Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The Slow-Motion Collapse of America’s Largest University

[While most of my higher education analysis has been statistical in nature, it’s important to look at qualitative and historical aspects of higher education. The collapse of University of Phoenix is one of those important stories.]

From 1976 to the early 2000s, the University of Phoenix established itself as a leader in educational innovation for working adults.

Hundreds of the school’s campuses and learning sites dotted the American landscape, conveniently located near interstate off ramps. Phoenix turned hotel meeting rooms and retail spaces into learning centers for busy strivers. For those who could not attend those schools, University of Phoenix created an online presence that was unsurpassed, with small class sizes and working professionals with real world experience as instructors. 

Phoenix’s founder John Sperling was considered a genius for bringing education to adult professionals and other nontraditional students. A former university professor and self-described enemy of the academic elite, Sperling became friends with the political and business elite. Higher education’s billionaire was a notable friend of California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi--and he appeared on Oprah.

Like the prosperity preachers who filled American television, Sperling offered the keys to success to anyone who would listen. Instead of Jesus, though, he was selling higher education.

In 2007, the limitations of online education, the adjunctification of labor, and the University of Phoenix became more evident in a New York Times article that revealed the school’s subprime graduation rate.

Rather than improving educational quality, Phoenix and its parent company, Apollo Group, became all about the numbers. At the highest level, Apollo was shooting for a half million students, which sounded laudable. Apollo Group branched out into associate degrees, and it reached out to students outside North America.

But the truth is that the company had to cut corners to meet these numbers.

In a scheme called “The Matrix”, enrollment representatives were rewarded for meeting enrollment numbers. And with that, enrollment representatives would do almost anything to get asses in classes.  Apollo Group’s CEO Todd Nelson took the school to its highest numbers. But these numbers would come at a cost. The school faced enormous pressure from federal and state agencies.

The 2010 Harkin Commission and Aaron Glantz’s investigations with the Center for Investigative Reporting a few years later showed Phoenix to be a school that would use any means necessary to make a profit. Phoenix became a joke in popular culture, skewered by comedians John Stewart and John Oliver.

[In recent years, University of Phoenix's Wikipedia page looked more like a criminal rap sheet than an institution of higher education.]

With the doubling of class sizes, that motivation has been stripped away. I can barely keep up with the minimal requirements of my job, to say nothing of the additional effort I used to put in. There is no time for extras; the students are a blur. I find myself hoping they drop out and doing little to nothing to keep them in class, because each drop equals a bit of relief for me.--University of Phoenix instructor, 2018
In 2016, Apollo Education Group was taken over by Apollo Global Management, a corporate behemoth  known to buy failing companies and stripping them of assets, and then selling them at a profit. Along with the sale, friends of President Obama--Tony Miller and Marty Nesbitt--were brought in to make the deal seem to be an act of educational reform. 

[Image below: Apollo Education still has more than two dozen lobbyists in DC, but the money to Washington may be dwindling. Source: Open Secrets]

In 2018, the school’s marketing strategy has been to look backward, at the deceased founder John Sperling, and the adult night classrooms that are all but gone.  

In a Trumpian world where history doesn't matter, the University of Phoenix is an unexamined relic of the 20th century.  Enrollment is down an estimated 80 percent from its peak and more than 450 campuses and learning sites have closed.  At least half of the campuses that have remained open are no longer taking new students, suggesting that they will close in the next 18 months. 

Friday, August 10, 2018

Purdue University and Its Subprime College Cousin Committing Fraud

Purdue University Global is not Purdue University. It's far from it. In fact, Purdue University Global is actually the former Kaplan University, a once declining for-profit college with a subprime history.
Purdue Global, the real Purdue's subprime cousin, is an open enrollment institution with more than 30,000 working class students. In 2016, then known Kaplan University included more than 6,000 military service members and 5,800 military veterans. The school today still heavily targets them.

[Purdue University Global is targeting service members and veterans through Army Times, Navy Times, and Marine Times, using practices that may violate DOD rules.]

The faculty, comprised mostly of poorly paid adjuncts, may be good, but not great. There are a handful of small campuses, from South Portland, Maine to Omaha, Nebraska. But most of Global's students are working exclusively online, which enables the school to keep costs down.

Purdue University Global's graduation rate and student loan debt numbers are all subprime. The newly rebranded enterprise has a 23-39% graduation rate, a 25% student loan repayment rate, and a 5-year student loan default rate of 53%. But you won't find the information if you type in "Purdue University Global."
As of August 8th, the College Navigator and College Scorecard have no consumer information for Purdue University Global. Instead, you have to search for Kaplan University, its former name.
According to the College Scorecard, the median income for those who have attended Kaplan University/Purdue Global is $33,500 a year --far from the $55,000 that Purdue University students make after attending, and not enough to pay off student loans.
Purdue Global's Concord Law School has a California Bar pass rate of 16-27%.
The school's subprime status hasn't stopped Purdue University Global from using its Big 10 cousin's history and prestige and fraudulently offering a "world-class education" to unwitting customers.

This bait and switch ploy is not happening without the consent of the older, wealthier cousin, Purdue University. Purdue University now owns the school once known as Kaplan University.

[Image below: The lush Purdue University campus in West Lafayette, Indiana is used to sell Purdue University Global. But credits from Global may not transfer from the subprime college to the Big 10 school.]

[Below: Purdue University President Mitch Daniels is also a Senior Administrator at Purdue University Global.]

[Image below: Purdue University Global uses a predatory lead generator, QuinStreet, to find unwitting consumers.]
[Image below: Purdue University Global online enrollment representatives use the prestige of Purdue University to peddle the school.]

False and misleading information like this will not put Purdue University Global on the map. Consumers will eventually see through the deception. But it will make Purdue University, the real Purdue University, the target for government fraud investigations.