Sunday, March 31, 2019

College Meltdown: Where’s the Bottom?

How long will this continue? Judging by surveys, and national, local, and business news, it doesn't look good. Further analysis of the terrain reinforces my opinion that the College Meltdown will continue for the foreseeable future.
Some investors in higher education may be hoping for an economic downturn, because the industry has typically been counter-cyclical. But this time, there may be no guarantee that a recession will improve the financial condition of the industry. Elite schools, for example, rely heavily on investments rather than student enrollment, for capital, and a stock market decline could damage their bottom lines.

Tuesday, March 19, 2019

University of Phoenix Collapse Kept From Public Scrutiny, As Ads Continue

Public information about University of Phoenix has been kept under wraps since 2016, when the school was sold to Apollo Global Management, a large private equity firm where Apollo Education is one of more than 50 assets under management.
While the University of Phoenix still advertises nationally on television shows such as God Friended Me*, its workers and former workers continue to talk off the record about their school's dire situation, and the lengths that the company will take to keep the numbers up.

Behind the scenes at UoPX, enrollment has continued to drop, teachers and enrollment reps have been fired, and campuses continue to shutter. 

University of Phoenix campuses will be closing in Albuquerque, Atlanta, Charlotte, Chicago, Colorado Springs, Columbia, South Carolina, Detroit, El Paso, Honolulu, Jersey City, Philadelphia, Tucson, Virginia Beach, and several locations in California and Florida.

But there is no story, so far, in the news about the collapse of America's largest university, because confirmable information is difficult to obtain. The University of Phoenix media room does not return calls or emails. And the culture of silence at the school prohibits the truth from coming out.

*University of Phoenix advertisement appeared during a new episode of God Friended Me, 3-17-2019.

Related links:

The Slow-Motion Collapse of America’s Largest University

Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time

Higher Learning Commission: Accreditation Is No Sign Of Quality

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

IPEDS Trend Generator illustrates lower enrollment, less revenues, fewer jobs at for-profit colleges

NCES data show that jobs at for-profit colleges have declined every year since 2012

The newest US Department of Education IPEDS data show that enrollment, revenues, and jobs have decreased dramatically in the for-profit college sector. 

Enrollment at for-profit colleges dropped from a peak of 2.4 million in Fall 2010 to 1.3 million in Fall 2017.  That's an enrollment drop of 1.1 million.  

This, in turn, has led to less revenue and fewer workers. 

Revenues at for-profit colleges peaked in 2011 at $29.6B and dropped to $19.4B in Fall 2017. That's a drop of more than $10B a year from its peak. 

For-profit college employees peaked at 295,887 in 2012 and the number dropped to 176,441 by Fall 2017. That's a loss of more than 120,000 jobs.
Decline in enrollment, revenues, and employees (2010-present)

Fall/Year    Enrollment    Revenues              Employees
2010           2,430,657      29,603,059,000     295,476
2011           2,368,440      33,889,758,000     288,882
2012           2,174,457      32,196111,000      295,887
2013           2,000,883      29,643,714,000     258,098
2014           1,883,199      27,310,167,000     241,134
2015           1,629,393      24,007,022,000     214,656
2016           1,437,452      20,804,128,000     191,083
2017           1,345,633      19,446,382,000     176,441 

You can create graphs and tables yourself using the updated data at the IPEDS Trend Generator.

Current conditions in the for-profit college industry may actually be worse, judging by the Fall 2018 assessment by National Student Clearinghouse, which had reported an additional 15 percent decline.  However, NSC's original press release has been removed.  

The data also do not consider more recent losses, such as the collapse of Education Corporation of America (which includes Brightwood College and Virginia College) or Dream Center Education Holdings (which includes Argosy, Art Institutes, and South University

One confounding issue is that for-profit colleges Grand Canyon University and Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan) have moved to the non-profit side.  Ashford University is also working on having its tax status changed from for-profit to non-profit.

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

The Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time (Updated February 7, 2022)

"Today, the subprime college crash is part of a less spectacular but decade-long College Meltdown. Regional universities across the US are facing lots of layoffs. With its many scandals, the University of Southern California is also on the radar with its partner in crime 2U.  Student loan servicer Maximus has also taken on greater scrutiny as they manage Navient's federal student loan portfolio. And Navient is still interesting to look at as they process toxic student loan asset-back securities. Even Harvard University is well worth watching." 

While the Higher Education Inquirer utilizes government, industry, and non-profit data, the information is often stale by the time it is analyzed. Social media, however, provide unique insights into the US subprime college crash, the student loan mess, private college closings, downsizing at state colleges and universities, college financial and political scandals, and other college-related crises as they happen. One important site is has provided a platform for real-time observations and information for more than a dozen years. In the case of the subprime college crash that began in 2011, workers chronicled the collapse of Corinthian CollegesITT TechEducation Management CorporationEducation Corporation of America, and other for-profit colleges as they happened. 

In 2019, as the crash continued, some of the most interesting pages to watch were: Dream Center Education Holdings and the Art InstitutesUniversity of PhoenixDeVry UniversityGraham Holdings and Kaplan Higher Education (now servicer of Purdue University Global), Laureate Education and Walden University, Bridgepoint Education (later known as Zovio, the online program manager of University of Arizona, Global Campus), and Career Education Corporation (later known as Perdoceo and parent company of Colorado Technical UniversityAmerican Intercontinental University, and Trident University International).  

In the first edition of this article, The Dream Center layoff page was particularly active as its schools and former schools, the Art Institutes, Argosy University, and South University, collapsed and $13 million in federal aid meant for student stipends was reported missing.

With austerity, downsizing, mergers and closures, layoff pages at private and public colleges also gained importance.  Green Mountain CollegeHampshire CollegeCollege of New Rochelle , and Southern Vermont College were victims.

We also watched LendingTree, and student loan servicers NavientSallie Mae, and Nelnet, predatory internet lead generators such as QuinStreet, private Christian colleges such as Liberty University, HBCUs like Bethune-Cookman University, non-profit institutions like Baker College, and public universities such as Western IllinoisSouthern IllinoisEastern MichiganUniversity of AkronUniversity of Central OklahomaUniversity of New Mexico and New Mexico StateUniversity of Alaska, Anchorage and University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Workers posting on also provided insight into businesses that surrounded the for-profit education industry, such as ECMC (a student loan servicer and owner of subprime schools) and Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS), one of the industry's most notorious accreditors.

Today, the subprime college crash is part of a less spectacular but decade-long College Meltdown

National American University's death watch is hereUniversity of Phoenix's layoff page has also been a valuable source about student enrollment, layoffs, and unethical practices that have undermined the school.  More recently, it reported UoPX's latest low--the hiring of George Burnett, former Alta College CEO. DeVry University faces the closing of many physical campuses.  

Student loan servicer Maximus became a higher profile company when it took over Navient's portion of the federal student loan portfolio. Online program manager 2U, and CheggPearson PLC, Barnes and Noble College Booksellers, Wiley, and K12 Education also became higher profile as the College Meltdown advances.

Coursera (which has never made a profit) and soon-to-be IPO Guild Education are also important to watch.  

Most state colleges and universities have layoff pages.  For example, the University of Alaska, Anchorage has a page at

Many private colleges and universities have layoff pages.  For example, the University of Southern California ( and Liberty University ( have active pages.

Each US state has a space on the for people facing furloughs and layoffs.  The State of Alaska, for example, is at

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

America's Most Endangered Private Colleges in 2019

Related article: Endangered Colleges include HBCUs, Small Religious Colleges (2016)
Related article: Another American College to Close (Bryan Alexander, 2019)
Related article: Private College Revenues and the US College Meltdown (2018)
Related article: College Meltdown Shows Few Signs of Slowing (2019)

In 2016, Jeff Selingo and EY published a report stating that more than 800 US colleges were facing major downsizing, mergers, and closures. But their report did not list the schools most likely to fail. It would appear that higher education and business insiders, including government agencies and credit rating agencies, know which schools are likely to merge or fail, but they are unwilling to share it with the public.

The Department of Education publishes a list of schools in financial trouble, called the Heightened Cash Monitoring List, but the list is small and is not the best predictor of future school failures. The PEPS School Closings list is helpful, but it's most often a post-mortem of colleges that have already failed.

Would it be possible to create a list by examining just a few variables? I would suggest these variables, in combination, when looking at the survivability of individual US private colleges:

Enrollment <1000 students, and at least
Five consecutive years of student enrollment losses, and at least
Five consecutive years of revenue declines, and
Revenue declines of more than 15% over the last 5 years, and
Endowments less than $5 million

What variables do you think should be included? And what are the intangibles that must be considered? For example, HBCUs have been able to survive for decades despite lack of government support. Loss of accreditation, on the other hand, can be a death sentence for almost any college.

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Deceived by DeVry

Subprime DeVry University Continues to Deceive Consumers
In 2019, DeVry University continues to deceive consumers through its DeVry website and online recruiting. As a subsidiary of Cogswell Education and Palm Ventures, a shoe-string operation in comparison to its previous parent company, matters could get worse. This briefing illustrates some of Devry’s current deceptive practices.

Lack of Transparency Used For Location Bait and Switch 
As a selling tool, DeVry University claims to have more than 45 convenient locations. However, it has closed about 50 campuses and learning sites between 2011 and 2019. Closures have occurred in cities throughout the U.S., including Pittsburgh, Detroit, Houston, Indianapolis, Memphis, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Portland (OR), Seattle, St. Louis, and Tampa. DeVry’s campus closing determinations have been far from transparent, even to employees
In January 2018, several DeVry schools we believed were planned for closure remained on the “Find a Location Nearest You” map. These locations included Anaheim, Bakersfield, Cherry Hill, Colorado Springs, Dayton, Oakland, Oklahoma City, and Palmdale. By July 2018, all of of these learning locations were reported to the US Department of Education as closed schools. While these locations have been removed from DeVry’s map, prospective students had been led to believe that the locations existed.
Typically, the school closing process, known as “teach out,” takes 12-18 months. But in the case of DeVry’s closings, teach outs have occurred with less warning, leaving students and teachers little time to react to their campus closings. This lack of transparency has also allowed DeVry to sell its convenient locations even as it plans to close campuses that may be closest to prospective students. With a recent history of campus closings and the sale of DeVry to Cogswell Education, we anticipate several additional closings of “convenient” but unprofitable learning locations that may already be slated for closure.

Financial Aid Bait and Switch
DeVry has advertised a variety of loan options, including Federal Direct Loans, Federal PLUS Loans, Perkins Loans, and private student loans.
Although DeVry provides a list of potential lenders for private student loans, interest rate information does not appear to be readily available from the site.
When consumers use the Department of Education's College Navigator to get the net price for DeVry, they are redirected to a DeVry lead generator.
Pricing inconsistencies exist. One anonymous DeVry insider said this about the pricing:
There are three completely different total program costs potentially given to prospective students and differing lengths of the programs."
"DeVry’s admissions advisor’s cost calculator used to sell DVU on the phone, shows one amount. The website’s tuition chart lists something totally different, and finally the academic catalogue lists a third completely different figure with students."
"Also most admissions advisors are telling prospective students it is possible to complete a bachelor’s degree in 2 years 8 months! Then Student Finance tells students the truth that its 4 years at best due to lack of course availability and practicality (not taking 20 credit semesters). The catalogue info backs up Student Finance."
"I can’t understand how DOE or someone hasn’t caught that yet. You could call an advisor today go through their admissions planning and get cost 1, then look in the website tuition chart for 2, then look in the catalogue for a 3rd totally different cost and time est. your advisor just told you."
Former DeVry students owe more than $12 billion in student loan debt. The 5-year student loan default rate at DeVry is 43 percent. 

TechPath and Other Claims about Cutting Edge Technology
DeVry leads its potential customers to believe they will be learning innovative skills using cutting edge technology. DeVry advertises its TechPath program, a “distinctive learning approach that grew out of the understanding that students need a different kind of education to prepare them for a world that’s tech-intent, constantly changing and connected as never been through the digital mesh.”
DeVry insiders, however, have reported that campuses have not kept up with technology. And online teaching may be counterproductive for many students.
Brookings Institution Research indicates that the average DeVry University student takes two-thirds of his or her courses online with negative effects on course GPAs and persistence.

Decline in Educational Quality
Teaching staff have reported that educational quality has declined significantly as online class sizes increased. One former instructor stated:

“And, with the cap removed, faculty were teaching 40 or more students in online classes in a cultural contest that promoted the student to customer, obviating any faculty authority to establish rules and at times, even basic human decency. The ax, ever ready to fall on our necks, had us all rather desperately seeking other employment, while doing all we could to "persist" (pass) students with the highest possible grades, futilely hoping to preserve our ECE (student evaluation) scores. Students who lacked skill, who couldn't even submit work, their backs to the wall, often lashed out verbally and in the evaluation process. A student caught plagiarizing could get pay back at evaluation time, and they did….”

A former instructional designer who worked at DeVry more than five years added that "You will not have a voice...DeVry "used to be innovative and desired to push the edges of online education courses with creative solutions to interactivity...but leadership changed and bean counters began shaving copper at the downfall of the student learning experience...such a sad demise from the glory days."

DeVry Claims to be Military Friendly 

DeVry enrollment representatives claim that DeVry is military friendly, and the website states “[f]rom training Army Air Corps instructors on electronic devices in the 1940’s to being one of the first schools approved to accept the original G.I. Bill following WWII, we’ve been education and supporting America’s military personnel and the veteran community for decades.”

However, VA’s GI Bill Comparison Tool reveals more than 200 student complaints, as well as a caution warning related to the recent Federal Trade Commission settlement and how the school is operating under Heightened Cash Monitoring.

While DeVry campuses claim to offer various veterans programs, including VetSuccess on Campus, 8 Keys to Veteran Success, and a Student Veteran Group, one DeVry employee stated that "Students are tossed around by an organization that doesn't care nor have a clue of what it's doing. Disabled Veterans ADA Accommodations are not properly managed or enforced."

Tuesday, January 15, 2019

College Meltdown Shows Few Signs of Slowing in 2019

The US College Meltdown has been occurring for at least eight years, and there are few signs that it will slow down in 2019. 

Image below: Members of student debt group "I Am Ai" protesting fraud by the Art Institutes. (Credit: Ami Schneider)

Related articles:

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.