Sunday, September 11, 2022

State Universities and the College Meltdown

State Universities are using Google Ads to boost enrollment numbers.

While for-profit colleges, community colleges, and small private schools received the most attention in the first iteration of the College Meltdown, regional public universities (and a few flagship schools) have also experienced financial challenges, reorganizations, and mergers, enrollment losses, layoffs and resignations, off-campus learning site closings and campus dorm closings, lower graduation rates, and the necessity to lower admissions standards. They are not facing these downturns, though, without a fight. 

State universities, for example, are attempting to maintain or boost their enrollment through marketing and advertising--sometimes with the assistance of helpful, yet sometimes questionable online program managers (OPMs) like 2U and Academic Partnerships and lead generators such as EducationDynamics.  

 

Academic Partnerships claims to serve 50 university clients.  HEI has identified 25 of them. 

Google ads also follow consumers across the Web, with links to enrollment pages.  And enrollment pages include cookies to learn about those who click onto the enrollment pages. Schools share the information that consumers provide with Google Analytics and Chartbeat.  

                                       A pop-up Google Ad for Penn State World Campus

Advanced marketing will not improve institutional quality directly but it may raise awareness of these state schools to targeted audiences.  Whether this becomes predatory may be an issue worth examining.

Despite marketing and enrollment appeals like this, we believe the financial situation could worsen at non-flagship state universities when austerity is reemployed--something likely to happen during the next economic downturn

While state flagship universities have multiple revenue streams, they are often unaffordable for working families.  Elite state universities, also known as the Public Ivies, have increasingly shut out state residents--in favor of people from out of state and outside the US--who are willing to pay more in tuition. 

Aaron Klein at the Brookings Institution calls this significant (and dysfunctional) out-of-state enrollment pattern as The Great Student Swap.  

State Universities with more than 4000 foreign students include UC San Diego, University of Illinois, UC Irvine, University of Washington, Arizona State University, Purdue University, Ohio State University, Michigan State University, and UC Berkeley. 

People fortunate enough to attend large state universities as undergrads may feel alienated by large and impersonal classrooms led by graduate assistants and other adjuncts.  There are also significant and often under-addressed social problems related to larger universities, including hunger, substance abuse, sexually transmitted diseases, hazing and sexual assault.  

Online only versions of flagship schools may not be of the same quality as their brick and mortar counterparts. Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global Campus, for example, are open enrollment schools for working adults which produce questionable student outcomes.  These "robocollege" schools hire few full-time instructors and often spend a great deal of their resources on marketing and advertising.  


EducationDynamics is a lead generator for "robocolleges" such as Purdue University Global and University of Arizona, Global Campus.  

 

                    Purdue University Global has used questionable marketing and advertising.

The Higher Education Inquirer has already noticed the following schools in the Summer and Fall 2022 that received media scrutiny for lower enrollment, financial problems, or labor issues:

 
 
 
 
 

More schools will be added as information comes in. 
 
Related link: College Meltdown 2.0 



Tuesday, August 30, 2022

US Department of Education Projects Increasing Higher Ed Enrollment From 2024-2030. Really? (Dahn Shaulis and Glen McGhee)

The US Department of Education (ED) continues to paint rosy projections about higher education enrollment despite harsh economic and demographic realities--and increasing skepticism about the value of college degrees.  

Image from Digest of Education Statistics (2022) 

Since 2011, higher education enrollment has declined every year--a more than decade long trend. The Covid pandemic of 2020 to 2022 made matters worse with domestic and foreign enrollment-- (temporarily) ameliorated by government bailouts and untested online education.  Foreign enrollment continues to languish. And the enrollment cliff of 2026, a ripple effect of the 2008 Great Recession, is now just around the corner. 

ED is projecting enrollment losses in 2022 and 2023, but why is it projecting enrollment gains from 2024 to 2030?  Apparently, one of the problems is with old and faulty Census projections made during the Trump era that were not corrected.

Based on these Census numbers and other factors, the Department of Education's National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) projects increases in high school graduation numbers.  The Western Interstate Commission for Higher (WICHE), in contrast, projects declines in high school graduates starting about 2025. (see graph below). 



For ED, relying on overly optimistic projections for high school graduates creates a statistical train wreck that's made even worse by what's not in their formula.  

Popular opinion about college has been declining for years, and there is no indication that attitudes will improve.  A growing number of younger folks have joined the "educated underclass," becoming disaffected by underemployment and oppressive student loan debt.  While progressive policies could change attitudes, deep skepticism about the value of education is an important statistical wildcard.

This is not the first time that the Higher Education Inquirer has questioned overly optimistic US Department of Education projections. While NCES has updated projections from time to time, it seems to have relied too much on the past and been too slow to change.  

Related link:  Millennials are the first generation to prove a college degree may not be worth it, and Gen Z may be next (Chloe Berger, Forbes/Yahoo Finance)

Related link: America’s Colleges & Universities Awarded $12.5 Billion In Coronavirus Bailout – Who Can Get It And How Much (Adam Andrzejewski, Forbes)

Related link: Online Postsecondary Education and Labor Productivity (Caroline Hoxby)

Related link: U.S. Universities Face Headwinds In Recruiting International Students (Michael T. Nietzel, Forbes)

Related link: Demographics and the Demand for Higher Education (Nathan Grawe)

Related link Why U.S. Population Growth Is Collapsing (Derek Thompson, The Atlantic)

Related link: Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2021 (Federal Reserve)

Related link: Many US States Have Seen Enrollment Drops of More Than 20 Percent (Glen McGhee and Dahn Shaulis) 

Related link: Community Colleges at the Heart of the College Meltdown

Related link: Projections of Education Statistics to 2028 (NCES)

Related link: US Department of Education Fails to Recognize College Meltdown (2017)

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Rebuilding the Purpose of the GI Bill (Garrett Fitzgerald*)

[This article is part of the Transparency-Accountability-Value series.]

The landscape of military-connected students in higher education has been filled with turmoil for the last two decades. The G.I. Bill, a well-earned and financially substantial benefit for student veterans since 1944, has been a lightning rod for this turmoil. With the more recent release of the Post-9/11 G.I. Bill, the benefits have become even more lucrative for the student and therefore, the universities receiving those dollars. 

From 2009 to 2020, approximately $60 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill tuition has been paid out to colleges and universities. In light of this cash windfall predatory companies and institutions took advantage. It has caused irreparable harm to hundreds of thousands of military-connected students. 

One of the original concepts behind the Montgomery G.I. Bill was to supercharge the country’s economic rebuild after World War II. With college paid for, the country could spread the introduction of millions of veterans into the workforce over a period of time rather than all at once. It also provided, in an unprecedented fashion, a pipeline of trained, skilled and educated candidates for the workforce. It worked. The country saw strong economic growth during this period and one of the primary reasons for this was that student veterans - and their financial benefits - were being put to good use at quality institutions of higher learning.

Fast forward to today, we see veteran graduation rates declining and employment statistics headed in the wrong direction. Coincidentally, a trend we’re also seeing, in parallel, is the immense amount of money paid each year to subprime predatory colleges and universities. These institutions have lost sight of their purpose (education) and are investing millions of dollars into military recruitment for a cut of the financial benefits. 

To better showcase this imbalance, in 2017 seven of the top 10 colleges receiving the most G.I. Bill benefits, spent less than one-third of tuition and fees on “academic instruction” (Veterans Education Success). These colleges, coincidentally, are producing far below average graduation and employment statistics - wonder why? They are more focused on military recruitment than what to do with these students once they enroll.

One might ask themself, “how do these bad colleges manage to enroll so many military-connected students?” The answer is that they advertise their programs with substantially more investment than others. Colleges with limited budgets or those looking to enter the military market for the first time, are unable to compete on most lead gen sites and some are even outpriced on sites like Google and Facebook. 

The question is what do we do about this crippling issue? Predatory colleges won’t change their ways with the lack of government-backed punishment handed down over the years so the solution has to come from elsewhere. CollegeRecon sees the solution in the way military-connected students research and discover university options. 

There has been a need for change in the way military-connected students learn about their education benefits, research degree program pathways and select institutions to enroll in for decades. The VA doesn’t do nearly enough, transition programs are often not effective and selecting colleges based on location or misleading marketing messages is what got us here in the first place.

Over the last 6+ years, CollegeRecon has been building a new standard for the way military-connected students discover and engage with colleges and universities, and vice-versa.

The platform is free for the military and veteran community. It provides impartial and easily digestible information on all the benefits programs available to each individual based on their own military experience and status. It also dives into degree program opportunities, earning credit for service, recommended questions to ask admissions reps, discounts available to military-connected students, etc. 

What sets CollegeRecon apart from other online resources is the set of free tools we’ve created to assist men and women with refining school searches, connecting with campus administrators and gaining access to military-affiliated scholarships to offset any out-of-pocket expenses. CollegeRecon has nearly 3,000 active college profiles with information on degrees offered, tuition costs, military support programs, campus facts, etc. If a match is made and the individual is interested in learning more about the institution, he or she can “request info” from a designated point of contact on campus who can help answer questions. An important key to our platform’s success is that members can connect with any college in our network, not just partners. 

CollegeRecon is NOT a traditional lead generator where users register an account and have their information sold to 10 semi-matched schools. CollegeRecon members are in complete control of who they request information from and they can even choose to communicate with a school outside of the CollegeRecon environment; we provide links and contact information for all school websites listed in the tool.  

For universities, CollegeRecon offers a safe and effective environment to promote their brand and create opportunities for engagement with a targeted audience of college-seeking, military-connected students. With this platform, colleges can get their brand in front of the largest online community of military-connected men and women actively seeking opportunities in higher education.  

CollegeRecon aligns with schools to be a transparent, targeted and trusted partner and to provide an even playing field for different types of colleges. CollegeRecon currently works with colleges and universities across the country; including four-year private and public, 2-year colleges, as well as online and campus learning institutions.  

Our goal has never been to create high volume, low quality leads. The purpose of the platform is to create awareness for colleges in a brand-safe way while offering a non-predatory environment for prospective students looking to utilize the G.I. Bill or Tuition Assistance.  

As we continue to build out the platform’s capabilities and reach within the military and higher ed community, our focus remains set on rebuilding the purpose of the G.I. Bil. That purpose, in our view, is to ensure those who served in uniform are rewarded with a genuine education that leads to career fulfillment and economic prosperity.

Related Link:  Report: Veterans Who Use GI Bill Have Lower Incomes After College Enrollments (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related link:  8 tips to help vets pick the right college (Military Times)

*Garrett Fitzgerald is the CEO and Founder of Homefront Alliance, the parent company of College Recon.  "GI Bill" is a registered trademark.  

Garrett FitzGerald-3.jpg

Wednesday, August 3, 2022

Visual Documentation of the College Meltdown Needed

 

                                       
The Higher Education Inquirer is looking for images to document the College Meltdown which began in 2010.  

The US Department of Higher Education posts hundreds of campus closings each year.  Images of these closed schools can be used to document an important part of US higher education history.

Closed campuses vary in size, from high school classrooms, hotel conference rooms, and store fronts, to satellite and branch campuses, to small private colleges, and larger career colleges. Some schools have been repurposed, others demolished, and others remain in disrepair--as ruins--and relics of a more humane (or at least more human) past. 

                        
Over the last two decades, the University of Phoenix alone closed more than 500 campuses, many which were conveniently located near US interstate highways.  In 2025, UoPX will have just one campus, located in Phoenix, Arizona. 

In 2015, Corinthian Colleges and Le Cordon Bleu went out of business.  A year later ITT Tech closed all of its doors. The Art Institutes also closed dozens of campuses. In 2018, Virginia College campuses closed, and Kaplan Higher Education sold its remaining properties to Purdue University. Today, only a few Purdue University Global campuses remain.  DeVry University has closed many locations, but several ghost campuses, those with few if any students, remain. Ashford University became a fully online University of Arizona Global

In just a few decades, under the guise of creative disruption, brick and mortar colleges with skilled professors and staff have been replaced by large online robocolleges that hire few if any instructors and offer fewer student services, such as mental health counseling.  And community branch campuses have been replaced by online program managers (OPMs) that advertise, recruit, and even write curriculum for regional public universities and elite private colleges, often without the knowledge of the students/consumers.  

The US Department of Education's PEPS Closed School Monthly Report has been largely ignored by the media.  But as a historical document, the list is telling.  Since 1986, approximately 18,000 campus closings have been reported. The peak year for closings was 2016, when more than 1100 schools were reported as closed.  

 


 [Bay State College in Boston, Massachusetts, which has partially closed. BSC is owned by Ambow Education., which is in deep financial trouble]


How University of Phoenix Failed. It's a Long Story. But It's Important for the Future of Higher Education. 

Abandoned Long Island College Sits in Disrepair, And Community Says It's A Danger (Greg Cergol, NBC New York)

The Growth of "RoboColleges" and "Robostudents" 

 PEPS Closed School Monthly Report

 


Monday, July 11, 2022

Colleges Are Outsourcing Their Teaching Mission to For-Profit Companies. Is That A Good Thing? (Richard Fossey*)

[This article is part of the Transparency-Accountability-Value series.]

Years ago, colleges employed people to perform auxiliary services. University employees staffed the campus bookstore, ran the student union, and performed janitorial services.

Over time, however, universities began outsourcing almost all of their auxiliary services. Barnes & Noble now runs hundreds of college bookstores. National fast-food chains operate stores in countless student unions.

Recently, however, American colleges have gone beyond outsourcing their non-instructional activities. Now, the universities are outsourcing their core mission: teaching students.

According to the Government Accountability Office (as reported in the Wall Street Journal), 550 colleges and universities are partnering with for-profit companies to design courses, recruit students, and manage instruction.

Academic Partnerships, one of the leading for-profit outfits, contracts with universities all over the United States to manage graduate programs--for a hefty fee, of course. Higher Education Inquirer estimates that AP collects about half the revenue from the courses and programs they manage.

2U, another for-profit online instruction provider, has a contract for services with the University of Oregon and gets 80 percent of the tuition for 2U-managed courses. That's a good deal for 2U's stockholders.

What the hell is going on?

As the Wall Street Journal explained, colleges are losing revenue due to declining enrollments. They aren't raising enough money to pay all their administrators and bureaucrats. Thus, hundreds of schools are investing heavily in online academic programs--especially graduate programs--to juice their revenues.

Respected public universities like the University of North Carolina and the University of Oregon have turned to for-profit companies to design or revamp various graduate programs, recruit students, and oversee instruction.

Why don't the professors do those things?

I don't know. Perhaps the faculty don't have the skills necessary to recruit students, manage enrollment, or design academic programs for an online format. Or maybe doing these things is just too fuckin' hard.

I have a professor friend whose dean ordered him to design and teach an online course for a master's degree program managed by Academic Partnerships. He was told the class would be conducted online over five weeks.

My friend was a good soldier and taught the course as directed. He had over 600 online students! When the class was completed, my friend told the dean he would never teach an online course that way again, even if it meant being fired.

As the Wall Street Journal pointed out, students are often unaware that they are taking a course managed by a profit-driven company, not the university.

For example, the University of Texas at Arlington has a big-time financial relationship with Academic Partnerships, which manages graduate programs in nursing, education, business, and public health. Nevertheless, UTA's promotional materials do not disclose that Academic Partnerships manages these online graduate programs.

Students all over the United States are taking out loans to pay tuition bills at public universities in the naive belief that these schools are non-profit entities dedicated solely to the public good.

Most of these students would be surprised to learn that a profit-making company is sucking up a good share of their tuition dollars to enrich their executives and investors.

My take on this? If a public university is so goddamn lazy or incompetent that it has to pay a private company to manage its academic programs, then that university should be closed. 

My Photo

Richard Fossey


*This article originally appeared in Richard Fossey's Condemned to Debt Blog. The blog's URL is https://www.condemnedtodebt.org/

 

 

Saturday, June 25, 2022

HEI Investigation: Academic Partnerships

In 2022, Online Program Managers (OPMs) are being scrutinized like their predecessors, for-profit colleges, in the early 2000s.  2U, one of the leaders in the industry, has been particularly singled out as a predatory company, working with elite schools like the University of Southern California, and selling their overpriced master's degrees.  

Before that, Kaplan Higher Education and Kaplan Higher Education gained attention for selling off their for-profit schools but maintaining the management services for Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global.  

In this media attention on OPMs, a few companies have been able to avoid much scrutiny, with Academic Partnerships flying below the national media radar for years.  

Academic Partnerships (AP) is a mature online program manager that claims to serve more than 50 universities, most regional state universities.  The Higher Education Inquirer could only find about half that number. AP also claims to "help universities grow"--without providing much evidence.  In some cases, these lesser brand schools have been facing decreasing enrollment and revenues-- and it's not apparent how much AP can help them in the long run.  

What we do know is that the OPM receives about half of all the revenues for their work, which includes cheaper privatized marketing, advertising--and recruitment services from enrollment specialists spread across the US. 

AP's sales pitch is that they can transform their partner universities and help provide reasonably priced degrees in lucrative career fields (such as RN to BSN programs), but is this happening with all the online degree programs offered? And would some consumers be better off choosing a local community college? 


AP's partner universities include: 

Arkansas State University
Avila University
Boise State University
Carleton University
Eastern Michigan University
Eastern Washington University
Emporia State University
Florida International University
Louisiana State University Shreveport
Norfolk State University
Northern Kentucky University
Pittsburg State University
Radford University
St. Cloud State University
Southern Illinois University
Southern Oregon University
Southeastern Oklahoma State University
Texas A&M (International University)
University of Illinois Springfield
University of Maine at Presque Isle
University of North Carolina Pembroke
University of Texas at Arlington
University of West Florida
William Paterson University
Youngstown State University

If you teach or study online at one of these AP university partners, what have you observed?  

  • Do instructors maintain the rights to the content they have created?  
  • What are the online classes like compared to face-to-face courses?  
  • What are graduation rates for these online students compared to on campus students?
  • How much debt do former online students have compared to on campus students?  
  • What kind of jobs are former online students getting compared to on campus students? 
  • Are former online students able to pay off these debts?  

 

Related link: "The Private Side of Public Universities: Third-party providers and platform capitalism"

Related link: HEI Investigation: EducationDynamics

Related link: 2U Virus Expands College Meltdown to Elite Universities

Related link: Purdue University and Its Subprime College Cousin Committing Fraud 

Related link: Online Program Manager for University of Arizona Global Campus Facing Financial Collapse 

 

 

Saturday, June 4, 2022

How campuses engage with the climate crisis: a taxonomy (Bryan Alexander*)

[This article is part of the Transparency-Accountability-Value series.]

How might colleges and universities grapple with the climate crisis?

This question is the subject of much of my work now, as you can see from these posts. Researching answers can lead in a wide range of directions, not to mention down some twisty rabbit holes. Today I’d like to avoid those depths and instead look at a very macro, very ten-thousand-foot level. Let’s explore a schematic analysis looking at campuses as institutions and communities, facing perhaps the greatest crisis of the century.

(I draw the following from my forthcoming book on the topic, Universities on Fire.)

To start, let’s break down the different ways by which the climate emergency can hit academic institutions. There’s the direct, environmental way, as storms strike, desertification and aridification expand, fire rage, heat rises, and waters surge through a campus. We can call this the primary impact vector.


Other campus impacts result from the ones crashing through the primary vector. Think of how temperature rises, the intrusion of salt into fresh water, and the arrival of new diseases can sabotage agriculture, which then leads to human misery and economic dislocation. This can reshape the area around some campuses, not to mention challenging a university’s ag programs. It can also injure campuses which enjoy appealing physical grounds in terms of mental health and outreach. Additionally, these ecological shocks can also strike academics directly, through newly arrived diseases. Increased storms can injure a local economy by damaging infrastructure, products, and workers, which can in turn blow back on a local college or university. Let’s place all of these knock-on effects under the header of a secondary impact vector.

Humanity responds to pressures exerted through the primary and secondary vectors, and these responses engage the academy. For example, natural disasters can prompt migration; the tendency of some regions to become uninhabitable will drive even more people to seek new abodes. Economic dislocation (a secondary impact vector) can breed social problems as well as feed extremist politics. Further, as humanity revises its energy production basis to get away from carbon dioxide, all kinds of ripples can work through society, from changes to economics, human spaces, and gender roles. If we extend our response to the crisis to include rethinking society and politics (viz anticapitalism, donut economics, decolonization, etc.), campuses feel the results as they are embedded within society and politics. I think of all of these organized together as the third climate crisis impact vector.

Given this triple threat, how can campuses react? As institutions, as individual people affiliated with schools, as groups within a college or university, academics have a broad range of strategies and responses available. Following the tripartite model above, we can similarly break down the scope or domain of academic action. Seen through our macro lens, academia can act on three levels, starting with the smallest events and actions taking place on campus: The physical campus. From renovating buildings to hosting renewable power generation, turning lawns to forests or gardens, banning carbon-burning vehicles, changing food service, and embracing green computing, academics have institutional grounds and materials as a major ground of action.

The campus in its community. Colleges and universities partner with local businesses, nonprofits, government agencies, and civil society for a range of purposes. The local community can also pressure a campus in many ways, from subjecting it to policies to protests. “Local” can scale up to municipal or other subnational governance, too. In short, there’s potential for productive work as well as friction. In America we call this “town-gown relations.”

Academia on the world stage. Already higher education contributes powerfully to humanity’s climate crisis actions by producing vital research. Individual academics can act as public intellectuals, translating their research for general consumption and influence. The reverse is also true as nation-states and transnational entities implement policies or generate other influences on the academic world. Further, some within the academy – faculty, staff, students – will seek to organize for climate mitigation and adaptation efforts. Indeed, some call on us now to imagine a new, post-carbon civilization; colleges and universities are fertile grounds for such creative work.

(I’ve also been thinking about the various arguments I’ve heard about why campus populations should not seek to change their institution during the climate crisis. Let me set those aside for now, perhaps for a future post just on the topic. That’s a different response category.)

To be fair, we can easily think of responses which cross between these boundaries, such as working with a religious group with a powerful local presence as well as a significant global one. Further, there’s not a hard and fast line between town-gown and academic in the world. I tend these artificial categories to be heuristics, a very rough sketch of possibilities.

How do these two sets of three interact? Let’s play them against each other to produce that beloved tool of futurists, a grid (click on grid for a clearer image):





To explicate this scheme further, I can offer some real world and hypothetical examples for each cell on this grid.

Primary or direct impact: on campus, elevating buildings to allow flood water to pass underneath. In community: students and faculty partnering to construct and maintain a large seawall. In the world: professors publishing research modeling the impact of an Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC) slowdown.

Secondary impact: on campus, revising sociology curricula to focus on climate-driven social changes. In community: increasing partnerships with local medical care providers and public health authorities to address climate-caused health problems. In the world: students, faculty, and staff lobby national governments to adopt a no-growth economy.

Tertiary or socio-political impact: on campus, setting up an institute for Post-Carbon Society. In community: offering housing and teaching for climate refugees. In the world: scholars advocating in public to block geoengineering.

Let’s stick these into the grid:

Click on grid for a clearer image.

I think that shows the breadth of ways colleges and universities could engage with the climate emergency, both proactively and reactively. It might be useful to give academics a sense of the options they have, and a pointer towards the multi-pronged nature of the threat.

I hope it’s useful to some of you. What do you think of this template as a heuristic?

*Bryan Alexander is an awardwinning, internationally known futurist, researcher, writer, speaker, consultant, and teacher, working in the field of higher education’s future. He is currently a senior scholar at Georgetown University. Bryan's next book is Universities on Fire, to be published by Johns Hopkins University Press. This article was originally published at BryanAlexander.org.