Thursday, May 30, 2019

A preliminary list of private colleges at risk

At the risk of being tarred and feathered again by education insiders, I am compiling a list of US colleges that are at financial risk. I am well aware that there are hundreds of schools in trouble, and that this list just touches the surface.

Why should I present a preliminary list? Because presently, students are not privy to college finances at private schools that they plan to attend. And judging from the decision in the Mount Ida case, it appears that courts do not favor transparency and accountability to help consumers.

I've tried unsuccessfully to reverse engineer the proprietary information of Jeff Selingo and EY. So instead, I've cut and pasted the 2017 Forbes list of schools with financial grades of "D" or less. The methodology for the grades is here. Wishing that Matt Schifrin would continue this important work, but in the meantime, this is all I have.

This list does not include subprime schools and it's not in any way related to instructional quality or student outcomes. Many of these schools are not even on the US Department of Education's Heightened Cash Monitoring list.

I also apologize to anyone at a school with the same name as a school on the list.*
Three schools on the list, St. Gregory's University, Mount Ida and Green Mountain College, have already closed.

While colleges may appear to be on the verge of financial ruin, there is no telling if the school may be saved by an outside force, such as the US Department of Agriculture. 

Adrian College
Alderson Broaddus College (bailed out by USDA)
American International College
Anderson University*
Anna Maria College
Ashland University
Azusa Pacific University
Baptist Bible College and Seminary (Clarks Summit University)
Becker College
Belmont Abbey College
Benedict College
Bethany College (bailed out by USDA) 
Bethel College-Mishawaka
Bethel University
Caldwell University
Campbellsville University
Carson-Newman College
Chaminade University of Honolulu
Chestnut Hill College
Colby-Sawyer College
Columbia College
Concordia College-New York
Concordia University-Chicago
Corban University
Dominican College of Blauvelt
Elmira College
Emmanuel College
Evangel University
Faulkner University
Felician University
Franklin Pierce University
Georgetown College
Green Mountain College (closed)
Immaculata University
Judson University
Keuka College
Keystone College
Lake Erie College
Lindsey Wilson College
Livingstone College
Long Island University-Brooklyn Campus
Long Island University-C W Post Campus
Malone University
Marian University
Martin Methodist College
Mary Baldwin College
Marygrove College
Marymount Manhattan College
Marywood University
MidAmerica Nazarene University
Midland University
Mount Ida College (closed)
Mount Olive College
Mount St. Mary’s University
Multnomah University
Newbury College-Brookline
North Carolina Wesleyan College
Notre Dame College
Nyack College
Oglethorpe University
Ohio Dominican University
Olivet Nazarene University
Ottawa University-Ottawa
Pace University-New York
Pacific Lutheran University
Pfeiffer University
Philadelphia Biblical University-Langhorne (Cairn University)
Prescott College
Quincy University
Regis College
Rider University
Rockford College
Rockhurst University
Roger Williams University
Saint Gregorys University (closed)
Saint Joseph's College-New York
Saint Martin's University
Saint Mary-of-the-Woods College
Saint Peter's College
Saint Xavier University
Shorter University
Sierra Nevada College
Spring Arbor University
Spring Hill College
The College of Saint Rose
The Sage Colleges
Tusculum College
Union College*
University of Bridgeport
University of New Haven
Urbana University
Utica College
Westminster College*
Wheeling Jesuit University
Wiley College

*There are two or more schools with this name

Monday, May 27, 2019

Can Apollo Global Management stem the bleeding at University of Phoenix?

Related Link: University of Phoenix Collapse Kept From Public Scrutiny, As Ads Continue (2019)
Related Link: The Slow-Motion Collapse of America’s Largest University (2018)
Related Link: University of Phoenix: "Where Dreams Die" (2016)
Related Link: Faux Phoenix or Vulture? (2015, 2018)

The collapse of University of Phoenix has been off the mainstream media radar for years. Only the conservative Daily Caller has bothered to investigate the demise of America's largest university. Since University of Phoenix is subsumed under a hedge fund behemoth, Apollo Global Management, it's very difficult to track the collapse. But the old information that we do have does not look good.

Data from fiscal year 2017 show that University lost money in all of its segments, except for Arizona. And that segment, which included the online division, showed only a slim profit. The total annual loss was about $52 million.

University of Phoenix has created cost cutting measures by closing most of its campuses, but that alone may not be enough to gain profitability. When campuses are closed, enrollment and reputation decline. It's notable that Federal Trade Commission has not publicly stated that they are finished with their investigation either.

The UoPX brand is badly tarnished and perhaps beyond repair. Expensive fantasy land media campaigns like "Discover Your Wings" cannot make up for a declining product or service that depends more on word of mouth and the success of those who attend. Apollo Education and University of Phoenix could declare bankruptcy, as other Apollo Global Management companies have done or threatened to do, but that would bring even more bad attention.

I have attempted multiple times to communicate with University of Phoenix, but they refuse to respond. While stonewalling can prevent misquotes and distortions, "playing dead" is not a good sign for any business.

Saturday, May 18, 2019

JLL Partners facing tough decisions with Fortis Colleges and Institutes

  • Related Link: Fortis page
  • Related link: When College Choice is a Fraud (2016)
  • Related Link: College Meltdown: Where's the Bottom (2019)?
  • Now that many publicly traded for-profit colleges have collapsed, College Meltdown is looking at private equity firms that own subprime colleges.

    One of the most notable for-profit college conglomerates, Education Affiliates, operates Fortis Colleges and Fortis Institutes and other lesser known trade schools.  Fortis schools are managed by EA, but they are owned by JLL Partners, a New York City-based private equity firm.

    At least eight Fortis campuses have closed, leaving 32 locations. But many of the remaining schools have been losing money and 14 are on US Department of Education Heightened Cash Monitoring.

    In 2016-17 (the last year available for data), 21 Fortis locations were unprofitable: Centerville, Cincinnati, Columbia, Cutler Bay, Cuyahoga Falls, Grand Prairie, Houston, Indianapolis, Norfolk, Phoenix, Richmond, Baltimore, Birmingham, Cookeville, Erie, Forty Fort, Lawrenceville, and Nashville.

    The problem from the beginning has not been with instructional quality, but with programs offering limited gainful employment. Schools like Fortis offer programs that often lead to low wage jobs, and low wages make student loan debt insurmountable. Student loan repayment rates for Fortis schools range from 20 to 24 percent.

    So how long can JLL Partners continue to let the red ink continue with these assets? Can cuts be made without cutting instructional quality and student resources? And how can Fortis schools compete with free community college in states like New Jersey, Tennessee, and Indiana, where Fortis campuses exist?

    JLL Partners has many notable investors, including the University of Missouri System, Montana Board of Investments, Colorado Public Employees' Retirement Association, Regents of the University of California, Travelers Companies, and the New Jersey Pension Fund. All of these funds need to pay off their obligations; with New Jersey, the pressure to create substantial returns is enormous.

    JLL Partners also owns Ross Medical Education Centers, ACE Cash Express, CATO Research, Medical Card System, Pioneer Bank, Point Blank Enterprises, Viant, and Xact Data Discovery.

    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.

    Monday, April 15, 2019

    Are Brand Name Coding Bootcamps the New Higher Education Scam?

    "Boootcamps may not be technically a scam, but they come awfully close."--Richard Kenneth Eng, former Project Team Leader at ATI Technologies (1993-2000)

    My friend Tom Cal at the Veteran Mentor Network has alerted me about the proliferation of coding bootcamps and their reluctance to tell consumers what they need to know to make good decisions.

    Are these bootcamps meeting all their hype?
    Are they getting their graduates good jobs in coding?
    The short answer is that we don't know.

    The problem is that there is almost no transparency or accountability. That's even though some of these schools are eligible to accept the GI Bill.

    David Halperin has exposed WozU, but how many other brand name coding bootcamps are not working?

    Brand name schools like Penn, Cal Berkeley, Georgia Tech, Northwestern, UCLA, North Carolina, University of Texas, George Washington, and Rutgers would seem to have quality, but are their bootcamps really what they say they are?

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

    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 College Meltdown in Real Time

    The contents of this article are updated periodically, to illustrate trends in the College Meltdown.  The most recent update was published September 11, 2022.  

    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.