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

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 

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Unnamed Ashford University Suitor Joining Purdue University Global in "Race to the Bottom"

Who would buy Ashford University, an online school that has lost more than 50 percent of its students and is downsizing key faculty and academic administrators?

[Video above:  Dr. Stephen Brewer has reported on the downsizing of key faculty at Ashford and the suspension of the University Senate.]

Having seen so many crazy deals in subprime higher ed, from the ECMC shotgun marriage with Corinthian Colleges to the Kaplan-Purdue deal, anything seems possible.

"A bunch of state schools want online at scale at any cost."...(It's a) race to the bottom. They see their students heading to ASU, SNHU, or the for-profits, and figure if they can get to scale, they will have the time and resources to fix the programs."--anonymous online college expert
Tyton Partners managing director Trace Urdan has suggested that UMass or George Mason might buy Ashford from its parent company, Zovio, but I'm not sure either of those schools would take the risk. In my estimation, Zovio does not have the assets, such as cash on hand, for a safe conversion over the long run. And this lack of assets would make the buyer school more responsible for finances during the conversion.

In my opinion, the most logical buyer would be a school that is WASC accredited (Ashford's current accreditor), large enough to handle the risk, and either does not have a strong online presence or wants to expand its presence. It would also need a president/CEO strong enough and a board and faculty compliant or weak enough to take the bait.

It's possible that a hedge fund or other for-profit firm could create a non-profit specifically for the new school.

In the meantime, Dr. Brewer, is asking for accountability and justice for Ashford University students and professors.  After working at the school for a decade, he said that the situation had changed for the worse, "restricting creativity, inhibiting instruction, and demoralizing otherwise talented, motivated, and forward-thinking educators."

For any state university willing to scale up their online presence, be warned. The Kaplan-Purdue University Global deal is not working out, and Purdue bought Purdue Global for $1 and $50 million in free advertising.

Other subprime deals, such as the EDMC-Dream Center deal (Art Institutes, Argosy, South University), Adtalem-Cogswell (DeVry University), and Apollo Group-Apollo Global Management (University of Phoenix) appear to have panned out poorly. But that may not stop someone in the big business of higher ed from taking the risk.

Related article: There’s a Right Way to Convert to a Nonprofit. Ashford University Isn’t Following It (Bob Shireman, The Century Foundation)

Related article: Restructuring and Layoffs at Ashford (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Education)

Related article: The Next Purdue-Kaplan Deal? (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Education)

Related article: Early Troubles In The Purdue, Kaplan Marriage (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related article: For-Profit Bridgepoint Says Its Colleges Will Become Non-Profit, But It Won’t (David Halperin, Republic Report)

State Colleges Seduced By For-Profit, Online Education (David Halperin, Republic Report)