecting students and taxpayers?" he asked. "We rely on accreditation."

Mr. McComis replied that it was up to state and federal regulators, "the other parts of the triad," to root out fraud.

"Accreditation is designed to evaluate the quality of education, not to detect fraud," he said, adding, "Certainly, if we find fraud in the process, we're going to act on it."

"But your on-site evaluations didn't detect it," Senator Harkin said. "It seems like you accept the schools' word on what they're doing."

Mr. Harkin said he planned to "look into" the financing structure of the accrediting system, saying it "seems to be a situation that is rife with conflict."

That plan has implications for nonprofit colleges as well, since all accreditors are financed by the institutions they accredit.

Mr. Harkin also said he planned today to ask 30 companies operating for-profit colleges—15 privately held and 15 publicly traded—for information about their graduation rates, costs, student debt burdens and job-placement rates. The goal, he said, is to gain a better understanding of how the colleges recruit students, set tuition, and handle withdrawals and the return of federal student aid.

Wednesday's hearing was the second in what Mr. Harkin has said will be a series examining the for-profit sector. Mr. Harkin has promised additional hearings in September and possibly November and December.

That should please committee Republicans, who called for a broader investigation into higher education. Sen. Michael B. Enzi of Wyoming, the top Republican on the education panel, said he would ask the GAO to expand its investigation to nonprofit colleges as well.

"Nonprofits are not immune from inappropriate behavior in recruiting," he said. "We should be scrutinizing all sectors of higher education."

Comments

1. schwnj - August 05, 2010 at 12:38 am

I'm glad they're planning to look into non-profits as well. The fact is these problems exist wherever recruiting/sales does. In the world of higher ed, that means low-ranked schools, non-profit "chain" and vocational schools, and, of course, for-profits. I wouldn't be shocked if some "traditional" non-profits engaged in similar tactics, but I'm guessing its far more rare than in the for-profit and non-traditional institutions.

When the entirety of your business model depends on increased enrollment, stuff like this is going to happen.

2. feudi - August 05, 2010 at 08:01 am

All of higher ed needs to be examined for egregious recruitment efforts. But let's be real. The federal government itself is so poorly run itself that I see little hope that these hearings will accomplish anything in the end. Some senators will get greased and the whole mess will go away...sorta like the Tenet Healthcare Hearings under Senator Grassley that never happened in 2003. Now Tenet is being hit with more Medicare fraud allegations for illegally billing for heart implants that people never got.

3. dank48 - August 05, 2010 at 08:20 am

So the for-profits seem to treat all students the way the non-profits treat student athletes . . . except the latter have more incentive to perform.

Higher education has become market-driven, like the rest of society in this country. Where there's a market, there is hucksterism.

4. mkant69 - August 05, 2010 at 08:33 am

Perhaps Congress should mandate that the US Department of Education prepare an annual report to Congress on fraudulent and abusive recruiting practices in postsecondary education.

5. performance_expert2 - August 05, 2010 at 08:34 am

US higher education debt, at least at real schools a student gets something in return for their assumed debt, but overall US student debt is catastrophic and a talisman of the debt colony. Drugged by the tv and echo-chamber media, when an American citizen comes of age to be educated, they are ripe for exploitation to sign contracts to pay corporate welfare for the majority of their lives. No broader example of personal debt slavery exists in the world. USA #1. Students, go forth and make history! as the leaders in paying corporate welfare.

6. softshellcrab - August 05, 2010 at 09:32 am

For-profit schools seem to all be scams. I really don't believe there are any legitimate, rigorous for-profit schools with real standards. This article simply strengthened my long held belief, My apologies to those here who teach at for profits. I don't desire to be rude. But for-profit schools seem to be "all about money", and not failing students, and recruitment and retention.

Yes, there are certainly non-profit and state schools, and departments in these schools, where they also lack standards. No argument! But there it is a mix, some rigorous, some not. In my discipline, I know for a fact that at my school and at other non-profit traditional schools nearby, there is rigorous grading and teaching, and a "just say no" attitude to students who are failed out if they can't handle the major. I really don't believe that ANY for-profit schools ever function like that.

T

7. der_gadfly - August 05, 2010 at 09:52 am

Having worked on both sides of the fence, I have seen all sorts of problems across the board, from initial contact through the FA process, then extending into the classrooms. To point fingers at the for-profit sector as a whole is neither accurate nor equitable.

Not all for-profit institutions are part of publically traded outfits. There are many mom-and-pop proprietary schools that do a fine job, have reasonably high standards (given the segment of the population they serve), enforce ethical standards for academics, and in general, do no wrong. Show me the institution that has made no mistakes of human error and I will show you utopia.

Supose we shut them all down. The money that had been going to the profit centers - that which came from Pell etc must now be immediately given to the public colleges so that they can hire faculty and accept all of those students who want a rigorous education but for whom there were no seats.

Let's take it a step further: I see a need to investigate the Advancement offices at the NFPs as well. One of alma maters alumni association contacted me for a donation recently and noted thattheir endowment had taken a severe hit as the investments had lost value. My response was that I foresaw the downturn and took appropriate defensive action and ws able to preserve my IRA, why is it that these brilliant MBAs did not see it coming? This opens up another can of worms: let's rip the heart out of the AACSB accredited MBA programs, because their graduates do not demonstrate competency in their fields either.

Using argumentum ad absurdum, stop all higher education right now, until some brilliant politician who panders to media-hyped public sentiment can resolve the problem for us. After all, that professional doctorate he/she holds is undoubtedly an obvious qualification to conduct research that will stand up to the lowly educators who populate the boards of accrediting bodies. What would all those PhDs know about their own field anyway? Let the politicians decide what is best!

Sarcasm aside, accreditation has focused for years on improving throughput processes, in the hopes that outcomes would be improved. There is sporadic evidence to suggest that this has worked. The accreditation process may miss a few things, after all, a site visit is only a few days long. Scrapping a process and infrastructure because it is not perfect is not the solution.

8. postroad - August 05, 2010 at 10:14 am

The system sucks! Accreditating agencies seem only (out of fear of law suits) to take away accreditation onloy when a school (college level) is going totally broke--otherwise, give the scghool a warning. Then, we ask, who accredits the regional accrediting agencies? The Dept of Ed..and on what information and what basis? None. Why? Because if they dismissed a regional, who would then be there to grant accreditation? No one (no group)...and so Joseph Heller had it right: Catch-22.

9. betterschools - August 05, 2010 at 10:30 am

I have led and participated in shopping assessments, secret and otherwise, and front-end analysis for all three institutional types for 15 years. Over this span of time, I have seen growing abuses in enrollment practices among all three types, especially in those programs that target adult-learners and so called career education degrees (Allied Health programs, etc.), whether or not they operate as "for-profit." In point of fact, the worst abuses I have personally documented were committed by a faith-based independent college. On balance, however, the abuses are to be found in all types in certain program areas.

What are the causes of these abuses?

Based on what I see, it would be incorrect to attribute the root cause to intentional deception. My judgment is that inadequate training and laxity in oversight are generally the root cause. The quest for growth and increasing competition are driving inappropriate behaviors on the part of enrollment counselors that are not being systematically detected and managed. This is not to excuse the exceptionally bad behavior of the few but, thus far, Congress has overlooked 90% of the market win which abuses take place to focus exclusively on 10-11% of the market.

Looking only at the exceptionally bad behaviors, it is difficult to rank the "degrees of evil" if you will. it depends on one's point of view. It is also irrational to ascribe greater wrongdoing to a behavior if it takes place in a for-profit. This goes to facts not in evidence and generally derives from the unspoken biases of the individual.

What I commonly see in bad behaving for-profits is the enrollment counselor's desire to dispense with the concerns of the prospective student as quickly as possible without appropriate levels of consideration as to whether the program represents the best choice for the student. Their goal is to secure the enrollment. Notwithstanding this GAO report, they generally possess the relevant facts and stick close to the truth. What I commonly see in bad behaving not-for-profits may not look much different at the gross level but there are subtle differences. These enrollment counselors possess few facts abut graduation rates, time-to-degree, and all-in cost. They end up misrepresenting material issues to prospective students based on their optimistic guesses rather than facts. Since public and independent colleges typically have substantially longer times to degree and more hidden costs that the for-profits. These misrepresentations are significant. Independent colleges also practice post-matriculation tricks that they have somehow managed to justify. One is to provide a first-year bridge scholarship that mysteriously disappears after the first year, leaving the student scrambling to make up the difference. Hidden fees in the publics and independents are also out of hand and, because of the oversight, do not exist in the for-profits.

Which institutional type has the greatest problems? There is no way to answer this without specifying a perspective. It is an outright lie when someone suggests that the for-profits cost us more money. They do not and in fact cost considerably less, essentially zero all-in, including loan default adjustments. This perspective would make publics the #1 target for reform. On the other hand the for-profits are growing at a much faster pace and therefore are a legitimate first target. Independents, in my view, are always in the middle with substantial problems but slightly behind the others in the aggregate.

We need a broader GAO audit. If you agree, contact your Representatives. This is not to suggest that Congress or the Administration will be able to mount anything close to the surgical precision necessary to improve this complex industry. These are the same folks who regulate finance, housing, oil drilling, etc. Unless further modified, the proposed regulatory changes will harm the underclass and make it impossible to achieve President Obama's educational goal.

So why call for a broad GAO audit of the entire industry?

I think such an audit will put to rest many common misconceptions that have prevented internal reform. It will produce facts that responsible leaders in higher education will build upon. I urge every responsible leader in higher education to contact his elected representatives.

10. jack_cade - August 05, 2010 at 10:40 am

Clearly this experiment with for-profit higher education is a failure.
We have all known it was failing and that it would fail.
Education does not conform to contemporary market models of human interaction the end.

Return state funding to the levels of just a decade ago. This will drive down the tuition at public universities and public community colleges. Then double up on the community colleges we have (taking over the for-profits that fail) and revitalize the universities, expand some of the smaller ones and build new ones.
When was the last time a public university was founded in this country?

11. betterschools - August 05, 2010 at 10:45 am

Assertion: "Return state funding to the levels of just a decade ago. This will drive down the tuition at public universities and public community colleges."

Fact: State universities have increased their tuition at 2-3 times the rate of inflation or growth in the GDP every year for the past 35 years, long before for-profits became a material force. Additionally, state universities hide a variety of tuition increases in the form of fees, some states, many hidden until the student is in the system. When these fees are taken into account, the increases are even larger.

12. der_gadfly - August 05, 2010 at 11:24 am

@betterschools:

I tend to agree with your observations about the lack of training for admissions persons. I too have witnesed it, and as a parent of college aged children, was genuinely disturbed when I was given misinformation by a seasoned representative at a 'high-falutin' private college not too long ago. I also agree that it may not be deliberate, but simply because reps just repeat what they have heard. In this case, it is caused by supervisors who are career administrators and managers, and not educators, and certainly not educators who are intimately familiar with the ins and outs of accreditation or the details of financial aid.

Yes, the explosion of health related schools seems to have brought up a lot of problems. We do have a great need in this country for such people, and the smaller schools have siezed upon this opportunity to build enrollments. Had the publics and CCs done so, and had the room to accept the many applicants, there would be no market for these for-profit programs. When we need to fill a gap, and entrepreneurs step up to fill it, we are grateful, yet we then vilify them later for their derring-do.

Agree also about proper screening of applicants. I would be interested to read your research on all of this.

13. 11191210 - August 05, 2010 at 11:40 am

Please let's not add investigating whether a college has fraudulent recruiting practices to the job of the accrediting agencies. They already have enough to do, but the relations between them and the colleges is presumed to be one of helping each other. Their only engagement with admissions seems to be whether the PR is selling what a college really is, which is in keeping with their mission to ensure that the school delivers what it says it does. Yes, I too have railed at some of the things they said about or asked from my college, but I know we also need them to maintain standards. However, I also know of colleges and schools that well deserved losing their accreditation, where this in the end made those schools better, so I grumble but also cooperate and don't feel I must run everything by college lawyers first. If the schools thought the accreditors were looking under the rugs for dirt, the whole relationship would resemble a police state, complete with keeping two sets of books. Not a good way to proceed.

14. thescriptsthething - August 05, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Let's see, this "safe harbor" stuff and lack of enforcement began in...2002. Yep, there's a surprise. Another pile of excrement bequeathed to us by the Bush Administration.

Is there nothing those people didn't foul, like a pack of hyenas?

15. gent258 - August 05, 2010 at 12:47 pm

Many of these for-profit "colleges" should be closed down as frauds. The owners of these schools prey on the poor and uneducated. They charge the students five times what a legitimate college would charge and the students receive a shabby education and often the credits they earn do not transfer to real colleges or universities. Many of these students could go to a local community college for a fraction of the cost.

16. eudaimon - August 05, 2010 at 01:13 pm

I agree with many of the comments, but would add that there are some schools that are technically not for profit but which operate on a similar business model. They may not have shareholders, but they are run as a business for the sake of management (who get high salaries). They may, for example, have a distance learning Ph.D., which does not require taking classes, has extremely low standards, committees of largely adjuncts, etc. There are not a lot of these, but they do exist, and seem to have fallen through the cracks. Interestingly, they are often accredited by the same agencies currently under scrutiny.

17. jack_cade - August 05, 2010 at 01:20 pm

To obtuse person who willfully to miss the point: Fact public funding for state institutions have been cut by as much as 90% in some places and all public schools have experienced massive reductions in public funds.

18. der_gadfly - August 05, 2010 at 01:31 pm

@gent258:

Noone is arguing that some institutions should be closed down. Think of the high tuition in the same context of a newbie driver getting insurance: They are inexperienced and have to pay higher rates. Underprepared or otherwise disadvantaged students are higher risk (graduation, default rates etc). They require more help. This means that the institution must devote more time and energy and resources, all of which have a higher cost.

Many of the students at my current proprietary have attended a CC before, and felt lost in a sea of uncaring, unavailable personnel, did not get the more personalized attention they need, and for them, the for-profit arean is their only chance. By closing them all down simply to get rid of the bad apples essentially dooms this group of disenfranchised persons to become further disenfranchised and never reach their potential.

19. matthewsm - August 05, 2010 at 01:44 pm

The entire accreditation process is low-hanging fruit for would-be confidence men (and women). This is what happens when accreditation organizations rely on "outcomes" rather than processes or inputs. Any fool with a pen can fabricate excellence at any IHE, if s/he has the tacit support of the administration.

The system of accreditation itself needs to be revised. Not only for for-profit colleges, but non-profits as well. Accreditation auditors should be more skeptical, rather than assuming the institution's representatives are acting in good faith. I shrink from using the word "adversarial" to describe a truly rigorous accreditation audit process. But, there should be more investigations into how the institution demonstrates its qualities rather than taking its retention and graduation rates at face value.

Question for fellow posters: Does SACS or other accrediting bodies use experienced statisticians to evaluate the methodology that IHEs use to produce their statistics? How many documented cases are there of "statistical fraud"?

I think higher education needs its own Harry Markopoulos.

20. drcalle - August 05, 2010 at 02:31 pm

Comment

21. tgroleau - August 05, 2010 at 05:13 pm

I don't want to sound too much like an extreme Libertarian here but many of these problems would go away if the federal government got completely out of financial aid. Without federal price support, we might also find that higher ed inflation slows considerably.

22. cwinton - August 05, 2010 at 05:39 pm

In another post regarding possibly using the McDonald's model as an approach for higher education, I commented that restaurants receive sanitation ratings, higher educational institutions accreditation. A grade A sanitation rating usually means you won't get poisoned by your meal, not that it will be a fine dining experience. Similarly accreditation does not mean the institution will deliver a worthwhile educational experience. We are all quite aware of institutions for which we scratch our heads in wonder that they are in some sense accredited.

We are simply putting too much stock in using accreditation as a basis for whether or not an institution qualifies for access to the student loan program. That's not what accreditation was designed for, as a number of other commenters have pointed out.
If the federal government is going to continue to provide student loans, it needs to establish its own mechanism for determining whether or not an institution should be participating in the program or not.

A well known statistic is that the percentage of tax funds allocated for higher education and prisons is pretty much a constant - guess how the split between the two has shifted over the past number of years? To those so eager to bash state supported institutions for rising tuition, the tuition increases are a direct result of dramatic slashes in per student funding, which in turn has placed a greater burden on students, and which in turn led to needing a student loan program in the first place. The lack on controls on the program has resulted in many questionable institutions, with obviously questionable recruiting practices, feeding at the trough. Ultimately, we will all pay, both in taxes to cover loan defaults, and in the cheapening of the meaning of a college degree. Unfortunately, there are those with a strong vested interest in how the loan program is currently run, who are lobbying for all they are worth to weaken any attempts at improved regulation. Let's hope sanity will prevail and steps taken to run these shysters out of business.

23. davh7278 - August 05, 2010 at 07:23 pm

That's why they call them FOR-PROFITS. It's all about the $$$$ going to their bottom line and forget about anything or anybody else.

24. d_and_der - August 05, 2010 at 08:03 pm

@Jack: I have to agree with you.
What I miss in this discussion, however, is talk about parental/self responsibility.
Problems:
1) it is the parent's responsibility to prepare for the cost of the child's education from birth
2) why would anyone get a college loan for $400,000 when it may take them 30 plus years to pay it off assuming they intend to honor their debts.
3) universities should expect a backlash from college recruiters who recognize that the graduates are (sorry) just plain stupid.

Solutions:
1) start closing down as many universities/colleges as possible (for profit or not) they spring up everywhere like 7/eleven stores.
2) focus on admitting qualified students. a person can make good money in fields which do not require a college degree.
3) go back to having classes with 200-300 students

25. trendisnotdestiny - August 06, 2010 at 09:04 am

@ All Posting

Self-responsibility or kick-in-the pants rhetoric is fine if supports are in place, the environment for critical thought rewarded curiosity over production and mentoring processes in highed education were not based on competitiveness and outcomes.

It always amazes me how quickly we advocate for a product that is expensive (the average undergraduate student loan debt at my institution), implemented by surrogates, branded by athletic term performances and is increasingly looking to find new revenue streams from an already indentured group of young adults who either are launched or being artificially supported by parents (parking tickets and stickers, marticulation fees, tuition hikes, dorm outsourcing, technology fees, pass through costs for energy etc.)

It would be an utter relevation to have a CHE writer or poster begin a discussion on about the merits of for-profit institutions in general. Aren't there just some industries that should be aligned with service instead of profit as the bottom line? Industries like healthcare, education and childcare? Some outcomes that are more important to the whole of society than a bottomline approach? Some outcomes that do not have embedded massive debt and poverty, humiliating have & havenot consequences, and systemic indifference towards malnutrition and environmental factors influencing health. Somethings are too important to be left up to CEO's and for-profit companies.

Most discussion other than this related to for-profit industries in social services is an inculcated fill-gap of market instrusion, an amalgam of personal experiences, posturing & positioning, and a deer-in-the-headlights solication of fear. We are better than this as individuals, communities and educators. We have to admit we serve a different master and have been doing so for longer than anyone cares to admit.

26. der_gadfly - August 06, 2010 at 10:27 am

@d_and_der

Very good idea. Let's go back to a culture of elitism. Now all we have to do is go back to the competeition model instead of the way we tell our children "You are SOOOO special! YOU are a winner!" Your idea devloves us to a society when the elite remain elite, and the marginalized remain marginalized.

I favor the large class sizes as well. This will help cut costs. Too bad that our little darlings have been exposed to k-12 education featuring a master teacher, a classroom aide, and a parent aide, all through their programs, ostensibly to provide more personalized learning experiences. Pull the plug on that right now, save homeowners from the high taxes they pay to support this model.

Now, since we have been 'more selective' in collegiate admissions, we ned to provide jobs or other opportunities for the newly created 'unsuitable for college' caste.

One must look back at the baby boom for inspiration and understanding of how we arrived here: too many HS grads, no jobs... solution? More colleges! This keeps them off the streets for 4 or 5 years while the economy recovers.

27. busyslinky - August 06, 2010 at 02:46 pm

Accreditors need to get their act together. But, from what I remember, accreditors and auditors are include administrators from other schools. Sometimes they don't want to rock the boat because their schools might get the same treatment.

Yes, there is something wrong with accreditation and that it doe not have much teeth. They need to light a fire under accreditation agencies.

One of my biggest concerns is how faculty are treated at many schools. We all hear the cry from adjuncts and tenure track faculty about how the working conditions have deteriorated or have never been good for them in the first place.

A major (if not the major) group or agency that can change how Universities (for-profit or non-profit) change is through accreditation. If there is a problem, probation is not enough. For example, losing accreditation for universities with 98% part-time faculty should be immediate.

Of course, administrators don't want to change this because they can get more money for the administrative staff.

28. loweredexpectations - August 07, 2010 at 01:15 pm

@eudaimon

I agree with you; it's increasingly difficult to tell the difference between not-for-profit and for-profit institutions, except those that are publicly traded. I teach for a for-profit School within a not-for-profit institution; we've been told we are to be run "like a business." Our students' tuition dollars help subsidize the education of students in the other schools that are not "run like a business." But even without such egregious games regarding not-for profits/for profits, fewer and fewer tuition dollars go to instruction and student-based resources; more and more go to administrative salaries and palatial buildings, things that are usually only mariginally related to a student's educational experience. Maybe that's not so bad, but we should be honest about it. How many of those paying tuition--parents, students themselves, even the federal government--know where the dollars are REALLY going?

29. msghighered - August 08, 2010 at 11:51 am

I agree there are abuses at for-profits. But does anyone really believe this doesn't happen at community colleges and traditional colleges and universities? If they are going to do a probe it should be across all sectors of higher education. The major problem with many proprietary career schools is lack of regional accreditation. If they want to fight this they should improve their schools and apply for regional accreditation so that college credits can be transferred. Better highering and better leaders of these schools is the answer - not more government legislation. These schools should do a better job at self-regulation like other professions do such as attorneys, doctors and other professionals.

30. msghighered - August 08, 2010 at 12:02 pm

All colleges and universities survive on enrollement. Who do you think provides those big endowments? Former graduates! People are foolish to think this only goes on at for-profits. It does go on but not at everyone. I can't stand this snobbish attitude that no wrong doing would ever occur at Standford, Harvard, Princeton, MIT, etc.... I suggest everyon read the book for Stanford University Economist Thomas Sowell - "Economic Facts and Fallacies." Chapter 4 is VERY enlightening on the fraud going on at elite schools and others. For profits have opened up education opportunties for millions of students. Just like people, not all are good. There are some bad apples. But if you are going to take the perspective of an elitest, you are missing the real story.

The best solution for for-profits is to better themselves and seek regional accreditation. They need better standards for highering faculty, deans and campus presidents (some who only have a bachelor's degree - what a shame!) They need to be willing to share the profits more with qualified PhD seeking or accomplished PhD professors and academic administrators who can set up clear objectives and stratagies to achieve regional accreditation. The shame is that many of the colleges buy other colleges, usually small private accredited colleges that are doing poorly to get accreditation. This should not be severely restricted.

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