Showing posts with label college meltdown. Show all posts
Showing posts with label college meltdown. Show all posts

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

College Meltdown 3.0 Could Start Earlier (And End Worse) Than Planned


Chronicling the College Meltdown 

Since 2016, the Higher Education Inquirer has documented the College Meltdown as a series of demographic and business trends leading to lower enrollments and making higher education of decreasing value to working-class and middle-class folks. This despite the commonly-held belief that college is the only way to improve social mobility.  

For more than a dozen years, the College Meltdown has been most visible at for-profit colleges and community colleges, but other non-elite schools and for-profit businesses have also been affected. Some regions, states, and counties have been harder hit than others. Non-elite state universities are becoming increasingly vulnerable

Elite schools, on the other hand, do not need students for revenues, at least in the short run.  They depend more on endowments, donations, real estate, government grants, corporate grants, and other sources of income. Elite schools also have more than enough demand for their product even after receiving bad press.    

The perceived value and highly variable real value of higher education has made college less attractive to many working-class consumers and to an increasing number of middle-class consumers--who see it as a risky proposition. Degrees in the humanities and social sciences are becoming a tough sell. Even some STEM degrees may not be valuable for too long.  Public opinion about higher education and the value of higher education has been waning and many degrees, especially graduate degrees, have a negative return on investment. 

Tuition and room and board costs have skyrocketed. Online learning has become more prominent, despite persistent questions about its educational value. 

While college degrees have worked for millions of graduates, student loans have mired millions of other former students, and their families, in long-term debt, doing work in fields they aren't happy with

Elite degrees for people in the upper class still make sense though, as status symbols and social sorters. And there are some professions that require degrees for inclusion. But those degrees and the lucrative jobs accompanying them disproportionately go to foreigners and immigrants, and their children--a demographic wave that may draw the ire of folks who have lived in the US for generations and who may have not enjoyed the same opportunities.  

Starting Sooner and Ending Worse

The latest phase of the College Meltdown was supposed to result from a declining number of high school graduates in 2025, something Nathan Grawe projected from lower birth rates following the 2008-2009 recession.

But problems with the federal government's financial aid system may mean that a significant decline in enrollment at non-elite schools starts this fall instead of 2025.  

The College Meltdown may become even worse than planned, in terms of lower enrollment and declining revenues to non-elite schools. Enrollment numbers most assuredly will be worse than Department of Education projections of slow growth until 2030

In 2023, we wrote about something few others reported on: that community colleges and state universities would feel more financial pressure from by the flip-side of the Baby Boom: the enormous costs of taking care of the elderly which could drain public coffers that subsidize higher education. This was a phenomenon that should also have been anticipated by higher education policy makers, but is still rarely discussed. Suzanne Mettler graphed this out in Degrees of Inequality a decade ago--and the Government Accountability Office noted the huge projected costs in 2002

Related links: 

Starting my new book project: Peak Higher Education (Bryan Alexander)

Long-Term Care:Aging Baby Boom Generation Will Increase Demand and Burden on Federal and State Budgets (Government Accountability Office, 2002)

Forecasting the College Meltdown (2016)

Charting the College Meltdown (2017)

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

Community Colleges at the Heart of the College Meltdown (2017)

College Enrollment Continues Decline in Several States (2018) 

The College Dream is Over (Gary Roth, 2020)

The Growth of RoboColleges and Robostudents (2021)

Even Elite Schools Have Subprime Majors (2021)

State Universities and the College Meltdown (2022) 

"20-20": Many US States Have Seen Enrollment Drops of More Than 20 Percent (2022) 

US Department of Education Projects Increasing Higher Ed Enrollment From 2024-2030. Really?(2022)

EdTech Meltdown (2023) 

Enrollment cliff? What enrollment cliff ? (2023)

Department of Education Fails (Again) to Modify Enrollment Projection (2023)

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

Friday, February 9, 2024

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

[Editor's note: The FY 2023 FSA Annual Report is here.] 

In 2014, the father-son team of Joel Best and Eric Best published The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion Dollar Problem. Their argument was that rising student loan debt posed a major social and economic problem in the United States, exceeding $1 trillion at the time of publication (predicted to reach $2 trillion by 2020). This "mess" resulted from a series of well-intentioned but flawed policies that focused on different aspects of the issue in isolation, ultimately creating unintended consequences.

Key Points of the 2014 book:

History of Federal Involvement: The book explored the evolution of federal student loan programs, highlighting how each policy change created new problems while attempting to address the previous ones.

Cost of College: Rising tuition fees along with readily available loans fueled the debt crisis, as students borrowed more to cope with increasing costs.

Repayment Challenges: The authors delved into the difficulties graduates face repaying their loans, including high interest rates, complex repayment plans, and limited income mobility.

Societal Impacts: The book examined the broader societal consequences of student loan debt, such as delayed homeownership, reduced entrepreneurship, and increased economic inequality.

Beyond the Mess: While acknowledging the complexity of the issue, the authors discussed potential solutions, including loan forgiveness programs, income-based repayment plans, and increased government regulation of for-profit colleges.

Overall, "The Student Loan Mess" provided a critical historical analysis of the factors contributing to the crisis and suggested pathways towards a more sustainable system of higher education financing.

Expansion of Federal Loan Programs (1960s-1990s):

The creation of federal loan programs initially aimed to increase access to higher education.

This led to rising tuition costs as universities saw guaranteed funding, with less pressure to remain affordable.

Loan eligibility expanded, encouraging more borrowing even without clear career prospects for graduates.

Cost Explosion and Predatory Lending (1990s-2000s):

College costs skyrocketed due to various factors, including decreased state funding and increased administrative spending.

Loan limits were raised, further fueling the debt increase.

Private lenders entered the market, offering aggressive marketing and deceptive practices, targeting vulnerable students.

Recession and Repayment Struggles (2008-present):

The Great Recession exacerbated loan burdens as graduates faced limited job opportunities and stagnant wages.

Complex repayment plans and high interest rates created a challenging landscape for borrowers.

The rise of for-profit colleges further complicated the issue, often saddling students with debt for degrees with low earning potential.

Growing Awareness, Advocacy, and Reform (2010s-present):

Public awareness of the student loan crisis grew, leading to increased advocacy and demands for reform.

Issues like predatory lending, debt forgiveness, and income-based repayment gained traction.

In 2010, the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act made a significant change to the federal student loan system. Previously, the government guaranteed private loans, meaning it reimbursed lenders if borrowers defaulted. In turn, lenders received subsidies for participating. The Act ended these subsidies for private lenders, resulting in over $60 billion saved that could be reinvested in student aid programs.

Debates on the role of government and private lenders in financing higher education continued.


Next Chapters?

Since 2014, almost ten years after the Student Loan Mess was published, several major developments have unfolded concerning student loan debt:

Growth and Persistence:

Debt continues to climb: While the growth rate has slowed somewhat, outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1.7 trillion and remains a significant burden for millions of borrowers.



 

Racial and socioeconomic disparities persist: African American and Latinx borrowers disproportionately hold a higher amount of debt compared to white borrowers, exacerbating economic inequalities.

Policy Changes: 

https://x.com/The Biden-Harris administration has provided $136.6 billion in debt relief. 

Expansion of income-driven repayment plans: Options like Income-Based Repayment (IBR) and Pay As You Earn (PAYE) have been expanded, allowing borrowers to adjust their monthly payments based on income.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) challenges: Legal uncertainties and administrative backlogs have plagued PSLF, leaving many public servants struggling to qualify for loan forgiveness.

Temporary pandemic relief: During the COVID-19 pandemic, federal student loan payments were paused and interest rates set to 0%. Payments resumed in 2023.

Debt cancellation debates: Proposals for broad-based student loan forgiveness have gained traction, with several Democratic lawmakers pushing for different cancellation amounts. However, these proposals have faced legal and political hurdles. In 2023, the 9th Circuit Court ruled in favor of mass cancellation of loans from predatory for-profit colleges (Sweet v Cardona). A few months later, the US Supreme Court struck down President Biden's plan for debt relief to more than 30 million Americans.

Increased attention to for-profit colleges and online program managers: Scrutiny of predatory practices and low graduate outcomes at for-profit institutions has intensified. Gainful employment rules have been reestablished, but whether they will be enforced is in question.  


Looking forward:

The future of student loan debt remains uncertain. Key questions include:

Will broad-based loan forgiveness materialize?

Can income-driven repayment plans be made more effective?

How will future administrations address affordability and access to higher education?

What role will the private sector play in financing higher education?

How will declining enrollment numbers and skepticism about the value of higher education affect student loan debt and debt relief?  


Will higher ed institutions be held accountable for the debt of their former students and alumni?

Can higher education reduce consumer costs and provide value to consumers and communities at the same time?  

How will student loan debt affect disability, retirement, and life expectancy among long-term debtors?     

Policy Drivers:

Economic factors: A strong economy could increase government revenue, potentially enabling broader debt forgiveness or increased funding for higher education access initiatives. Conversely, an economic downturn could make policy interventions more challenging.

Elections and political pressure: Public opinion and the results of future elections will influence the political will for reform. Continued activism and pressure from advocacy groups could sway policy decisions.

Legal challenges and court rulings: Lawsuits over debt cancellation programs and loan servicer practices could impact the legal landscape and shape future policy options.

Private sector involvement: Developments in the private student loan market and potential regulations of lending practices could affect access to credit and repayment options.

Consumer Decisions:

Debt burden and economic outlook: The level of outstanding debt and future job prospects will significantly influence borrower behavior. Increased debt loads could incentivize riskier repayment strategies or delaying major life decisions like homeownership.

Awareness and financial literacy: Improved understanding of loan terms, repayment options, and alternative financing methods could empower borrowers to make informed decisions.

Government programs and incentives: Changes to income-driven repayment plans, loan forgiveness programs, and other government initiatives will directly impact consumer choices about managing their debt.

Emerging Trends:

Alternative financing models: Innovations like income-share agreements and skills-based financing could disrupt traditional loan structures and offer new options for students.

Technology and automation: Increased use of technology to streamline loan management and repayment could improve efficiency and transparency.

Focus on affordability and value: As concerns about the value proposition of higher education grow, there might be a shift towards emphasizing affordable options and skills-based learning.


How does student loan debt affect the lives of Americans?

Student loan debt has a profound impact on the lives of millions of Americans in various ways, affecting not just their finances but also their major life decisions and overall well-being. Here's a breakdown of some key areas:

Financial Impact:


Burden of debt: The average graduate has over $40,000 in student loan debt, significantly impacting their monthly budget and disposable income. This can limit savings for retirement, emergencies, and major purchases like a house.

Lower credit scores: Missed payments or delinquencies can negatively affect credit scores, hindering access to future loans and increasing interest rates on other forms of credit.

Delayed milestones: High debt burdens may cause individuals to delay major life milestones like buying a home, getting married, starting a family, or pursuing further education due to financial constraints.

Career Choices:

Job dissatisfaction: To make loan payments, some graduates might feel pressured to stay in high-paying but unfulfilling jobs, sacrificing career satisfaction for financial stability.

Entrepreneurial risk: The fear of financial failure due to debt may discourage individuals from pursuing entrepreneurial ventures, hindering innovation and economic growth.

Limited career mobility: Debt may lock individuals into specific career paths based on earning potential, restricting their ability to pursue desired career changes.

Mental and Emotional Wellbeing:

Stress and anxiety: The constant pressure of debt repayment can lead to significant stress and anxiety, impacting mental and emotional well-being.

Lower self-esteem: Feelings of financial instability and hopelessness can negatively impact self-esteem and overall life satisfaction.

Stigma and discrimination: Some individuals may face social stigma associated with student loan debt, further exacerbating the emotional burden.

Societal Impact:

Economic inequality: Student loan debt disproportionately affects certain groups, like minorities and low-income students, perpetuating and widening economic inequality.

Lower homeownership rates: High debt burdens can hinder homeownership, negatively impacting the housing market and contributing to wealth disparities.

Reduced consumer spending: Debt-burdened individuals have less disposable income, limiting their purchasing power and affecting the overall economy.


Social Class and Student Loan Debt

There's a well-documented and intricate relationship between social class and student loan debt, characterized by significant inequalities and disparities. Here's a breakdown of some key points:

Higher burden on lower classes:

Borrowing rates: Individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds are more likely to borrow student loans due to limited family resources and higher college costs compared to their income.

Debt amounts: Borrowers from lower socioeconomic backgrounds often take on larger debt loads due to higher tuition fees and living expenses, often exceeding their earning potential after graduation.

Repayment challenges: They face greater difficulty repaying loans due to lower-paying jobs, making them more susceptible to delinquency and default. This hinders wealth accumulation and upward mobility.

Contributing factors:

Limited financial support: Lack of parental financial support or savings forces students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds to rely heavily on loans for college expenses.

Limited college options: Limited access to affordable, high-quality educational institutions often steers individuals towards for-profit colleges with deceptive practices and low graduation rates, leading to high debt with limited job prospects.

Ongoing Debate


There is ongoing debate on solutions to address the student loan crisis, with proposals ranging from broad-based loan forgiveness to reforms in higher education financing and income-driven repayment plans. The future of student loan debt and its impact on Americans remains uncertain and depends on various factors, including policy decisions, economic trends, and individual financial choices.

The Student Loan Debt Movement

There has been an organized effort for student loan debt relief since the 2010s. This movement, using direct action, lawsuits, and lobbying has had some gains, putting pressure for accountability for schools that use predatory practices--and getting debt relief for hundreds of thousands of debtors.  The most notable organization has been the Debt Collective.  


Image of Ann Bowers, courtesy of the Debt Collective


There have been legal allies too, such as the Harvard Project on Predatory Student Lending (PPSL) and the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC).    


Named plaintiffs Theresa Sweet (L) and Alicia Davis (R) outside the federal district court in San Francisco on November 6, 2022, three days before the final approval hearing in Sweet v Cardona (Image credit: Ashley Pizzuti) 

Resistance to Debt Relief

The reasons why some people might not support student loan forgiveness. Some conservatives believe that it is unfair to forgive the debts of those who willingly took out loans, while others believe that it would be a waste of taxpayer money. Additionally, some believe that student loan forgiveness would not address the root causes of the problem, such as the high cost of tuition.

It is important to note that not all conservatives oppose student loan forgiveness. Some support income-based repayment plans or public service loan forgiveness. Additionally, some believe the government should focus on making college more affordable, rather than simply forgiving existing debt.

According to a 2019 poll by the Pew Research Center, 54% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents opposed forgiving all student loan debt, while 37% supported it.

Student Loan Debt Power Analysis: Who Benefits from Inaction?

There are elites and elite organizations who are (at least on the backstage) against student loan debt relief: student loan servicers (e.g. Maximus, Nelnet, Navient, and Sallie Mae), big banks, large corporations, and the US military. For them, debt serves as a way to get others to do their bidding. Debt is essential as a leverage tool to recruit and retain workers. Debt relief could also create more competition for better, more meaningful jobs, which some elites may not want for their children. States may be unwilling or unable to further subsidize higher education if elites are unwilling to pay. This situation is likely to worsen as Medicaid budgets are used for a growing number of elderly and increasingly disabled Baby Boomers.  
 
 

Student Loans and a Brutal Lifetime of Debt (Dahn Shaulis and Glen McGhee)

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

Friday, October 20, 2023

National American University Has No Cash

National American University Holdings (NAUH) of Rapid City, South Dakota has no cash.  The company owns National American University and its subsidiary, Henley-Putnam School of Strategic Security.

According to the company's most recent financial statements:

"As of August 31, 2023, the Company had approximately $0.0 million of unrestricted cash and cash equivalents, a working capital deficit of approximately $4.8 million, and a deficit in stockholders’ equity of approximately $1.8 million." 

NAUH has avoided creditors for years and been able to get US government funds, including more than $2M in COVID relief funds in 2020 and 2021.   

National American University's enrollment in 2015 was 9,519 students. Since then, NAU has closed more than 30 campuses in nine states: Colorado (3), Indiana, Kansas (4), Minnesota (5), Missouri (3), New Mexico (2), Oklahoma, South Carolina, South Dakota (3), and Texas (7), and has become an exclusively online school (apart from a small site at Ellsworth Air Force Base).

According to the US Department of Education's most recently published numbers, National American University has approximately 1100 students. The school has no full-time instructors. There is no indication that those students are prepared for the school to close. 


Related link:

National American University and the Subprime College Crash (2018)


Wednesday, October 11, 2023

Barnes & Noble Bookstores and Starbucks on Campus: Things of the Past or New Spaces for Democracy?

There are currently more than 750 Barnes & Noble college bookstores across the US. But today, these bookstores are considered a losing proposition for the Basking Ridge, New Jersey-based company. Shares of BNED have recently dropped below $1 and there don't seem to be any buyers in sight. 

Barnes & Noble college bookstores have done a few things over the years to get students to come in and buy, teaming up with Starbucks and selling overpriced merchandise. And they have been cost cutting.  Wages at Barnes and Noble stores are low and schools rely on college students for much of the work. But coffee and snacks, high prices, low wages and reduced staffing haven't been enough to make the stores profitable. 

The company did have a resurgence during the COVID pandemic (2020-2021) but that was short lived.

The pandemic led to a shift to online learning, which boosted demand for digital textbooks and other educational materials. Barnes and Noble Education was well-positioned to benefit from this trend, as it has a strong digital business.

In December 2020, Barnes and Noble Education secured a $15 million investment from Fanatics and Lids, two sports merchandise retailers. This investment was seen as a vote of confidence in Barnes and Noble Education's business model and its potential for growth.

According to the U.S. Department of Education, Barnes and Noble Education received $40,627,996 in COVID relief funds under the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF) program. The company used these funds to provide financial assistance to students, faculty, and staff, and to cover the costs of responding to the pandemic.

BNED is trying to stay up with the times and also keep their physical presence by offering First Day Complete, bundles of required digital course materials which are supposed to save money for students and schools. But will that be enough to keep the stores open? 

(Barnes & Noble at Camden County College, Camden, New Jersey) 

Glimmer of (Democratic) Hope

In May, workers at the Rutgers University bookstore voted to unionize, joining the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU). According to Publisher's Weekly "bookstore unions across the country have gained significant ground."

Students at more than 50 colleges have also called for the expulsion of anti-union Starbucks stores from their campuses. And Starbucks Workers Solidarity has asked community members to boycott Starbucks until their local store has received a contract. 


Starbucks Workers Solidarity has unionized at more than 300 locations, but at a price: the closing of a few stores as a form of corporate retaliation--and to generate fear among workers. Recently, the University of Southern California, known for its neoliberal policies, evicted a small business owner outside USC's Keck Hospital, in favor of a Starbucks.
 

Related link:  

College Meltdown 2.1 (2022) 

College Meltdown 2.0 (2022)

Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Collapse of Ambow Education and NewSchool of Architecture and Design

Ambow Education, the principal owner of the New School of Architecture and Design (NSAD) in San Diego has been cited by the New York Stock Exchange as a Non Compliant Issuer and risks imminent delisting from the exchange. The warning was delivered on September 21, but the company has yet to notify its shareholders.

The Higher Education Inquirer reported on Ambow's financial problems in May 2022.  

In January 2023, Ambow Education's other US school, Bay State College, lost its regional accreditation. After losing its appeal with its accreditor NECHE, Bay State College closed its doors in August. NewSchool of Architcture and Design remains open with less than 300 students. NSAD is currently on Heightened Cash Monitoring by the US Department of Education due to ongoing financial problems. 

 

Friday, September 29, 2023

2U-edX crash exposes the latest wave of edugrift

2U, a Lanham, Maryland-based edtech company and parent company edX, is facing layoffs of an estimated 200 to 400 workers--a significant number for a company that only employs a few thousand--amid more rumors that the company is for sale. While the pain of their firings may be consequential for those who are experiencing it, the pain of those the company has damaged, mostly striving middle-class consumers and their families, may be worse.  

2U's problems are not new. The Higher Education Inquirer first reported on the beginning of company's meltdown in October 2019.  In July 2022, 2U announced layoffs as it changed its business model (again) and the US Department of Education scrutinized the company's grad school offerings.

2U began in 2008 as an online program manager (OPM), one of a few companies offering edtech services that required large amounts of capital and labor costs. They expanded through the acquisition of other edtech firms, Trilogy Education Services (2019) and edX (2021).  edX is an education platform that was created by Harvard and MIT as a massive open online course (MOOC) platform, but as part of 2U now concentrates on selling a number of elite and brand name tech bootcamps.

In 2022 and 2023, the Wall Street Journal (Lisa Bannon), Chronicle of Higher Education (Mike Vasquez), and USA Today (Chris Quintana) investigated 2U after a few US senators sounded the alarm about consumers being fleeced by 2U and other OPMs. 

With 2U's reputation in shambles and layoffs ahead, the parent company wrapped itself around the more respectable edX brand. Bjju's, an Indian edtech firm, was said to be looking at 2U or Chegg as a possible acquisition (Byju's is now facing its own problems).  

Concentrating on growth for years, then acquisition, then consolidation and rebranding, 2U has never generated an annual profit--and that trend doesn't appear to be changing. 

Earlier this year we listed 2U, Chegg, Coursera, and Guild Education as part of the EdTech Meltdown. 

Unlike the prior wave of for-profit college failures of Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, Education Management Corporation, and others that hurt working-class student debtors, 2U has collaborated with elite universities, targeting mostly middle-class folks for advanced degrees and certificates with elite brand names such as USC and UC Berkeley. Credentials that frequently are not worth the debt. Credentials that often did not lead to better paying jobs. Credentials that burden (and sometimes crush) consumers financially with private loans from Sallie Mae and others.

edX's website advertises coding, data analytics, cybersecurity, and AI bootcamps from a number of name brands: Ohio State University, Columbia University, University of Texas, Harvard University, Michigan State University, University of Denver, Southern Methodist University, University of Minnesota, University of Central Florida, Arizona State University, Northwestern University, Rice University, the University of North Carolina, and UC-Irvine.   

  • Ohio State University AI Bootcamp $11,745
  • University of Texas Coding Bootcamp $12,495
  • Berkeley Extension Coding Bootcamp $13,495
  • University of Pennsylvania Cybersecurity Bootcamp $13,995
  • Columbia University Data Analytics Bootcamp $14,745 

It's not clear how well managed the programs are and how much these schools are involved in instruction and career guidance.  However, edX claims that with their bootcamp certificates, graduates will "gain  access to more than 260 employers--including half of the Fortune 100--seeking skilled bootcamp graduates." 

While the targets of for-profit colleges and 2U may have been different, their approaches were similar: sell a dream to consumers that often does not materialize. Spend tens of millions on targeted (and sometimes misleading) advertising and enrollment. Keep the confidence game going as long as it will last. But that may not be much longer.

In April 2023, 2U filed a lawsuit against the US Department of Education to avoid further government oversight. A familiar defensive strategy in the for-profit college business.

There is much we don't know about how significant the damage has been to those who bought the 2U story and spent tens of thousands on elite degrees and certificates, but it must be significant. Most US families do not have that kind of money to spend on something that doesn't result in financial gains.  

Recent reviews of edX on TrustPilot have been scathing. And social media have been brutal on 2U, Trilogy, and EdX. Reddit, for example, has posts like "The dirty truth about edX/Trilogy Boot Camps." In a more recent post about edX, there was a flurry of negative reviews.


In 2016, we wrote "When college choice is a fraud." At that time we were focusing on the tough choices that working-class people have deciding between their local community college or a for-profit career school. Little did we know that the education business was already moving its way up the food chain and that edtech companies like 2U would be engaging in the latest form of edugrift

Related link:

2U Virus Expands College Meltdown to Elite Universities (2019)

Buyer Beware: Servicemembers, Veterans, and Families Need to Be On Guard with College and Career Choices (2021)

College Meltdown 2.1 (2022)

EdTech Meltdown (2023)  

Erica Gallagher Speaks Out About 2U's Shady Practices at Department of Education Virtual Listening Meeting (2023)

"Edugrift" by J.D. Suenram (2020)

When college choice is a fraud (2016)

Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Campus and Learning Site Closings Nearing 20,000

Since 1984, more than 19,000 campus and learning sites have been reported as closed. Over the last generation, night schools and satellite campuses have dwindled as online leaning has replaced them. Universities have also closed campuses in foreign countries. While online education may be more convenient, little is known about the effectiveness of this mode of instruction in terms of learning outcomes, completion rates, and consumer return on investment (ROI). The peak year for closings was 2016, when 1183 campuses and learning sites were reported closed. 

 
(Source: US Department of Education. PEPS Closed School Weekly/Monthly Reports)
 
 

 



Tuesday, January 3, 2023

Manhattanville College’s Administration Tries to Save School...by Removing its Heart (Bob Frank)

During the past two years, administrators at storied Manhattanville College have removed 46 full-time faculty--by paying then to retire or laying them off. Last month, for the first time in Manhattanville's history, tenured faculty in the arts and humanities were pushed away. 

Since the 1840s, Manhattanville College was famous for its caring faculty.  But now they will follow a CUNY/SUNY big school format, with most courses taught by adjunct faculty.

As much as the college claims on its front page to "put focus on the future," the reality is that of less caring, financially unstable institution.


To survive, Manhattanville College has chosen to cut full-time faculty, grow its administration, and create new interdisciplinary degrees. Unfortunately, no-one knows what those new interdisciplinary degrees will look like.

The Manhattanville faculty is the heart of the institution. To discard so many of them, points towards a lack of vision from its administration. 

Today, there are no more tenured faculty in many of the humanities and art disciplines and degrees such in Art History, Languages, Music, Technical Theatre, and many more, have been frozen. The future of this institution looks grim, following many years of catastrophic poor leadership and financial distress.

Students are also voicing opposition to these developments in this Change.org petition. 

One needs to ask "How can a small liberal arts college survive under the current financial climate?"

It appears Manhattanville’s administration, and its Board of Trustees, believe the answer is by freezing disciplines and replacing them with new degrees that have a proven history of being financially lucrative. But is that really the answer? 

In reality, after removing 50 percent of its full-time faculty, this college has lost its heart. The heart of Manhattanville College was its faculty and the only reason for students to choose this college. 

Compared to nearby, cheaper colleges, Manhattanville is small, with old dormitories, poor student activities, and not much to do during the weekends. Yet, it was a warm and wonderful campus, a place where students knew they were the center of attention, and faculty went far beyond their teaching duties to reach out to all students. 

When transforming a college by removing its heart, one wonders what the future holds, and how long it will take to regain an identity students can trust. 

 

Petition:

End the Administration of Manhattanville College's Negligence Towards Students and Staff

Sunday, September 11, 2022

State Universities and the College Meltdown

State Universities are using Google Ads to boost enrollment numbers.

(Updated November 28, 2022) 

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.

 

In order to stay competitive, state universities have to have a strong online presence and spend an inordinate amount of money on marketing and advertising.  Ohio University and other schools now offer programs that are 100 percent online.  

 

State universities have joined for-profit colleges in the television advertising space. 

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