Showing posts with label Department of Education. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Department of Education. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Trump 2024 and the Student Loan Portfolio

The US Department of Education (ED) handles the student loans of about 40 million US citizens, holding on to about $1.6 Trillion in debt--which is considered an asset to the US government.  And ED-FSA (Federal Student Aid) hires tens of thousands of workers, mostly contractors, to service the debt. But that could change in a few years. If Donald Trump is elected President.  

Under President Trump, debtors might expect that their loans to be transferred over to large corporations--at some point--with the sale being used to reduce the federal deficit, and to cut labor at ED. This would aid in the effort to eliminate the US Department of Education, as Trump has promised on the campaign trail.

Selling off the student loan debt portfolio may or may not require approval from anyone outside of the President. At least one study, by McKinsey & Company, has already been conducted regarding this possibility. 

In 2019, the Trump administration hired McKinsey to analyze the $1.5 trillion federal student loan portfolio. This analysis was part of a broader effort to explore options for managing the portfolio, including potentially selling off some of the debt. Results were never published. The analysis was conducted alongside a study by FI Consulting, which focused on the economic value of the portfolio, noting that the valuation could vary depending on future default rates, prepayment rates, and economic conditions.

The new owners of the sold off debt would most likely be big banks and other large companies, both domestic and foreign, that find value in the debt. There would be political and social resistance.  And many questions would need to be answered, in detail.

Would large banks or other large corporations be better stewards of the debt?

Would the bidding be transparent?  

Would consumers be able to challenge loan repayments or ask for forgiveness?  

What would happen to the contracts of the existing debt servicers?  

Will this expand the existing Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities market? 

Related link:

The Student Loan Mess Updated: Debt as a Form of Social Control and Political Action

Tuesday, January 30, 2024

ED Completes Pre-Acquisition Review for University of Phoenix Deal. University of Idaho Continues Hiding Details of Transaction Fees, 43 Education "High-Risk" Bonds.

[Editor's note: This article will be updated as we receive more information.]

US Department of Education (ED) sources have told the Higher Education Inquirer that the Pre-Acquisition Review for the Idaho-University of Phoenix deal was completed in November 2023 in response to a request from the University of Phoenix in June of the same year.  

The University of Phoenix is currently owned by two powerful investment firms: Apollo Global Management and Vistria Partners. But those companies have been attempting to unload the for-profit college for more than two years. The latest potential owner is the University of Idaho's affiliate organization, Four Three Education--at an initial cost of $685 million.    

ED will not require anyone to post a Letter of Credit--despite the fact that Four Three Education currently has no financial assets and will likely have to issue high-risk bonds to acquire the University of Phoenix. 

Four Three Education, and the University of Idaho, may be responsible for compensating the Department of Education for successful Borrower Defense to Repayment (fraud) claims made by tens of thousands of consumers.  While that could amount to more than a billion dollars, the University of Idaho affiliate expects to spend much less by using aggressive legal means. 

Financing for the Phoenix project has been deliberately opaque. The University of Idaho, however, has acknowledged that it may be liable for some future losses, but only up to $10 million annually. And Idaho officials, including University of Idaho President C. Scott Green, seem undeterred by these potential problems.  

The Most Recent Court Case

A court case to determine whether the University of Idaho violated open meeting laws was completed last week.  Idaho District Judge Jason Scott ruled that the University of Idaho was not in violation for holding three secret meetings followed by a quick vote on May 18, 2023. The University of Idaho claimed that secrecy was essential for the deal to occur.

The State asserted that the Idaho Board of Education did not perform due diligence for the sale, relying on President Green and his word that this was a worthwhile deal for the University of Idaho. In turn, Green admitted he did not ask important questions about competition, for fear that he would be considered naive, and that he outbid the competition.  

As Judge Scott remarked, the wisdom of the deal was not on trial. If it had, perhaps the ruling would have been different. 

Information about the competition to buy the University of Phoenix continues to be sketchy. The University of Arkansas System rejected a deal from the University of Phoenix in April 2023, weeks before the last closed door meeting. UMass Global was mentioned in the court case, but with no evidence that they were ever a serious suitor. 

The Idaho-Phoenix Scheme

The University of Idaho spent a reported seven million dollars on consultants over two months to determine whether the deal would be profitable to the University of Idaho. But little is publicly known about how the funds were spent. Hogan Lovells, President Green's former employer, was one of the organizations involved in consulting the University of Idaho. A local law firm, Hawley Troxell was also involved.  

Idaho also created a non-profit organization, Four Three Education, to act as a firewall in the event the school loses money. The current President of the University of Phoenix, Chris Lynne, will remain in place and be a member of the Four Three Education Board. 

The University of Idaho claims that the University of Phoenix will make a $150 million annual profit but they have not produced evidence. Information about Phoenix's assets are also limited, but Idaho claims the for-profit college holds $200 million in cash. How liquid (or how restricted) the cash is has not been mentioned.

Funding for the sale will be through an initial debt of $685 million, which includes more than $100 million in transaction fees. When bond interest is included, the deal is likely to cost billions of dollars according to an industry source. In an opinion piece in the Idaho Statesman, Rod Lewis, a former attorney for Micron Technology and former president of the Idaho State Board of Education stated:

Phoenix will issue $685 million in corporate bonds anticipated to be “bb” rated (known as “high risk” or “speculative” bonds). Phoenix’s estimated debt service will be $60 million to $70 million per year. It sounds risky, and it is.

We will know more when the University of Idaho produces the bond contracts and names the bond underwriters.    

Poisoning the Public Higher Ed Well

The University of Phoenix relies heavily on obfuscation, intimidation, political lobbying, and lawsuits to reduce expenses related to fraud. Given recent data on consumer complaints about the University of Phoenix, University of Idaho officials say they are prepared for contingencies related to the tens of thousands of Borrower Defense to Repayment claims. But the school or its affiliated organizations could also be liable for claims related to questionable business practices in the present and future. 

It's too early to tell whether Idaho will profit from its acquisition. But if the sale is consummated, the University of Phoenix will join a growing list of state-affiliated and non-profit robocolleges, one that includes Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan University) and University of Arizona Global Campus (formerly Ashford University), two schools that have not lived up to their parent company names.

Related links:

Predatory Colleges, Converted To Non-Profit, Are Failing (David Halperin, Republic Report)

Monday, November 27, 2023

Sotheby's Institute of Art on Department of Education's Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 List

Sotheby's Institute of Art (SIA) in New York City is one of only three institutions under the US Department of Education's Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 list for "financial responsibility" problems. 

SIA is owned by Cambridge Information Group, which is the parent company of ProQuest, The School of the New York Times, Hammond's Candies, the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders minor league baseball team, and other investments. 

(Seven NY institutions were under HCM2. Source: US Department of Education)

According to the US Department of Education (ED), "schools may be placed on HCM1 or HCM2 as a result of compliance issues including but not limited to accreditation issues, late or missing annual financial statements and/or audits, outstanding liabilities, denial of re-certifications, concern around the school's administrative capabilities, concern around a school's financial responsibility, and possibly severe findings uncovered during a program review."

Also according to ED, "a school placed on HCM2 no longer receives funds under the Advance Payment Method. After a school on HCM2 makes disbursements to students from its own institutional funds, a Reimbursement Payment Request must be submitted for those funds to the Department." Schools in this position are often in such financial hardship that they may close.  

The September 2023 Heightened Cash Monitoring 2 list includes less than 100 schools nationwide and seven schools in New York. A disproportionate number of schools are small religious-based institutions and for-profit vocational colleges. 

Unlike most of the schools on the HCM list, Sotheby's has a prestigious name--and it uses its relationship with the auction house to elevate its brand. According to its vision statement, "Sotheby’s Institute of Art is the global leader in art world education, shaping future generations of cultural stewards and art market professionals."  

And according to its website "Sotheby’s Institute of Art alumni form a network of over 8,000 talented individuals around the world. Our graduates hold leading positions at renowned international arts organisations including Frieze, 1-54 Contemporary African Art Fair, M+, the Institute of Contemporary Photography, the Victoria & Albert Museum, the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, the Smithsonian Museum of Natural History, the Fine Art Group, the UK National Archives, Cartier, and numerous other galleries, auction houses, museums, luxury brands, art fairs, advisories, law firms and beyond."

The US Department of Education's College Navigator indicates that SIA's student population in the US is about 200. Tuition alone is $56,340 per year. The school's US faculty includes one full-time instructor and 35 part-timers. 87 percent of the students are female; 49 percent are Asian. The school only offers certificates and graduate degree programs. SIA's website does not appear to name any Board members.  

US Department of Education (IPEDS) data also suggest that SIA's expenses have surpassed revenues since 2016-17.  

(Source: US Department of Education)

The Higher Education Inquirer is in the process of gathering more information about the school's finances and whether students should be aware of the HCM status. Other schools on the list have recently closed or are in the process of closing, including Bay State College, King's College, and Union Institute.  

Related links: 

Ambow Education Facing Financial Collapse

A preliminary list of private colleges at risk

Saturday, August 19, 2023

Department of Education Fails (Again) to Modify Enrollment Projections (Dahn Shaulis and Glen McGhee)

For more than a decade, the US Department of Education (ED) has forecasted higher education enrollment numbers, projecting 10 years in advance. In 2013, the National Center for Education Statistics projected total enrollment to reach nearly 24 million students (23,834,000) a decade later.  But by 2021, the real numbers would already be five million fewer (18,659,851).

We can only guess what happened to enrollment numbers between 2021 and today, but it's doubtful they have increased.  The National Student Clearinghouse has reported lower numbers between 2021 and 2022, but they use different methods and do not engage in forecasting. 

In 2013, few could have predicted such a significant enrollment decline. The lag in getting up-to-date numbers from ED made it even more difficult to envision. We relied on more up-to-date numbers, though less complete, from the National Student Clearinghouse to understand what was happening. 

In 2014, with limited data, futurist Bryan Alexander asked Inside Higher Education readers Has Higher Education Peaked?  In fact, undergraduate higher education had peaked and began its steady decline in 2011.  Little was said from the higher education establishment for years. The slow but consistent downward trend, though, became more obvious with each year as the numbers came in.  

By 2017, Nathan Grawe predicted a 2026 enrollment cliff, a by-product of reduced birth rates in the 2008-2009 Great Recession.  This revelation made more people conscious of already declining enrollment numbers that started falling six years earlier. But the Department of Education did little to change their predictive formula. For several years, growing enrollment in online courses and graduate degrees kept total enrollment declines from appearing more dramatic.

In January 2018 we contacted the US Department of Education about these failures. According to William Hussar, the agency had already begun work on developing an alternative methodology for producing college projections, but that this would take years to implement. In the meantime, the numbers continued to drop, and polls showed fewer people having confidence in higher education.  Student loan debt may have been of little interest to most Americans, but it did sour tens of millions of debtors and their families. We suggested that behavioral economists might be needed to provide an alternative formula.

Today, the US Department of Education, despite some revisions in their most recent modeling, continues to forecast higher education enrollment gains--up to 2031-- despite mounting evidence it will decrease significantly (i.e. the "enrollment cliff"). We cannot expect online education, grad school participation, or even a faltering economy to prop up higher ed enrollment. Faith in higher education is waning-and for good reason. Despite propaganda from the higher ed industry, it's become a riskier bet for a growing number of the working class and middle class.

Related links:

US Department of Education Fails to Recognize College Meltdown

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

Enrollment cliff? What enrollment cliff? 

Projections of Education Statistics to 2028 (US Department of Education)

Monday, April 3, 2023

Higher Education FOIA Requests to US Department of Education

The Higher Education Inquirer has made a number of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the US Department of Education.  Here's our current list.  



The Higher Education Inquirer is requesting copies of the current contracts between the US Department of Education and Maximus (including but not limited to subsidiaries such as AidVantage). If this is not possible we would like the reported dollar amount for each contract. This request is part of a larger effort to assess the student loan debt portfolio. (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2010 To 04/03/2023)


The Higher Education Inquirer is requesting the dollar amount of student loan funds issued to for-profit colleges each year from 1972 to 2021.  We will accept interim or partial data.  (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/1973 To 04/03/2022)

The Higher Education Inquirer is requesting an estimate of the number of student loans in the student loan portfolio that originated (1) before 1978, (2) before 1983, (3) before 1988, and (4) before 1993.  This is part of a larger effort to understand the estimated $674B in unrecoverable student loan debt.   (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2023 To 03/28/2023)

The Higher Education Inquirer is requesting a count of the number of Borrower Defense to Repayment claims against South University and the Art Institutes, in the Consumer Engagement Management System (CEMS) up to January 1, 2023.  We would also like to know if their parent company, Education Principle Foundation (EPF), is listed as the owner of both schools in the CEMS computer database.   (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2023 To 03/22/2023)

The Higher Education Inquirer is requesting a list of all the variables/categories in the Consumer Engagement Management System (CEMS).  CEMS is mentioned in FOIA 22-01683F filed by the National Student Legal Defense Network.   (Date Range for Record Search: From 01/01/2023 To 03/16/2023)

We are requesting an accounting of US Department of Education Borrower Defense to Repayment (BD) claims against the University of Phoenix.  Specifically, we are asking for the (1) number of BD claims, (2) the number processed, and (3) the number approved.  The date range is from February 20, 2016 to January 26, 2023. If there is a reasonable way to estimate the total dollar amount in a timely manner, we would also like that.  This request is similar to FOIA request 22-03203-F, and is a result of discovering that the University of Arkansas System has been in negotiations to acquire University of Phoenix through a nonprofit organization.   (Date Range for Record Search: From 02/20/2016 To 01/26/2023)
Related links: