Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Higher Ed Became More Brutal During 2020-21 Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic was the largest news item in US higher education in 2020 and the beginning of 2021.  It certainly had an effect on higher education enrollment and revenues.   But the larger story, according to author Gary Roth, was that the “College Dream is Over.”  

College is supposed to be a transitional space between K-12 education and good jobs. But savage inequalities in the K-12 pipeline, alienating and sometimes questionably substandard online education, and fewer good jobs at the end of the pipeline meant that more students would be unprepared for college and for work life in the brutal tech (fintech, medtech, and edtech) and gig economy.  

Banks and big businesses (including brand name universities and for-profit colleges ) were bailed out twice in 2020 by the federal government as student debtors only got temporarily relief.  

Savage inequalities in the K-12 pipeline intensified with online education and the hollowing out of America continued.  

Under the Trump administration, privatization, deregulation, and lack of transparency  (in gainful employment, defense to repayment, student loan repayment rate) were the rule.  2021 shows promise for progressive change, but we'll have to wait and see if anything gets done to reduce the College Meltdown.  

Friday, January 15, 2021

Chasing Carl Barney: My 7-Year Fight for Student Justice and Corporate Accountability (Debbi Potts)

It was July 16, 2012 and I called a meeting with all of my staff.  I was the campus director of CollegeAmerica in Cheyenne Wyoming; one of the many campuses owned by Carl Barney. I called the meeting to inform my staff that I was resigning that day. I wanted to let them know before I emailed a resignation letter to Barney and the CEO and COO and left the building.  

The Dean of Education (Linda) also resigned that day because of her concerns about the lack of ethics of the company. My exit was abrupt, and my resignation letter called Barney out on the fraud that his organization is infested with. I left without notice and without a job to go to.

I told my staff that there comes a time in most people’s lives where you cannot put your foot over the line and that day had come for me. I could not put my name on one more enrollment agreement or participate in the fleecing of students.  

This is my story of the 7-year chase of Carl Barney as he levied a brutal, retaliatory, and relentless plan to silence me.  

Who is Carl Barney?

Carl Barney is a college owner who has turned his private colleges into money making machines for the benefit of his own wealth. His schools were a toxic blend of substandard education, outrageously high tuition, and poor outcomes that left students deep in debt with little to no skills or hope for a better future. The demographic of most of the students that were solicited to enroll lacked the ability to succeed; but that did not matter.

Why did I leave the company and how bad was it?

I was so excited to be part of changing student’s lives through education and taking the role of the top administrator of my own campus. Career schools are high priced and fast paced and unfortunately this one was not about the education of students; it was about sales and enrolling students and pulling down as much federal aid as you could to line Barney’s pockets.  As time went on it was evident that the company had no regard for oversight of rules or regulations that guide these types of schools; nor had they ever been held accountable for their blatant contempt.

An associate degree was upwards of $40k and a bachelor degree was $78k! The students were solicited through a hard sell of manipulative sales techniques and the education and equipment left much to be desired. The students struggled in 4-week courses where the mid-term was at the beginning of week 3.  The faculty who were mostly all adjuncts and were paid less than $10.00 per hour considering the time they put into lecturing, grading papers and coaching students who needed remedial help before they could even comprehend the course materials.

The company was “enrollment driven” with unrealistic goals every month of starting new students. It is called “greed” at the expense of education. Barney’s motto was “We do as we please and ask for forgiveness later.” Accreditation standards were violated throughout the entire system and the students were the ones who suffered.

An example of disregard for regulations

Barney could not operate his company by merely offering a quality education and focusing on students; he always had to have a scheme to entice and enroll students, even if it were a violation of accreditation. He rolled out a free services program where he decided to offer a free certified nursing course to the general public including all of the books, supplies and certification.  Sounds amazingly generous..right? Not so fast. This particular course was part of the medical assisting program and Barney believed that once he gave away “free” services, those students would enroll in the full program. The problem was that each of those students had a target on their back and they were heavily recruited to enroll into the full program. There were literally waiting lists of hundreds of potential enrollees across all of the campuses. Barney never bothered to get this stand-alone course approved through accreditation. Since this course was vocational in nature we also were required to track student completion and placement; that never happened.

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), the accrediting agency issued a “cease and desist” of these programs, leaving hundreds and hundreds of students hanging and angry and disillusioned. Campus directors were left on their own to try to explain this deplorable situation to our unsuspecting victims.

What happened next?

Linda and I immediately contacted the Wyoming and Colorado Attorneys Generals offices in order to divulge the numerous issues of consumer fraud that we had witnessed. 

I received a personal phone call from Barney a day after my exit. He was definitely on a fishing expedition that was intended to figure out what my plans were moving forward. In that conversation I reported to Barney that the company had owed me $7,000.00 for earned but not paid bonuses. He assured me that he would look into my unpaid bonus. Days went by and I decided to file for lost wages through the Wyoming employment labor board.

On July 21, 2012. I received an email from Barney, and it contained a document entitled “Saying Goodbye” which outlined his theory that you can tell a great deal about the character of people by the way they say goodbye. Additionally, he spewed that he hoped that I had filed a written report within the organization with my concerns about the fraud allegations or I was now a contributor to these allegations of fraud!  

I received my bonus in exchange for signing a contract to not disparage the company.

During the months that followed, I was in direct contact with the Attorneys General. In a LinkedIn communication with a former employee of the organization and I asked him to cooperate with the Attorneys General. The employee turned on me and turned the correspondence into Barney. I was sued for an alleged violation of the contract. I represented myself over a two-year period and wrote 75 legal motions to defend myself.  I filed a charge with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who took a case against them on my behalf. 

It was around that time that I met an attorney from Salt Lake City, Utah who had been enjoined by the US Department of Justice in a qui-tam action with several former employees of Barney’s Utah schools because Barney was illegally paying bonuses to admissions recruiters.

Mr. Bandon Mark, this attorney took my case pro-bono and followed me through depositions and court hearings for several years for the lawsuit, while EEOC pursued Barney in federal court.

The entire purpose of this retaliation by Barney was to punish me and intimidate me into silence…it did not work!  The more relentless he became, the more the fraud became public, he would not agree to settle anything, and neither would I.

In May of 2019, a jury of 6 people in a two-day trial awarded Barney $1.00 (instead of the $7,000.00 bonus he was trying to recoup). This was the least amount the jury could give! 

The Colorado Attorney General’s office testified on my behalf as an optic to show the jury what this malicious lawsuit was really about. As icing on the cake, EEOC forced Barney to never enforce the illegal contract they had issued me. The contract violated public policy by requiring me to not contact any governmental agencies with grievances against Barney or his schools. 

What started out as Barney attempting to make an example out of me for speaking the truth about the fraud in his schools actually opened the doors for me to spend 7 years chasing him.

As a result of this chase, I have been deposed numerous times including a 6-hour videotaped deposition all the while his attorneys spewed venom in my face in an attempt to intimidate me. I was scorned publicly in courtrooms for being a whistleblower…none of that mattered.

Barney’s feeble attempt to stop me from bringing truth forward only made the chase more enticing and his fury caused him to make many mistakes including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees against me.  His desire to make me pay only served to make public what he had tried to stop me from saying! 

Fruits of my chase:

At the trial where Barney sued me in May 2019; the courtroom was filled with people who got to hear the fraud that Barney had tried to keep silent by suing me! This is in the community where I reside, and community members are now aware of the fraud.  

On August 21, 2020, a Colorado Court issued a fraud finding against Barney in a lawsuit where the Colorado Attorney General was the plaintiff, and I was the whistleblower.  

I have interviewed with US Department of Justice for an upcoming trial against Barney for illegal bonuses.

I have filed numerous complaints with their accreditor. (ACCSC)

I have interviewed with Veterans Education Success as part of their petition to the VA to cease funding to Barney’s schools.

I have participated in a podcast about my whistleblowing story with Heidi Weber who was responsible for the demise of Globe University with her whistleblowing efforts of their fraud. 

I have personally filed a complaint with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG). 

I have interviewed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and provided information regarding their investigation of loan fraud regarding Barney’s schools. 

My story has been covered and publicized by David Halperin in Republic Report. Not just once, but twice

I have also been interviewed by David Halperin in Republic Report


Indeed …Barney’s schools are in peril

The following are on-going actions of great consequence:

·       The company is on probation with ACCSC and serious question are pending regarding the ability of Barney’s schools to continue to operate as a result of the Colorado Attorney fraud finding.

·       The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is awaiting a court decision to move forward to compel documents related to loan fraud.

·       The US Department of Education in tandem with some former employees are in the “discovery stage” of litigation regarding illegal bonuses Barney paid to recruiters.

·       Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois has petitioned the United States Department of Education to look at the possibility of suspending federal funds to Barney’s schools.

·       Due to declining enrollment, the lion’s share of Barney’s brick and mortar schools are closed, leaving only an online school platform which has its own issues with ACCSC. 

I will continue the chase wherever and whenever I can be helpful in fighting the fraud of Carl Barney in order to prevent more students from being harmed.   

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

UT Austin President Eats Cake in a Pandemic (Austin Longhorn*)

For years, I have been amazed at the heights of hypocrisy at The University of Texas at Austin. When I was in college, the UT President’s salary was around $500,000. I felt that was outrageous.

Having seen that many of my peers graduate without a good job, it felt terrible to see the leader who is supposed to make its stakeholders succeed is just enjoying life at the top with an insane salary most of the students would never make, even in their wildest dreams.

The career services were horrible at the university. I bet that is still the case. Before Betsy DeVos’s horrible decision to rescind the Gainful Employment Placement Rule, we at least had an idea, though imperfect, how graduates were faring. We don’t even have that information now. However, this article is not about Betsy DeVos or Gainful Employment Placement Data. It is about the callousness of UT Austin President Jay Hartzell who has received a $1.25 Million salary. Yes, you read that right. $1.25 Million in salary that was approved during a pandemic.

The reasoning behind The University of Texas System Regents is that peer institution presidents have similar salariesLet us assume that it takes top dollar to recruit top talent.  But how do you explain a $1.25 Million salary during a Global Pandemic when people are struggling to pay rent or mortgage and are basically lining up at the local food pantry to get food? It is almost saying “Let Them Eat Cake” to every hardworking person who is unable to feed their family while the UT Austin President enjoys an outrageous salary.

UT Austin and every university collects data on their graduates using a Qualtrics or other company survey that the graduates fill out electronically. It is not that President Hartzell did not know that the university students are struggling in the job market. He knows. Yet, he does not care. He cares about his salary and a rubber stamp board of regents approving such a salary.

To put it in perspective, the US President makes $400,000. TX Governor makes $150,000. The Austin Mayor in whose city UT Austin is located makes $80,000. That means with a $1.25 Million salary, Hartzell makes almost double than the salaries of the US President, TX Governor and Austin Mayor make in salaries combined. How do you explain about recruiting top talent when there are public officials who have a lot more responsibilities, who are top of the line talent, that work for less compared to the UT Austin President?

President Hartzell is disingenuous of his empathy for the working man or woman. Hopefully he will  offer to take less in salary and work for the welfare of the student body by reforming career services. Until then, he is going to leave a “Let Them Eat Cake” feeling in the working people’s lives.

Related links:

The College Dream is Over (Gary Roth)
Executive Compensation at Public and Private Colleges (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Saturday, January 2, 2021


Student debt forgiveness is no longer a fringe issue.  In June 2020, 60 groups, including the NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Consumer Law Center supported debt relief. By November 2020, more than 230 groups called for Joe Biden to cancel the debt (see list below). However, Biden is reluctant to do an executive order. 

Here are links to some US student debt groups and associated links:

AOC tells progressives to ‘push Biden hard’ on canceling student loan debt (Fox Business)NAACP And 60 Other Groups Call On Congress To Cancel Student Deb (Forbes)Student Loan Justice
ITT Tech Warriors

Student Debt Crisis

Groups Supporting Debt Forgiveness

Asset Funders Network
Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE)
Advocates for Youth
Agroecology Research-Action Collective
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
Alliance for Youth Action
American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW)
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Economic Liberties Project
American Federation of Teachers
American Medical Student Association
American Psychological Association
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Americans for Financial Reform
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation
Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Campaign for America’s Future
Center for Justice & Democracy
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research
Center for Popular Democracy Action
Center for Responsible Lending
CFPB Union NTEU 335
Children’s Defense Fund
Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues
Coalition on Human Needs
Community Organizing and Family Issues
Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS)
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Reports
Council on Social Work Education
Demand Progress
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Economic Justice Ministries, United Church of Christ
Emgage Foundation Inc
EMPath: Economic Mobility Pathways
Franciscan Action Network
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Generation Progress
Girls Inc.
Hispanic Federation
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
Insight Center for Community Economic Development
Invest in Women Entrepreneurs
Japanese American Citizens League
Jobs With Justice
Labor Council For Latin American Advancement
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Media Voices for Children
Minority Veterans of America
NACBHDD – National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors
NARMH – National Association for Rural Mental Health
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders
National Association of Consumer Advocates
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
National Center for Law and Economic Justice
National Children’s Campaign
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Equality Action Team (NEAT)
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Urban League
National WIC Association
National Women’s Law Center
National Young Farmers Coalition
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
Organic Consumers Association
Parents Organized to Win, Educate and Renew – Policy Action Council
People For the American Way
People’s Action
People’s Parity Project
Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org)
Progressive Leadership Initiative
Project on Predatory Student Lending
Protect All Children’s Environment
Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)
Public Citizen
Public Counsel
Public Good Law Center
Rachel Carson Council
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
Revolving Door Project
School Social Work Association of America
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Social Security Works
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice
Student Action
Student Borrower Protection Center
Student Debt Crisis
Student Defense
Student Voice
Sunrise Movement
Swipe Out Hunger
Take on Wall Street
Tax March
The Climate Mobilization
The Congress of Essential Workers
The Debt Collective
The Education Trust
Towards Justice
U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives
UE, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America
United for a Fair Economy
United for Respect
United Parents And Students
United State of Women
United States Student Association
UnKoch My Campus
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
Voices for Progress
Working Families Party
Young Invincibles

State Groups:

AFGE Local 3354 (AFL-CIO)
AFGE Local 704
Arkansas Community Organizations
Bucks County Womens Advocacy Coalition
California LULAC
Cash Campaign of Maryland
Center for Economic Integrity
Center for Popular Democracy
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Chicago United for Equity
Chicago Urban League
Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office
Children’s Defense Fund-CA
Civil Service Bar Association
Community Legal Services, Inc. of Philadelphia
Community Service Society of New York
Comprehensive Youth Services Inc.
Consumer Federation of California
Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas
Debt-Free MD, INC.
Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.
Denver Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
East Bay Community Law Center
Education Minnesota
Empire Justice Center
Equality North Carolina
Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce
Friendship of Women, Inc.
Generation Hope
Georgia Watch
Grassroots Action NY
Greenlining Institute
Hildreth Institute
Housing and Economic Rights Advocates
Indivisible San Diego
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc.
Just-A-Start Corporation
Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee
Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW 2320
Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy
Los Amigos of Orange County
Louisiana Budget Project
LULAC of Simi Valley
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.
Michigan Poverty Law Program
Mission Possible Community Services, Inc.
Mississippi Center for Justice
Mobilization for Justice
Montana Fair Housing
Morgantown Pastoral Counseling Center, Inc.
MS Black Women’s Roundtable and MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland Chapter
NC Climate Justice Collective
New Economics for Women
New Economy Project
New Era Colorado
New Georgia Project
New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.
New Jersey Citizen Action
NextGen California
Ohio Student Association
Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation, Inc
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Piedmont Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (PAPSA)
Premier Women’s Council
Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)
Public Justice Center
Public Law Center
Reinvestment Partners
S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Save Us Now Inc
SEIU Local 509
Southern Echo Inc.
Southern Maryland Community Network
The Freedom BLOC
The Health, Education and Legal assistance Project: A Medical-Legal Partnership at Widener University Delaware Law School (HELP: MLP)
The Recovery Council
Triangle Community Foundation
Tzedek DC
United Vision for Idaho
Unity Fellowship of Christ Church NYC
Virginia Organizing
West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
Women Employed
Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network
Women’s Foundation of Arkansas
Women’s Foundation of Minnesota
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
WV Citizen Action Education Fund
Zero Debt Massachusetts