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Showing posts sorted by relevance for query DOD tuition. Sort by date Show all posts

Friday, July 12, 2024

Pending HEI Investigations

The Higher Education Inquirer (HEI) is working on a number of investigative projects. They include:

(1) Maximus is the sole contractor for the US Department of Education's Default Resolution Group (DRG) and its "Fresh Start" program.  The DRG contract is set to expire, and information about their contract appears to have been removed from public view. DRG is likely to face more problems as defaults are expected to rise dramatically in late 2024. 

(2) Subprime scholarship at America's largest online robocolleges, including Liberty University's online doctoral degrees in history and philosophy. We are communicating with subject matter experts to determine the extent of the problem. 

(3) Our 6 1/2 year battle to obtain information about bad actors receiving Department of Defense Tuition Assistance (TA).  

Approximately $600 million in tuition assistance each year is managed by DOD VOL ED and its contractors. About 100,000 servicemembers each year use TA benefits to pay for continuing education, and a disproportionate amount goes to robocolleges.

In 2017, as a continuation of Obama-era policies, contractors PwC and Gatehouse compiled a list of the 50 worst offenders, schools that were violating DOD MOU and President Obama's Principles of Excellence (Executive Order 13607). 

Under President Trump, DOD refused to name the bad actors and did not punish anyone for their violations.  In 2018, DOD education program analyst Anthony Clarke said that DOD did not want to create a "witch hunt." After 2019, the oversight program fell under the radar.  

The University of Phoenix was implicated in a number of violations, but there is no record that DOD did anything to correct the situation, other than to reprimand at least one base commander. DOD has had a long-term relationship with predatory subprime colleges for years through the Council of College and Military Educators (CCME). 

DOD has a current contract with Purdue University Global offering degrees of questionable academic value. 

HEI has spent a great effort communicating with DOD officials, whistleblowers, and political aides, and following up with information that first appeared in in the Military Times in 2018 and 2019, then reappeared in 2024. We are also awaiting a substantive response from DOD FOIA 22-1203-F submitted in July 2022 that has received multiple delays and is not expected to be answered until October 4, 2024, about 1 month before the US federal elections.     

Related links:

Maximus, Student Loan Debt, and the Poverty Industrial Complex 

Articles About Robocolleges 

Articles About DOD Tuition Assistance


Saturday, November 17, 2018

DOD, VA Get Low Grades for Helping Vets Make College Choices

The Department of Defense (DOD) and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) are tasked with helping servicemembers and their families make successful transitions to civilian life.

The Department of Defense offers college classes on base through their education centers. They also provide free education opportunities through DOD Tuition Assistance (TA). DOD offers a tool called TA Decide to help servicemembers choose schools and a short series of classes for outgoing servicemembers, called the Transition Assistance Program (TAP). The US Army also has Army University which puts all military education in one place.

VA claims to offer individual counseling for transitioning servicemembers and veterans seeking information about post-military careers and education. This includes a career tool called Career Scope and an online tool for selecting schools, called the GI Bill Comparison Tool.

How well are these education and career programs working? It would certainly appear from the available data that DOD and VA are failing many servicemembers, veterans, and their families.

I have reached out to DOD for information about the effectiveness of DOD TA, TA Decide, US Army University, and other programs but have not gotten any feedback. I have also tried to connect with VA but they also have not responded.

According to Student Veterans of America and their NVEST report, 46 percent of all people using the GI Bill do not finish school, and 25 percent use their hard earned GI Bill on for-profit colleges. In 2017, CBS News also reported that 40 percent of all GI Bill money goes to for-profit colleges. To make matters worse, some of the worst actors in the subprime college sector (like University of Phoenix, Ashford University, Colorado Tech, and Purdue University Global-Kaplan) get a large amount of TA and GI Bill money.

[Image below from GI Bill Comparison Tool shows the schools with the most GI Bill students. Downloaded 11-8-2018. ]

In 2011, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that DOD had done some work on ensuring greater accountability from online schools, but that more needed to be done. Since 2017, DOD has made two reviews of schools receiving TA funds, but the information has not been released to the public. US Army University also continues to partner with subprime colleges such as University of Phoenix, DeVry, and Ashford University.

Related links:

8 tips to help vets pick the right college (Military Times)

Veteran Mentor Network on LinkedIn

Warrior Scholar Project

Service to School

Veterans Upward Bound

Thursday, July 4, 2019

US Departments of Education, Defense, and Veterans Affairs Shirk Responsibilities to Servicemembers, Veterans, and Their Families

As a military veteran working to expose some of the most predatory practices by subprime colleges, the idea that anyone at the US Department of Education, US Department of Defense (DOD) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would say "Thank you for your service" rings hollow, especially on the 4th of July.

The US  government has systematically shirked its oversight of subprime colleges that target servicemembers, veterans, and their families, especially during the Trump Administration.

I have to give some credit to President Obama for trying to do something against these schools, with Executive Order 13607, but much of that work has been undermined by DOD and VA officials.
I have filed a FOIA and a complaint about Waste, Fraud, and Abuse to DOD, but have been told not to hold my breath. And I have also filed a complaint with the VA, but have even less faith that they will do their job.

Monday, May 9, 2022

College Meltdown 2.2: Who’s Minding the Store?

The latest report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) about wrongdoing by higher education online program managers (OPMs) felt disappointing to social justice advocates who watch the space and know the bad actors who were unnamed in the GAO document.  

US higher education has always been a racket, but its latest pursuits have gone untouched and even unmentioned.  GAO’s behavior, though, is no worse than the many other corporate enablers who are supposed to be minding government funds wasted –or worse yet—used to prey upon US working families. 

The US Department of Education has done little lately to safeguard consumers from predatory student loan servicers like Maximus and Navient, or subprime universities like Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global, and hundreds of small players who offer marginal education leading to less than gainful employment.

The Department of Veterans Affairs has done little lately to protect veterans and their families from being ripped off by subprime schools.  At one time, VA was a leader in tracking GI Bill complaints and making them public, but transparency and accountability are far from what they were.

The US Department of Defense (DOD) has been asleep at the wheel with its distribution of DOD Tuition Assistance funds to subprime colleges.  Its complaint system is close to nonexistent. 

The US Department of Justice (DOJ) and US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) have done little to rein in bad actors in higher education, leaving the work to states attorneys general.  Hate crimes on campus have also been ignored.  In other cases, elite university endowments have received little notice despite eyebrow raising profits.  Student loan asset-backed securities are also below their radar. 

During the pandemic, The Department of Treasury has failed to adequately oversee funds issued to the Federal Reserve and the Small Business Administration funneled to subprime schools. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which had done an adequate job investigating predatory lead generators and marketing and advertising false claims has been hamstrung by a recent court decision and can no longer fine higher ed wrongdoers.   Predatory companies know this and will act accordingly—as criminals do when cops are not on the beat. 

What lack of oversight have you seen with federal agencies tasked to protect higher education consumers? 

Related link: College Meltdown 2.0

Related link: Maximus, Student Loan Debt, and the Poverty Industrial Complex

Related link: 2U Virus Expands College Meltdown to Elite Universities

Related link: DOD, VA Get Low Grades for Helping Vets Make College Choices

Related link:  Charlie Kirk's Turning Point Empire Takes Advantage of Failing Federal Agencies As Right-Wing Assault on Division I College Campuses Continues

Related link: The Colbeck Scandal (South University and the Art Institutes)

Related link: When does a New York college become an international EB-5 visa scam?

Related link: One Fascism or Two?: The Reemergence of "Fascism(s)" in US Higher Education

Saturday, November 24, 2018

Ashford University Deceiving Consumers, Violating Department of Defense Regulations

Since its inception in 2005, Ashford University has been an overly priced, low value educational institution with questionable ethics and poor student outcomes.  As a result, servicemembers and veterans have filed a disproportionate number of complaints about the school through the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, and the non-profit Veterans Education Success.[i][ii][iii]
Ashford and its parent company Bridgepoint Education (BPI) have also been the subjects of investigations,[iv] lawsuits, and legal and out-of-court settlements for a continuing series of unethical and illegal business practices: taking advantage of wounded service members[v], falsifying student retention data,[vi] robocalling prospective students,[vii] and deceiving students about private loans.[viii]  All of these practices violated elements of the Department of Defense’s Memoranda of Understanding (“DOD MOU”) signed by one or more Bridgepoint executives in 2011 and 2014.[ix]  

Recently, Ashford University and Bridgepoint have also been under scrutiny by VA for making false statements about the location of the school’s main business location.  While this may not be a violation of the DOD MOU, it does exemplify the company’s repeated unscrupulous behavior[x]

VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool states that Ashford University has a 16 percent graduation rate and 23 percent student loan repayment rate.  The page carries a warning because of its problems with GI Bill certification in California, and its current lawsuit as a defendant against the State of California. [xi]
According to authors from the US Treasury and Stanford University, Ashford University also carries a 47 percent 5-year cohort default rate (CDR). [xii]

Despite its horrendous record, Ashford University has received hundreds of millions of dollars in DOD TA money and Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill funds.  According to the Center for Investigative Reporting, almost all of Bridgepoint’s money comes from federal government programs, which also includes Pell Grants and federal student loans in addition to TA and GI Bill funds.[xiii]   

2017 State of California Lawsuit
In its recent 40-page civil complaint against Bridgepoint Education and Ashford University, the Attorney General of California stated that the company and its university systematically deceived consumers, including veterans, through:

(1) a high pressure sales culture,

(2) false or misleading statements concerning financial aid and costs of attendance,

(3) misrepresentations regarding transferability of credits, and

(4) misrepresentations regarding employment prospects.[xiv] [xv]

While all of these items are pertinent to service members and veterans, items 3 and 4 appear most applicable to stipulations in Ashford University’s DOD MOU.[xvi]
In Ashford University’s Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Defense, the school  agreed to provide specific consumer information to servicemembers, including information about financial aid and transferability of credits.  Judging from the State of California’s civil complaint, there is no indication that Ashford was providing this information. 

To the contrary, Bridgepoint and Ashford employees systematically deceived consumers about financial aid and transferability of credits:

False or Misleading Statements Concerning Financial Aid and Costs of Attendance (pp. 11-16 in the State of California’s Civil Complaint)
“In its efforts to lure in prospective students, Ashford systematically made false or misleading statements about students’ ability to obtain federal financial aid and the school’s costs of attendance.”  
“For example, Admissions Counselors commonly told consumers that federal financial aid would cover all their costs of attending Ashford University, or that they would receive certain kinds of federal financial aid, when the Counselors either had no basis, for making those promises.” 
“At the same time, Ashford misrepresented to consumers that it could not be determine final financial aid awards until after enrollment, and then it failed to issue the final awards until it was too late for students to withdraw without liability.  This led many to incur unexpected debts for tuition and fees they owed due to a shortfall in their final award.” 
“In another repeated tactic, Admissions Counselors enticed consumers by telling them that they could use federal financial aid for non-educational expenses, even though federal law prohibits this conduct.” 
“Admissions Counselors also made numerous other representations concerning various aspects of financial aid eligibility, a complex topic on which they were unprepared to provide guidance, as well as the costs of attending Ashford.” 
“Unlike other schools, Ashford does not send financial aid award letters until after a student enrolls, giving Admissions Counselors ample opportunity to make false forecasts about financial aid in their sales pitches to consumers.”
“In one common form of representation, Ashford told prospective students who had not yet filled out a FAFSA or received a financial aid award letter that they would not have to pay any “out of pocket costs.” 
“For many consumers, these kinds of misrepresentations made Ashford University seem more affordable than it actually was….Students ended up owing Ashford unanticipated out-of-pocket balances, or had to take out more loans than they expected.

“Ashford also told students and prospective students that final determinations about financial aid could not be made until after the student enrolled, and it required students to enroll without first receiving a financial aid award letter.  Ashford then waited until students were well into their coursework to send the financial aid award letters.  In reality, it was possible for Ashford to make final determinations prior to enrollment, just as many other colleges and universities do. Waiting to process financial aid until after an enrollment allowed Ashford to prevent prospective students’ financial concerns from getting in the way of Admissions Counselor’s quests to close their sales.”  

Elements of the MOU pertaining to financial aid (pp. 4-5):

f. Before enrolling a Service member, provide each prospective military student with specific information to locate, explain, and properly use the following ED and CFPB tools:

(1)  The College Scorecard which is a planning tool and resource to assist prospective students and their families as they evaluate options in selecting a school and is located at:

 (2)  The College Navigator which is a consumer tool that provides school information to include tuition and fees, retention and graduation rates, use of financial aid, student loan default rates and features a cost calculator and school comparison tool.  The College Navigator is located at:

 (3)  The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet which is a model aid award letter designed to simplify the information that prospective students receive about costs and financial aid so they can easily compare institutions and make informed decisions about where to attend school. The Shopping Sheet can be accessed at:

 (4)  The “Paying for College” webpage which can be used by prospective students to enter the names of up to three schools and receive detailed financial information on each one and to enter actual financial aid award information.  The tool can be accessed at:

g. Designate a point of contact or office for academic and financial advising, including access to disability counseling, to assist Service members with completion of studies and with job search activities.

(1)  The designated person or office will serve as a point of contact for Service members seeking information about available, appropriate academic counseling, financial aid counseling, and student support services at the educational institution;   (2) The point of contact will have a basic understanding of the military tuition assistance program, ED Title IV funding, education benefits offered by the VA, and familiarity with institutional services available to assist Service members. 

h.  Before offering, recommending, arranging, signing-up, dispersing, or enrolling Service members for private student loans, provide Service members access to an institutional financial aid advisor who will make available appropriate loan counseling, including, but not limited to: 
(1)  Providing a clear and complete explanation of available financial aid, including Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended. 
(2)  Describing the differences between private and federal student loans to include terms, conditions, repayment and forgiveness options. 
(3)  Disclosing the educational institution’s student loan Cohort Default Rate (CDR), the percentage of its students who borrow, and how its CDR compares to the national average.  If the educational institution’s CDR is greater than the national average CDR, it must disclose that information and provide the student with loan repayment data. 

Misrepresentations Regarding Transferability of Credits (pp. 16-23 in the State of California’s Civil Complaint)
“Ashford falsely told consumers that their prior credits would transfer into Ashford University.”
“Ashford also systematically misrepresented the extent to which Ashford University credits can transfer to other universities. Ashford’s Admissions Counselors routinely enticed prospective students with the promise that Ashford University offers them the flexibility to study online at a pace convenient to them, earning credits that they can later apply to other, less flexible, schools that the student was considering.”
“Ashford’s sales teams also told consumers that because Ashford University was regionally accredited, its credits were certain or likely to transfer to other schools….In other instances, Admissions Counselors have stated that Ashford University are accepted at specific schools, such as University of Southern California, UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC San Diego, and Harvard.” 
“Ashford also made misrepresentations regarding the transfer of credits from ongoing and future casework. Ashford University student and Army Reserve veteran P.M. was deceived by false promises that credits he earned at a community college while attending Ashford University would transfer to Ashford….As P.M. approached graduation at Ashford, he was alarmed to discover that Ashford had capped the amount of credits he could transfer….because Ashford broke its promise to accept all of the community college credits, P.M. had to spend additional time in school at Ashford University to make up for lost credits under the lower housing allowance. As a result he also fell behind in his rent, had to take another job to keep up with the bills, and his credit score suffered. Second, because GI Bill benefits are not unlimited, he wasted some of his veterans’ benefits by spending them on coursework he was unable to put toward a degree.”
This violates the following provision of the Ashford University’s DOD MOU:

“(1) Disclose its transfer credit policies and articulated credit transfer agreements before a Service member’s enrollment.  Disclosure will explain acceptance of credits in transfer is determined by the educational institution to which the student wishes to transfer and refrain from making unsubstantiated representations to students about acceptance of credits in transfer by another institution.” (p.7) 

Misleading and Deceptive Use of "Military Friendly" and "Best For Vets" Logos

Ashford University continues to use logos that are deceptive.  Promotional materials show that Ashford University claims to be "Military Friendly" and "Best For Vets."  But these designations are no longer valid.  

[iii] Veterans Education Success has reported 113 complaints from servicemembers and veterans regarding Ashford University.

[iv] Ashford University was a major focus of the PBS/Frontline documentary, College Inc.

In 2011, in Senate Hearings, Senator Harkin referred to Ashford University as “an absolute scam.”

[xv] Bridgepoint Education is also presumably under investigation by the State Attorneys General in New York and North Carolina.  This is in addition to the company’s settlement with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Are “Best for Vets” and “Military Friendly Colleges” Rankings Believable?

[Editor's Note: This article is for US servicemembers, veterans, and their families.]

GI Bill benefits are a well-deserved reward for your years of military service. They are also an important, but not endless asset for you and your family to transition back to civilian life and to have a good future. In a 2018 Military Times opinion piece, I suggested 8 tips for choosing a college. Those tips are an important primer, but even more education is necessary to spend your GI Bill funds wisely. Military Times, GI Jobs, and others have compiled “Best for Vets” and “Military Friendly School” lists for servicemembers and veterans, but are their lists credible?

Military Friendly?

Whether you are on post, off post, or surfing online, hucksters are trying to sell you their schools, calling them “military friendly.” Servicemembers, veterans, and their families are inundated with advertisements and recruiting for schools--and often these schools are what I call “subprime,” meaning they have questionable value and use questionable tactics to recruit. These messages appear on billboards, ads at the top of your Google or Bing search, on your feeds on Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social media, in ads embedded in internet articles, and in local newspapers, and magazines in unemployment offices and in grocery stores. And once they get your personal information, subprime schools may end up sending you a slew of texts and phone calls pitching their messages.

Military Times, GI Jobs, and other media produce college rankings specifically for servicemembers, veterans, and their families. This lists have some valuable information, but they should not be used exclusively for making the best college choice. You should be particularly skeptical of advertisements in these and other sources, which may or may not be helpful in making college choices. In some cases, websites posing as informational tools for veterans are actually internet predators.

Military Times’ “Best for Vet” Lists

Military Times (publisher of Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Times) produces a “Best for Vets” list that includes separate lists for 4-year colleges, two year colleges, online and non-traditional colleges and vocational colleges. The schools are ranked by factors such as: whether they have a veterans center, military retention rate, military graduation rate, and affordability for people using DOD Tuition Assistance and GI Bill funds.

The Best for Vets four-year college list has schools with value, with University of Texas, Arlington, Colorado State University, University of Nebraska, Omaha, and Syracuse University topping the list. But while these schools may be good for many veterans, high-performing veterans may be better served at highly selective schools like Columbia University, Cornell University, and Stanford. If you have done well on the SAT or ACT and shown promise in your educational work, Warrior-Scholar and Service2School may be important allies.

Military Times’ lists of 2-year schools and vocational schools includes community colleges that have reasonable value, but they may not be the best choice if a student doesn’t plan to stay in the area. The list of online schools does include, Excelsior College, New York state’s college for working adults completing their degrees. Other schools on the online list, however, are particularly troubling (Colorado Technical University and American Intercontinental University, for example). Rather than being best for veterans, some are considered bad actors by organizations looking out for veterans and other consumers. To muddy the waters even more, Military Times accepts advertisements from subprime schools that have the money to post half-page ads in the magazine.

Subprime Colleges

By subprime college, I am referring to schools that have:
  • high tuition in relation to community colleges,
  • low graduation rates, and
  • low student loan repayment rates*

You can find this information at the Department of Education’s College Scorecard.

Subprime schools also spend a great deal of their revenues for advertising, marketing, and recruiting and little on instruction. Subprime schools often sell themselves as accredited, but accreditation, even regional accreditation, sets a low bar for educational quality. These schools have also been called “bad actors” and the “bottom of the barrel.”  The Department of Veterans Affairs GI Bill Comparison Tool provides some information on complaints made to VA. If a school has more than 30 GI Bill complaints, consider another school.

Subprime colleges are often for-profit, but they may also be non-profits or state universities that operate as bad actors. University of Phoenix, DeVry, Colorado Technical Institute, and Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan University) are glaring examples of subprime schools that have used shady tactics to recruit servicemembers, veterans, and other consumers. 

GI Jobs “Military Friendly Schools”

GI Jobs’ Tier-1 university list includes selective, well-respected schools like Carnegie Mellon, NYU, Columbia University, and University of Connecticut. If you look at the schools by state, you’ll find a much smaller list, which will have schools of varying in quality and value. Unfortunately, the Military Friendly lists you may generate with the filters do not compare the schools as transparently as the Military Times lists. 

Schools that use an outdated Military Friendly logo should be particularly suspect. In this case, the schools may have lost their ranking or designation and are using their most recent award. If the designation was not issued after 2017, the school may be considered subprime. 

Predatory Lead Generators

Do an online search for “military friendly schools” or “GI Bill” and you may find results that are even less helpful than Military Times or GI Jobs: results that may make take you down a wrong turn in your career and college decisions. Scam websites use internet lead generators to take your personal information, to sell you a degree or certificate that won’t be a good investment. In some cases, these lead generators pose as military friendly sites with flags and people in uniform. Lead generators have been fined and shut down for misleading veterans but that has not deterred others from continuing their predatory behavior. 

Sunken Investments

If you have found that the school you went to while in the military is a “bottom of the barrel” college, you have lots of research to do before using your GI Bill benefits. Think twice about investing your GI Bill money into a school that will not lead to gainful employment, even if that means starting over if you have to. You should also contact VA and Veterans Education Success to register any complaints about a school you have attended.

*Unfortunately for consumers, student loan repayment rate has been removed from the new College Scorecard.

Helpful Links

Warrior-Scholar (college preparatory boot camps)

Service2School (free application counseling)

Veteran Mentor Network on LinkedIn

Veterans Education Success (tips in enrolling for college)
8 tips to help vets pick the right college (Military Times)

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

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

GI Bill Complaints (downloaded February 8, 2021)

Has anyone noticed that Harvard has the fourth highest number of GI Bill complaints? Harvard? Is this a typo?

While several of the schools on the current list of worst actors have bad reputations (e.g. University of Phoenix, Ashford University (aka University of Arizona Global), Colorado Tech, New Horizons, Keller (aka Devry, and Keiser University), Harvard seems to be one of those schools that's not like the other. At first I thought this might be an input error. But on closer look, it appears the complaints may be about Harvard extension and their certificate programs. Haven't been able to verify what these numbers mean. In any case though it illustrates a point: Just because a school has a good label doesn't mean you are getting a quality education or a fair deal.

This also goes to show that servicemembers, veterans, and their families--and all other consumers--must apply the maxim "buyer beware" to every school they consider. Be patient and do your homework. Ask questions and demand credible answers. Use your critical thinking skills. Don't merely rely on word of mouth, advertisements, and rankings

If you decide to go to school and use your DOD Tuition Assistance, MyCAA, or GI Bill benefits,  choose a good school and a major that results in gainful employment--in a meaningful career.  Make sure you also learn skills that are transferable when the economy changes and when things get tough. 

And if you get ripped off, make a formal complaint to the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, or Department of Education. Veterans should also contact Veterans Education Success for help. 

I have more ideas about college and career choices posted at Military Times, called 8 tips to help vets pick the right college.

Wednesday, July 12, 2023

University of Phoenix and the Ash Heap of Higher Ed History (Updated September 14, 2023)

[Editor's Note: The Higher Education Inquirer will continue to update this story as more information comes in.]

The University of Phoenix (or at least its name) may soon enter the ash heap of US higher education history--and rise again as a state-run robocollege.  But it shouldn't--at least not yet. Once hailed as the leader in affordable adult education for workers entering middle management, it is a shell of its former self--in an economy less certain for workers and consumers. 

With the school's wreckage are approximately one million people buried alive in an estimated $14B-$35B in student loan debt.  

Pattern of Fraud

As of January 2023, more than 69,000 of these student loan debtors have filed Borrower Defense to Repayment fraud claims with the US Department of Education against the University of Phoenix (UoPX). Many more could file claims when they become aware of their rights to debt relief. In the partial FOIA response below, the US Department of Education reported that 69,180 Borrower Defense claims had been made against the school.

In a recent federal case, Sweet v Cardona, most if not all of the 19,860 "denied" cases were overturned in favor of the student loan debtors.  We estimate the smaller number of fraud claims alone to amount to hundreds of millions of dollars.  

Through a FOIA request, we also discovered 6,265 consumer complaints in the FTC database. In 2019, the FTC and the University of Phoenix settled a claim for $191M for deceptive employment claims.  Based on the consumer complaints, we have no reason to believe that Phoenix has changed its behavior as a bad actor. 

On May 3, 2023, six US Senators (Warren, Brown, Blumenthal, Durbin, Merkley, Hassan) called for the US Department of Education, Department of Veterans Affairs, and Department of Defense to investigate the University of Phoenix for launching a new program suggesting that it was a public university.  The letter stated that the school "has long preyed on veterans, low-income students, and students of color."

Wolves in Sheep's Clothing

University of Phoenix's owners could potentially be liable for refunding the US government for the fraud. But as a state-related organization, it may be more politically difficult to claw back funds, no matter how predatory the school is.  

Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global set a precedence in state-related organizations acquiring subprime schools (Kaplan University and Ashford University) and rebranding them as something better. Whether they are better for consumers is questionable. Phoenix will have to cut costs, largely by reducing labor. Using Indian labor (like Purdue Global) and AI could be profitable strategies.  It's likely that this deal, even if profitable, will add fuel to the growing skepticism of higher education in the US. 

University of Phoenix's Finances

Apollo Global Management and Vistria Group currently own University of Phoenix but have been trying (unsuccessfully) to unload the subprime college for more than two years. Little is publicly known about the school's finances. What is known is that UoPX gets about $800M every year from the federal government, through federal student loans, Pell Grants, GI Bill funds, and DOD Tuition Assistance.

Despite this government funding, US Department of Education data show the school's equity value for the Arizona segment declined significantly, from $361M in FY 2018 to $187M in FY 2021. 

$347M of the University of Phoenix's $518M in assets are intangible assets. Intangible assets typically include intellectual property and brand reputation. The school has $348M in liabilities.  

The University of Phoenix has been reducing expenses by cutting instructional costs, from $70M in FY 2020 to $60M in FY 2021. UoPX spends about 8 percent of its revenues on instruction.

Marketing and advertising expenses are not available, but Phoenix has been visible on the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, CBS' Big Brother, and other television events. reports that University of Phoenix spends millions of dollars each year on television ads.  On one ad alone, the ad spend from February 2023 to July 2023 was an estimated $3.5M. 

Attempts to Sell UoPX

There have been two known potential buyers for the University of Phoenix: the University of Arkansas System and the University of Idaho. In both cases, the owners required the potential buyers to keep the deal secret until the sale was imminent.  

Fear of the impending higher education enrollment cliff appears to be an important pitch to potential buyers. 

Arkansas, the first target, was in the process of making the deal, and it might have gone through if nit for the voice of one whistleblower and one outstanding investigative reporter, Debra Hale Shelton of the Arkansas Times.

In the case of Idaho, news of the potential deal was publicly noted just one day before the preliminary agreement was made with the Idaho Board of Education. Two other secret meetings were held before that.  

A number of journalists including Kevin Richert (Idaho EdNews), Laura Guido (The Idaho Press), Troy Oppie (Boise State Public Radio), and Noble Brigham (Idaho Statesman) have exposed some of the problems and potential problems with the deal.  In June, Idaho legislators began questioning the acquisition.  

More recently, the opinion editor at the Idaho Statesman argued that the deal may actually be worthwhile

Particulars about the finances are sketchy at best and misleading at worst.  The University of Phoenix is said to include $200M in cash in the deal, but they have not said how much of that sum is required by law as "restricted cash"--money the school needs if the Department of Education needs to claw back funds.  Phoenix also claims to be highly profitable, but without showing any evidence.  

What is known about the deal is that the University of Idaho will have to borrow $685M and put its (bond) credit rating at risk. The school has not identified important information how the bonds would be sold (underwriters, bond raters, date to maturity, interest rate). 

The University of Idaho has created an FAQ to answer questions about the sale, but HEI has identified a number of misleading statements about University of Phoenix's present finances (failure to report the school's equity), potential liability (cost of tens of thousands of Borrower Defense claims), and leadership (lack of background information about Chris Lynne, the President of the University of Phoenix).  These deficiencies have been reported to the University of Idaho and to the Representative Horman. 

On June 20, Idaho Attorney General Raul Labrador filed a lawsuit to halt, or at least slow down the deal. 

The University of Idaho submitted a Pre-Acquisition Review from the US Department of Education, and it may take up to three months before the application is completed. 

As of September 2023, the deal is far from done.  Since this article was first published there have been a number of developments:

On September 11,  US Senators Elizabeth Warren, Dick Durbin, and Richard Blumenthal called on University of Idaho President Green to abandon the sale.  The Senators also asked Green if he had a plan to pay for the Borrower Defense claims, noting that University of Arizona may be on the hook for thousands of claims against Ashford University (aka University of Arizona Global campus).

In November, the Joint Finance-Appropriations Committee of the Idaho Legislature is expected to discuss the issue again.

*The Higher Education Inquirer has made a FOIA request for more up-to-date numbers from the US Department of Education. We have also filed FOIA requests with the FTC. 

Related link: 

How University of Phoenix Failed. It's a Long Story. But It's Important for the Future of Higher Education.

The Growth of "RoboColleges" and "Robostudents"

More Transparency About the Student Debt Portfolio Is Needed: Student Debt By Institution

Borrower Defense Claims Surpass 750,000. Consumers Empowered. Subprime Colleges and Programs Threatened.

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Purdue University Global Continues to Defraud Servicemembers, Veterans, and Working Families

Related articles:

"The school that systematically misleads students or enrolls those who don't have the capability of succeeding is unlikely to last long. It will have a difficult time making money, and it will build problematic word of mouth in the community in which it operates."--Kaplan CEO Andrew S. Rosen (p. 169) in
In August 2018, I posted a report about Purdue University and its new acquisition, Purdue University Global. The Big-10 school purchased the former Kaplan University from Graham Holdings Company for the sum of $1, while Kaplan Higher Education would be paid service fees for managing the business. The deal sounded like a windfall for Purdue University, but it really wasn’t. Purdue University Global is in deep financial trouble, and Purdue University is liable for any losses related to Purdue Global’s fraudulent business activities.
In my earlier report, I alleged that Purdue University Global was using false claims to enroll working people, especially servicemembers and their families. Their advertising and marketing claims offering a “world-class” education were patently false. But their advertising was compelling to the poorly informed. Purdue Global was also employing QuinStreet, a questionable internet lead generator.

In truth, Purdue University Global’s educational quality is mediocre at best, and its student outcomes rival some of the worst actors in for-profit higher education. Global's numbers:
Purdue Global has been able to get away with these fraudulent practices because it does not receive proper oversight. The US Department of Education, the Department of Defense, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the Enlisted Association of the National Guard of the United States, and the Council of College and Military Educators have all looked the other way, as working families, and especially servicemembers and veterans, have been fleeced by the subprime school.

In April 2019, little has changed in terms of Purdue Global’s fraudulent claims. And as Purdue loses more money (it had a $38 million net operating loss in FY 2018), it will have to make bold moves to survive. While little public information is available, we do know that Purdue Global continues to spend money on television and print ads.
The ads appearing in the April 15, 2019 editions of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Times made all the same claim, that the school offered a "world-class" education. Purdue Global also placed ads on tv shows like MTV’s Catfish, which was the ultimate in irony. The show Catfish exposes people who pose as something more than they are, deceiving the person on the other end of the Internet connection.