Thursday, October 15, 2020

The College Dream is Over (Gary Roth*)

For the last decade already, access to a college education has been shrinking. This is unprecedented for the United States, in which expanding access has always presupposed that enrollments grow faster than population. This has been true in all but a handful of years ever since annual data were compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. During the major expansion of higher education during the 1950s and 60s -- when for the first time large numbers of students from working class backgrounds entered the collegiate system, college enrollments outpaced population by a factor of eight. Even as recently as the first decade of this century, enrollments increased four times faster than population growth. The current crisis began in 2010, with enrollments expected to remain flat for another ten years or more, even though the population continues to grow.[i] The college educated will shrink as a portion of the population at large.

If access is declining, so too are the chances for upward mobility. The future has narrowed. Stagnant enrollments put into reverse some of the signature accomplishments upon which the educational community and the nation at large have prided themselves. Two groups in particular have been hit hard. Much attention has been given to the decline in black student enrollment, generally attributable to a rollback of affirmative action policies and a pronounced increase in racist incidents. Less noticed has been the decline in white student participation, which has fallen by a similar percent over the last decade.[ii] For both black people and white people, access is shrinking.

This decline compounds the difficulties which college graduates already face. Since the early 1990s, one-third of the graduates with bachelor’s degrees have found themselves in jobs for which a college education is not necessary.[iii] Here too, upward mobility in terms of the types of work available, compensation, and possible career paths forward has been foreclosed. This in turn produces a ripple effect on everyone without a four-year degree. The underemployed college graduates crowd into employment fields that they had hoped to avoid, which in turn exerts downward pressure on wages across the board. If college attendance was once motivated by the desire to get ahead and improve one’s circumstances, it has increasing become a negative motivation. You go to college in order to avoid the even-more difficult fates that await those with less schooling. 

The dream of education as a lever of social transformation is over. This dream was never fully grounded in reality anyway, but whatever it stood for in the past no longer fits the current situation. Collegiate institutions have become temporary warehouses for the children of the middle and working classes. Graduation dumps them into an economic cul-de-sac in which appropriate jobs are lacking. Student debt makes this situation all the more disturbing. Since the pandemic, even underemployment has begun to look good, so scarce have jobs become. Richard FariƱa’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (1966) takes on a new poignancy. 



[i] Annual enrollment data begins in 1947; U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 303.10 (2019). For population 1790-1930: U.S. Census Bureau, Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, A 6-7; for population 1940-2020: U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Censuses.

[ii] Between the peak year of enrollment in 2010 and 2018, black student enrollment declined by 18%, while white student enrollment declined by 19%; U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 306.10 (2019). Also see: Ben Miller, ‘It’s Time to Worry About College Enrollment Declines Among Black Students’, 28 September 2020, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-postsecondary/reports/2020/09/28/490838/time-worry-college-enrollment-declines-among-black-students/; Kevin Carey, ‘A Detailed Look at the Downside of California’s Ban on Affirmative Action’, The New York Times, 21 August 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/upshot/00up-affirmative-action-california-study.html.

[iii] Federal Reserve Bank of New York, ‘The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates: Underemployment’, 17 July 2020, https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/college-labor-market/college-labor-market_underemployment_rates.html.

Friday, October 9, 2020

"Edugrift": Observations of a Subprime College Lead Generator (by J.D. Suenram*)

First a little about my background. I came to work at a company called Edsoup in 2010. I worked there for four years. Previously I worked for DOD as a civilian contractor as a military contractor. This very lucrative job ended when the Defense Department under Bill Gates decided to eliminate the civilian military recruiter in each recruiting office across the country. 

I knew nothing about Edsoup when I was hired there in Salt Lake City in 2010. Ostensibly, as the job was explained to me, I was to help people make college decisions by setting appointments telephonically for the students. The colleges would then contact them about enrolling. Simple right?

Wrong. Four years later, I had received an education of sorts, on the countless  layers of grift which can only be described as subprime education. And, unlike housing, in which you do get a house, the educational grift here left the consumers/students with nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Why you ask? First of all uniformity. Many would choose to quibble here. Our schools (Liberty University and Grand Canyon come to mind) are not like the 'bad apples' (Everest, Ashford, Kaplan) That is simply a lie.

While it is true that GCU and Liberty have large campus enrollment, that reality was built on backbreaking debt laden online subprime degrees. Hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of them. The vast majority of which are useless, except for adding to the coffers of old, rich white men.

Look at uniformity. Whether it was Kaplan or GCU, Edsoup would set appointments for these schools off a monthly menu. Say you had the misfortune of thinking a 4 year online degree in cybercrime or homeland security would improve your economic standing. If we ran out of the GCU monthly budget option for those degrees, we would hook you up with Kaplan. Until they ran out. At the end of the month you might just have Everest as your only option. No problem. They will call just like the other grifters did.

Now Edsoup's menu was just the tip of iceberg. You express your degree preference to me over the phone. We pull up the menu, which was just the number of candidates each school needed to keep the grift juggernaut rolling. We also set appointments for OTHER menus, like Mediaspike and Quinstreet. We were a grifterpalooza of education. 

You may ask where did we find the leads for these subprime schools? We did have that inbound 800 number, which produced 2 dozen appointments a month. The other THIRTY THOUSAND appointments were outbound. Hammer time baby.

You may ask who did we call? Again, uniformity. Indeed.com, legaljobs.com, militaryjobs.com, warehousejobs.com, the list of about 50 jobsites here. We even had sleazy companies cut and pasting legit sites like Monster and getting leads from them. Also, if you wanted Medicaid, food stamps, power assistance, we are calling you. Hammer time. 

The bait and switch went like this. I know you were online recently, looking for a job. But if you WERE to go back to school, what would you want to study? Most said no in rather unpleasant terms. But many did not. Ka-ching.

Uniformity. Who received these leads? Enrollment counselors/salespeople at Ultimate Medical Academy, Kaplan, Everest, Colorado Technical (University), (University of) Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Post University, Ashford University, Virginia College, Le Cordon Bleu, Art Institutes, Western Governors University, to name a few of roughly 50.

Liberty U we set leads for in the beginning until Jerry Falwell Junior in housed the call center leads at his former Lynchburg Sears mall.

Now more recently, organizations like Ashford thru Arizona, GCU, and Kaplan through Purdue Global have in housed their own subprime appointment factories. Not having first hand information, I would still unequivocally  say these operations have not changed their operations one bit.

I was able to successfully put a lawsuit on the docket in Salt Lake Federal Court in 2015. Two firms, one the largest player in Salt Lake, the other the largest player in San Francisco, took the mega case to challenge the operational scam of this subprime juggernaut. A good 2 dozen schools (I left out Full Sail above they were in the lawsuit) were on the hook for their "uniformity".

Unfortunately, this was for naught as the election happened. Some of the same CEO's we sued were now IN The Department of Education. So we withdrew. They were decidedly not the same dozen or so Edgov and DOJ folks we met with in Salt Lake prior to the election. 

Fortunately, edugrift slowly has become a much harder sell. Even with a few major U's taking on the subprimes and airbrushing them. With 2020 coming, there may be yet a death knell for this sad chapter in U.S. educational history.

*This article is the opinion of the author.