Friday, October 4, 2019

2U Virus Expands College Meltdown to Elite Universities

Related article: Education is a Racket

Related Article: Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time

Related Article: Many People Saw The Crash Of A Billion Dollar EdTech Company Coming (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related Article: TCF Analysis of 70+ University-OPM Contracts Reveals Increasing Risks to Students, Public Education

Related Article: How They (Online Graduate Programs) Get You (Katerina Manoff, The Atlantic)

Once restricted to for-profit colleges and community colleges, the College Meltdown has advanced to elite colleges like Harvard and Cal Berkeley. These schools have enormous firewalls (e.g. large endowments, strong alumni associations, and powerful donors), but that does not shield them from skepticism about overpriced online graduate degrees and certificates. Adam Looney at Brookings has already outed USC about their outrageously priced MSW program, but that's just one example. The collapse of 2U, the online program manager (OPM) for several elite colleges, exposes this subprime elite degree mess even more.

With 2U, we are not talking about subprime colleges like University of Phoenix or Purdue University Global, but prestigious schools like American University, Baylor University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pepperdine University, Rice University, Syracuse University, University of California, Berkeley, University of North Carolina, University of Southern California, and Washington University.

"Steer clear for your own sanity"

Admissions Counselors at 2U perform work much closer to fraud telemarketing than "counseling." The volume bleeds the human element out of every phone call because you will constantly be striving to hit metrics and enrollment goals.

3) 2U programs are godawful expensive. For many programs, 2U also has multiple offerings for the same discipline, so ACs working for the more expensive option are often out of luck if a student is admitted to a cheaper competing program. Kinda hard to convince someone to take out 40k more in loans than they have to. You will be tacitly encouraged to manipulate students into taking on more debt just to meet your goal. They want you to do everything just shy of outright lying. Admissions is a breeding ground for exaggerated claims, half-truths, and lies by omission. In short, you will be kicking water uphill every day in this role, trying to meet laughably unrealistic targets made by leadership.

That's not even to touch on the sham "Core Values" 2U shoves down your throat. They literally have these values in neon tube lights on the walls in HQ. Now, of course every company has their own brand of BS, but 2U is insane about theirs. It is cult-like. People use the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” unironically. Maybe it’s just me, but using the language of a mass s–c-de in a positive sense...doesn’t exactly sit right. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the core values.

1) ”Cherish every opportunity"–so long as you make 75 calls every day, annoying the heck out of people who just wanted a brochure about the program! Also, if someone has a low GPA or GRE scores and cannot help you meet your goal, that is not an opportunity, so don’t cherish it. This would be an accurate value if it said, "Cherish every opportunity that can make the company money. Forget everything else."

2) ”Be candid, honest, and open" —Honestly, for this one I might as well just post the précis of the pending lawsuit against this company: “[2U] throughout the Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) the Company faced increasing competition in online education and particularly regarding graduate programs; (2) the Company faced certain program-specific issues that negatively impacted its performance; (3) as a result, the Company’s business model was not sustainable; (4) the Company would slow its program launches; and (5) as a result, 2U’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. When the true details entered the market, the lawsuit claims that investors suffered damages.”

2U also doesn’t want you being “candid honest and open” with the students. Generally speaking, none of these students even know 2U exists, let alone that it gets a large chunk of their tuition money. You are lying by omission on every phone call, every time you send an email from your university email address. Students assume you are directly tied to the actual campus of the program you represent, because 2U spoofs the phone numbers, so every AC calling from say, Maryland, has an area code local to the school they are representing. Here's another hilarious thing: in September 2019, after mass firing 67 tenured employees and, again GETTING SUED BY ITS INVESTORS, 2U put out a "Framework for Transparency," which asserts, "2U has always publicly listed the degree and non-degree offerings we power," which, while technically true, is exactly the sort of PR/optics sophistry you should expect from this company. Yes, they list their university partners on their website. But at no point in an AC's correspondence with a prospective student is the name 2U ever brought up. Students would have to already know what an OPM is, and what 2U is for this "transparency" to actually do anything. As it stands, this Framework for Transparency looks to me like just another PR maneuver designed to give 2U rhetorical wiggle room to claim they’re being forthcoming while actually being the opposite.

3) ”Give a Damn!” – but not about all those poor schmucks with low GPAs who can't help you meet your goal.

4) “Relationships matter!” - remember where I said above they mass fired 67 employees one day? Yeah, they gave these people no notice– people who had been with the company for years, had helped build the business, and had bought into all of 2U's pompous, self-aggrandizing rhetoric about how they are "changing the world!" True believers, hard workers, in other words, fired en masse with no notice. These unfortunate individuals were literally called into an auditorium, let go, and informed “You’re welcome to work for the rest of the day if you want!”

5) “Don’t let the skeptic win!” — by which they mean don’t question anything or think for yourself, peon! Drink the Kool-Aid! DRINK IT I SAID! SHUT UP AND DRINK IT!!! HAVE YOU MADE YOUR DIALS FOR THE DAY YET?!

6) “Be bold and fearless” — I guess it was pretty bold and fearless to abruptly and callously fire a significant chunk of their loyal workforce, so kudos to 2U on this one. And it was pretty brazen to lie to their investors too. So, all right, I've give them this one.

7) “Make service your mission” — in other words, do good volunteer work and take pictures wearing 2U swag so we can take credit and get those sweet sweet PR social justice brownie points. 2U spends a lot of money promoting itself, getting named as a Great Workplace in magazines, maintaining this veneer that they are an ethical, socially conscious organization, when in reality, like most other companies, business is the first priority. Ethics and social consciousness are a very, VERY distant second. Actually, probably more like a very distant tenth or eleventh. This wouldn't even be annoying if they were just honest about it. I get it. A company exists and makes decisions solely to grow its business. So why does 2U seem to demand that its employees pretend otherwise?

8) “Have fun!” – you know the phrase “bread and circuses?” It means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy but by diversion, distraction, or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace— by offering a palliative: for example, food (bread) or entertainment (circuses). Thanks Wikipedia. Yeah, that is 2U’s main operating strategy. They do all these extravagant events, e.g. random dance parties in HQ, renting out Six Flags for Halloween, or flying everyone to some destination once a year for company meeting. Superficially these are nice, until you remember that these events are bonkers expensive, and that 2U will then lay off 67 people at a moment’s notice due to monetary concerns. I feel reasonably safe in saying those employees would rather have kept their jobs than gotten to see Flo-Rida live in concert. Moreover, the events, particularly company meeting, are basically thinly veiled attempts at brainwashing, stoking the CEO's messiah complex. They give a lot of ra-ra, gosh-aren’t-we-awesome speeches and make you stand in an auditorium chanting company slogans (again, DRINK THE KOOL-AID, SERF). They get great performers and speakers—Michelle Obama in 2018, for example—who lend specious legitimacy to 2U’s alleged mission and values, but are probably told nothing about the company beyond its claims of being "an innovative tech start up increasing accessibility in higher ed."

9) “Strive for excellence!” — in other words, light yourself on fire daily to keep the higher-ups warm. Break your back to carry the company.

In short, this company is an object lesson in disingenuous corporate doublespeak, bad faith business practices, and dogmatic, cultish conformity. Their core values are a bad joke, and if you are an independent thinker at all, you will not like it here. Also, for the record, I was not fired. I left of my own accord before all the firings and lawsuits started. This is not some disgruntled, terminated ex-employee sounding off. This is just an honest appraisal of how 2U does business from my perspective. Work here at your own peril.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

College Meltdown Investigation: New Horizons Computer Learning Centers

Related article: Are Brand Name Coding Bootcamps the New Higher Education Scam?

Related article: 8 tips to help vets pick the right college

I am currently investigating New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, a system of franchises that provides certified Microsoft and Cisco training and testing. The centers cumulatively receive more than $20 million a year in GI Bill funds for military veterans and an unknown amount from the Department of Defense for military spouses. New Horizons also takes VA Vocational Rehabilitation funds for disabled veterans.

The for-profit schools are privately owned, unaccredited, and do not receive Pell Grants or federal student loans, making the parent company, New Horizons Worldwide, and its franchisees difficult to research. Facing declining revenues since the tech crash of 2001, the once publicly traded company went private in 2010, and slipped under the radar.

Claims about New Horizons' training and outcomes are impressive, but only if they are true. At this point, I am skeptical about these claims after reading repeated complaints about New Horizons Computer Centers and their business practices.

Several of the New Horizons Learning Computer Learning centers are based where service members and veterans live, including Killeen (163 veterans, $686K), Fort Worth (55 veterans, $445K), San Antonio (102 veterans, $641K), Richmond (111 veterans, $1.33M), Atlanta (44 veterans, $208K), Jacksonville, FL (219 veterans, $2.62M), Anaheim (254 veterans, $1.01M), Las Vegas (29 veterans, $15K), Miami (452 veterans, $6.06M), Colorado Springs (52 veterans, $356K), Orlando (236 veterans, $3.99M), Spokane (56 veterans, $968K), Tampa (171 veterans, $1.65M), and McClean, Virginia (94 veterans, $807K).

Recruiting thousands of military spouses, and veterans (including disabled vets), the New Horizons chain also claims to be "Military Friendly" and to adhere to VA's Principles of Excellence. New Horizons markets to veterans by selling their programs as "GI Bill Training." And they claim to offer top-notch instructors and career consultants. Credible information about gainful employment following the training programs, however, is non-existent.

Despite its claims, New Horizons Computer Centers have received a rash of complaints from veterans using their GI Bill benefits. The most common GI Bill complaints about the schools have been about finances, marketing and recruiting, and quality of education.

Complaints across the internet suggest that the learning centers are not worth the cost. New Horizon's recruiting practices also appear to be unethical, using bogus job offers to make their sales pitches.

While New Horizons courses cost $87 to $100 per hour, community colleges offer computer and IT training at lower costs. Lower priced online training can also be gotten for free or close to free, through One Stop unemployment offices and Groupon.

If you have any complaints about any New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, please email me at

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

HEI Resources

[Updated January 8, 2023)



  • Alexander, Bryan (2020). Academia Next: The Futures of Higher Education. Johns Hopkins Press.  
  • Alexander, Bryan (2023).  Universities on Fire. Johns Hopkins Press.  
  • Angulo, A. (2016). Diploma Mills: How For-profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers, and the American Dream. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Archibald, R. and Feldman, D. (2017). The Road Ahead for America's Colleges & Universities. Oxford University Press.
  • Armstrong, E. and Hamilton, L. (2015). Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality. Harvard University Press.
  • Arum, R. and Roksa, J. (2011). Academically Adrift: Limited Learning on College Campuses. University of Chicago Press. 
  • Baldwin, Davarian (2021). In the Shadow of the Ivory Tower: How Universities Are Plundering Our Cities. Bold Type Books.  
  • Bennett, W. and Wilezol, D. (2013). Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education. Thomas Nelson.
  • Berg, I. (1970). "The Great Training Robbery: Education and Jobs." Praeger.
  • Berman, Elizabeth P. (2012). Creating the Market University.  Princeton University Press. 
  • Berry, J. (2005). Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education. Monthly Review Press.
  • Best, J. and Best, E. (2014) The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem. Atkinson Family Foundation.
  • Bogue, E. Grady and Aper, Jeffrey.  (2000). Exploring the Heritage of American Higher Education: The Evolution of Philosophy and Policy. 
  • Bok, D. (2003). Universities in the Marketplace : The Commercialization of Higher Education.  Princeton University Press. 
  • Bousquet, M. (2008). How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low Wage Nation. NYU Press.
  • Brennan, J & Magness, P. (2019). Cracks in the Ivory Tower. Oxford University Press. 
  • Brint, S., & Karabel, J. The Diverted Dream: Community colleges and the promise of educational opportunity in America, 1900–1985. Oxford University Press. (1989).
  • Caplan, B. (2018). The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. Princeton University Press.
  • Cappelli, P. (2015). Will College Pay Off?: A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You'll Ever Make. Public Affairs.
  • Carney, Cary Michael (1999). Native American Higher Education in the United States. Transaction.
  • Childress, H. (2019). The Adjunct Underclass: How America's Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission University of Chicago Press.
  • Cohen, Arthur M. (1998). The Shaping of American Higher Education: Emergence and Growth of the Contemporary System. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Collins, Randall. (1979/2019) The Credential Society. Academic Press. Columbia University Press. 
  • Cottom, T. (2016). Lower Ed: How For-profit Colleges Deepen Inequality in America
  • Domhoff, G. William (2021). Who Rules America? 8th Edition. Routledge.
  • Donoghue, F. (2008). The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities.
  • Dorn, Charles. (2017) For the Common Good: A New History of Higher Education in America Cornell University Press.
  • Eaton, Charlie.  (2022) Bankers in the Ivory Tower: The Troubling Rise of Financiers in US Higher Education. University of Chicago Press.
  • Eisenmann, Linda. (2006) Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945–1965. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
  • Espenshade, T., Walton Radford, A.(2009). No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life. Princeton University Press.
  • Faragher, John Mack and Howe, Florence, ed. (1988). Women and Higher Education in American History. Norton.
  • Farber, Jerry (1972).  The University of Tomorrowland.  Pocket Books. 
  • Freeman, Richard B. (1976). The Overeducated American. Academic Press.
  • Gaston, P. (2014). Higher Education Accreditation. Stylus.
  • Ginsberg, B. (2013). The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All Administrative University and Why It Matters
  • Gleason, Philip. Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century. Oxford U. Press, 1995.
  • Golden, D. (2006). The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates.
  • Goldrick-Rab, S. (2016). Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.
  • Graeber, David (2018) Bullshit Jobs: A Theory. Simon and Schuster. 
  • Hamilton, Laura T. and Kelly Nielson (2021) Broke: The Racial Consequences of Underfunding Public Universities
  • Johnson, B. et al. (2003). Steal This University: The Rise of the Corporate University and the Academic Labor Movement
  • Keats, John (1965) The Sheepskin Psychosis. Lippincott.
  • Kelchen, R. (2018). Higher Education Accountability. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Kezar, A., DePaola, T, and Scott, D. The Gig Academy: Mapping Labor in the Neoliberal University. Johns Hopkins Press. 
  • Kinser, K. (2006). From Main Street to Wall Street: The Transformation of For-profit Higher Education
  • Kozol, Jonathan (2006). The Shame of the Nation: The Restoration of Apartheid Schooling in America. Crown. 
  • Kozol, Jonathan (1992). Savage Inequalities: Children in America's Schools. Harper Perennial.
  • Labaree, David F. (2017). A Perfect Mess: The Unlikely Ascendancy of American Higher Education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Labaree, David (1997) How to Succeed in School without Really Learning: The Credentials Race in American Education, Yale University Press.
  • Lafer, Gordon (2004). The Job Training Charade. Cornell University Press.  
  • Lohse, Andrew (2014).  Confessions of an Ivy League Frat Boy: A Memoir.  Thomas Dunne Books. 
  • Lucas, C.J. American higher education: A history. (1994).
  • Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. Penguin Press.
  • Maire, Quentin (2021). Credential Market. Springer.
  • Mandery, Evan (2022) . Poison Ivy: How Elite Colleges Divide Us. New Press. 
  • Marti, Eduardo (2016). America's Broken Promise: Bridging the Community College Achievement Gap. Excelsior College Press. 
  • Mettler, Suzanne 'Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. Basic Books. (2014)
  • Newfeld, C. (2011). Unmaking the Public University.
  • Newfeld, C. (2016). The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them.
  • Paulsen, M. and J.C. Smart (2001). The Finance of Higher Education: Theory, Research, Policy & Practice.  Agathon Press. 
  • Rosen, A.S. (2011). Kaplan Publishing. 
  • Reynolds, G. (2012). The Higher Education Bubble. Encounter Books.
  • Roth, G. (2019) The Educated Underclass: Students and the Promise of Social Mobility. Pluto Press
  • Ruben, Julie. The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality. University Of Chicago Press. (1996).
  • Rudolph, F. (1991) The American College and University: A History.
  • Rushdoony, R. (1972). The Messianic Character of American Education. The Craig Press.
  • Selingo, J. (2013). College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students.
  • Shelton, Jon (2023). The Education Myth: How Human Capital Trumped Social Democracy. Cornell University Press.
  • Sinclair, U. (1923). The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education.
  • Stevens, Mitchell L. (2009). Creating a Class: College Admissions and the Education of Elites. Harvard University Press. 
  • Stodghill, R. (2015). Where Everybody Looks Like Me: At the Crossroads of America's Black Colleges and Culture. 
  • Tamanaha, B. (2012). Failing Law Schools. The University of Chicago Press. 
  • Taylor, Barret J. and Brendan Cantwell (2019). Unequal Higher Education: Wealth, Status and Student Opportunity. Rutgers University Press.
  • Thelin, John R. (2019) A History of American Higher Education. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
  • Tolley, K. (2018). Professors in the Gig Economy: Unionizing Adjunct Faculty in America. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Twitchell, James B. (2005). Branded Nation: The Marketing of Megachurch, College Inc., and Museumworld. Simon and Schuster.
  • Vedder, R. (2004). Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much.
  • Veysey Lawrence R. (1965).The emergence of the American university.
  • Washburn, J. (2006). University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education
  • Washington, Harriet A. (2008). Medical Apartheid: The Dark History of Medical Experimentation on Black Americans from Colonial Times to the Present. Anchor. 
  • Whitman, David (2021). The Profits of Failure: For-Profit Colleges and the Closing of the Conservative Mind. Cypress House.
  • Wilder, C.D. (2013). Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities. 
  • Woodson, Carter D. (1933). The Mis-Education of the Negro.  
  • Zemsky, Robert, Susan Shaman, and Susan Campbell Baldridge (2020). The College Stress Test:Tracking Institutional Futures across a Crowded Market. Johns Hopkins University Press.

Activists, Coalitions, Innovators, and Alternative Voices

 College Choice and Career Planning Tools

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Data Sources

Trade publications


Saturday, July 20, 2019

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

In 2011, Sherry Li hatched the idea to create a $6 billion Chinese Disneyland in the Catskills, with a for-profit college, a casino, shopping venues, eateries, Chinese-themed rides, and a community full of wealthy Communist Chinese immigrants...just a few miles away from nearby villages of American peasants. The ideas were Trump-like, and like several of Donald Trump's business efforts, most likely to fail without political ties at all levels, and lots of money. In this case, Li needed hundreds of millions just to start, most from wealthy Chinese investors. Together with her business associate Mike Wang, Li paid out large sums of money to establish political ties, but politicians claim not to know her. In 2019, this fantastic scheme, whittled down to a school with no buildings, no students, and one person sitting at a desk, looks more like a swindle. But without victims coming forward, and most are unlikely to come forward, this relatively unknown businesswoman will continue what can now be called a scam.

(Note: I have tried communicating with Sherry Li and Mike Wang, her media director, several times via phone, email, and social media. Someone at the Thompson Education Center does answer the phone, and says "they are out of the country." But this person cannot tell me when they left or when they are returning to the US. When I mentioned that their social media was not updated or even monitored, she admitted "we're not operating anything.")

Related link: Visa Mill Promoters Drop $760K on Key Republicans and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (2018)

China City of America is a multi-phased construction project planned for the town of Thompson, Sullivan County, in the Catskill Mountains region of the U.S. state of New York. The current project, Thompson Education Center (TEC), is a proposed college for foreign students, situated in a 573-acre parcel which borders a state-protected wetland.

In December 2011, China City LLC applied to be a USCIS recognized EB-5 visa Regional Center, but the business was never approved by US Homeland Security. The EB-5 immigrant investor program grants permanent residency to foreign investors in exchange for job-creating investments in the United States. The 880 Regional Centers sponsor capital investment projects for foreign entrepreneurs seeking green card status. Approximately 85 percent of EB-5 participants are Chinese, but there is a quota system, and waits for Chinese applicants can be as long as 15 years.

More than a year later, China City America publicly presented its idea to build a 2,200-acre Chinese theme park, hotel, and casino for an estimated $6 billion. According to The Economist, the plan "would attract 1.5 million visitors annually" and "transform the struggling economy" in upstate New York while seducing thousands of wealthy Chinese investors through the federal EB-5 visa program. The initial capital investment of $325 million would include $127.5 million from EB-5 investors, $132.5 million from equity investors, and $65 million from the U.S. government.

According to the scheme, each Chinese client would pay a small investment up front: a $65,000 non-refundable deposit. One catch was that in return, Li's business would have to quickly create at least 10 new jobs per investor. Local, national, and international media articles conveyed a variety of interests and concerns about the project while local officials and residents expressed both hope and skepticism.

[The initial presentation by Sherry Li starts at about 7:15 in this Youtube video. The comments are in some cases brutally honest, in other cases racist.]

Sherry Xue Li, an Oyster Bay, Long Island businesswoman, has been the chief executive officer and founder of China City of America. Li reported to the Associated Press that she came to the US in 1991, at the age of 19, and has a background in development and finance. Everything about her wealth seems to be a mystery that can only be gleaned from detective work by media outlets and groups like Defeat China City of America on Facebook.
According to her LinkedIn page, Sherry Li has a master's degree from NYU and was a Vice President of Hengli International Corporation (1995-1998), Executive Assistant at Money Securities (1997-1999), and President of China Financial Services (2003-2011).
SEC records show that Sherry Xue Li had been a major shareholder in BRS Group, Inc., a Delaware company dealing in scrap copper imports to China and China Electronic Holdings. Sherry Xue Li sold her stake in China Electronic in 2010 and BRS in 2011. In the video you will see in a moment, Sherry Li also mentions that she has a young child.

According to Lachlan Markay at The Daily Beast, "Li rarely, if ever, talks to the press, issuing her statements mainly through press releases in which she boasts of her meetings with Republican officeholders and Trump administration officials." The other officer of the Thompson Education Center is Mike Lianbo Wang who has appeared in a few TEC press releases.

At a 2013 town council meeting where Sherry Li first pitched the plan, she stated that "Each dynasty will have its building and will have rides go with it," China City’s website features golden dragons, and projects an initial investment of $325 million — with $10 million going to a "Temple of Heaven," $24 million on a hotel and entertainment complex, and $20 million to construct a 'Forbidden City.'" In its second meeting with the town council, Thomas J. Shepstone represented China City. Shepstone was known in the region as a defender of fracking. According to Paula Medley of the Basha Kill Area Association the project couldn't be developed on the scale proposed by China City without damaging environmentally sensitive wetlands.

In 2014, Town of Thompson supervisor Bill Rieber became frustrated with Li's constantly shifting plans and the Town of Thompson declined to approve the project, but the project was granted approval for three wells in 2016. In the same year, Sullivan county lawyer Jacob Billig sued China City of America for failing to pay him fees for service. A settlement was reached out of court for $25,000.

Thompson Education Center

While the larger China City project has stalled, the Thompson Education Center (TEC) is still being planned. The proposed for-profit college campus is on a 573 acre parcel of land near Route 17, Exit 112, which borders Wild Turnpike in Thompson, New York and extends to the town of Mamakating. The mostly undeveloped land for the project is in proximity to an environmentally protected wetland, the Harlen Swamp Wetland Complex. It is also near Monticello, New York, a village with a poverty rate of about 36 percent. TEC press releases have promised that the "high-end" project would create at least 20,000 jobs.

Thompson Education Center plans to have a school of business, a film & arts school, and programs in nursing and medical training, culinary arts, high school equivalency and executive and vocational training. The project includes four classroom buildings, student dormitories, student townhouses and a student center. TEC claims to have entered into agreements with US and Chinese high schools, colleges, education institutions and systems to provide students to the institution. TEC claims also that it has been working with several U.S. accredited colleges on undergraduate programs and ESL programs.

In a January 2017 presentation to the Monticello Rotary, Sherry Li claimed that China City had executed letters of understanding with the Catskill Regional Hospital for its nursing program, and with Phoenix, a Chinese media company that has educated 80,000 students.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in June 2017 Lianbo Wang donated $329,500 to a joint fund between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC). About $86,000 was diverted to the RNC’s legal fund. Politico also reported on the large donations by Wang and Li.

In August 2017, Thompson Education Center appeared before the Town of Thompson, with a plan for a campus that would include 732 dorm rooms for 2,508 students, 276 homes for faculty members, and a college president’s house to be built in a “Founding Trustee Village.” Another source stated that the campus would also include a community center, three recreational buildings, three playgrounds, a sports stadium, a performing arts center, a library and museum, a conference center, a business center, a medical center and an inn for visitors.

In September 2017, TEC sponsored a golf tournament benefiting the Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) Foundation. Ms. Li also visited Congressman Steve Stivers, Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in Washington, D.C.

In 2018, residents sought for a revocation of a permit that the Fallsburg, New York building department had granted for a 9,000-square-foot building, claiming that the building was not a residential structure. The property is adjacent to the Thompson Education Center and is owned by Sherry Li.

Epoch Times reported that Sherry Li was featured in Chinese media promoting the school "as an 'easy' way to get an American green card." The May 17, 2018 Economist issue noted that Chinese media said that "investors in the scheme will find emigrating to America 'so easy.'" But the current wait time for Chinese nationals to receive an EB-5 visa is a decade and a half, and a new regulation for EB-5 visas may substantially raise the price for obtaining a green card.

In January 2019, at the Ivy Football Association Dinner, Sherry Li's Thompson Education Center said they planned to provide application counseling, exam preparation and tutoring for students by The Butler Method. Then in February, TEC announced plans to offer the Ivy League Prep program, to give students with sports trauma treatment-related classes, noting that the courses could be "transferred to Ivy League universities for college credits." At the time, TEC also reported that the project received three well permits, and that the construction road was completed, which should not have been news--the permits had been issued in 2016. The for-profit college with no buildings and no students also reportedly signed contracts with schools in China "to deliver 2,700 nursing program students every year." On a trip to Thailand in March 2019, Ms. Li met with the president of Thonburi University and discussed educational cooperation between TEC, its partners schools and colleges, and the Bangkok school.

In the same press release, Sherry Li's organiation reported that

"College Town covers an area of 650 acres, with over 5 million square feet of the construction area for educational campus and ancillary facilities. TEC has partnered with many prestigious universities in Unites States, planned to establish courses including, business schools, media arts, medical academies, culinary, various MBAs, special license training, high schools and their affiliated facilities to create an intelligent high-end university community. In 2019, Thompson Education Center will work with International University Alliance under the Ministry of Education to open 50 Thompson Education Center Extension campuses in China."

Meanwhile the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Thompson Education Center lie dormant: a giveaway that something is very wrong with this picture.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Music Videos of the College Meltdown

While I was updating my College Meltdown bibliography and writing a review of College is Bullshi*t, I found an enormous number of Youtube music videos dedicated to student loan debt. Scholarly sources are fine, but they don't get people to move. These videos vary in quality and genre, from blues to rap, to pop, heavy metal, and country. But you gotta listen. My favorites are Eatin' Me Alive by Ramy B. and Dee-1's Sallie Mae Back. An extremely popular tune, Stressed Out by Twenty-one Pilots, has just one line about student loan debt, but definitely hits on the consequences of youth and making choices.

Works Cited
B., Ramy. “EATIN' ME ALIVE (STUDENT LOAN RAP).” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Feb. 2019,

chescaleigh. “Beyoncé ‘Countdown’ Parody: Student Loan Countdown.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Oct. 2011,

Cornell, Charles. “Student Loans, You've Got Me By The Balls - Charles Cornell.” YouTube, YouTube, 12 June 2019,

Dee1music. “Dee-1 - Sallie Mae Back (Official Video).” YouTube, YouTube, 11 Feb. 2016,

Dorsey, C. Richaude. “Studen Loan Song.” YouTube, YouTube, 3 Nov. 2016,

ebonysongstress. “Student Loan Song by C. Richaude.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Jan. 2008,

Grosscup, Ben. “‘Four Years of College’ (Parody of ‘Sixteen Tons’ by Ben Grosscup).” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Feb. 2016,

Hammer, Dave. “Student Loan Blues.” YouTube, YouTube, 2 Apr. 2013,

Harris, Lisa E. “Sally Mizzle (The Student Loan Song).” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Oct. 2016,

Lazer, Glenn. “Student Debt Metal Song.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 June 2019,

pincgator. “PINC GATOR STUDENT LOAN SONG.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Oct. 2008,

“Twenty One Pilots: Stressed Out [OFFICIAL VIDEO].” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Apr. 2015,

Wilson, David. “Simple Mind (The Student Loan Song) by David Wilson.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 June 2016,

Sunday, July 7, 2019

What happens when Big 10 grads think "college is bullsh*t"?

Pictures speak louder than words. And emotions move people more than rationality.  And the harsh words that Mike Newman (aka Ekim Namwen) speaks in his video "college is bullsh*t" express the anger and depression of a 30-something year old Ohio State graduate who gets it.  While Newman's work is thoughtful and original, the emotions are common in many once-aspiring graduates from state flagship universities who never quite get ahead.

If you can deal with the critical tone and the emotions expressed in this video, it's well worth looking at it from start to finish. If not, start looking at it from 28:30. Newmans's intent has been to finish a serious decade-long documentary on higher education, but two recent suicides at OSU led him to speak out against the madness of higher education: its outrageous costs, its greedy anti-labor administration, and its uncaring bureaucracy.

The College Meltdown has been going on for more than a decade, and things are getting worse. Books critical of higher education could fill a book case or two. That's admirable. And of course, there are some great exceptions amid the meltdown, such as free community college, and potential free market innovations such as TuitionFit, but the general direction of US higher education is downward.

The current reality is that millions of Americans are traumatized and silently suffering. Many Americans regret borrowing so much money to get the college degree they obtained, if they got a degree at all. The average family holds about $47,000 in student loan debt. And aside from a few student debt groups (like the Debt Collective and I Am Ai) and a few adjunct groups, there is very little resistance. Calls for change are met by other calls (by the rich and powerful) to abandon the dreams of higher education.

We can't blame the problems of higher ed just on higher education. US inequality has been increasing for a half century, and it displays itself across society, from "savage inequalities" in the college pipeline to how end of life is medicalized and made so expensive, at the expense of state and federal budgets.

But there has to be some recognition of the damage that has been done by business minded college administrators and college boards, by the madness of crushing student loan debt and underemployment, and the system that turns almost everything good into sh*t.

Related link: "Crapademia"​ and the Mis-overeducation of America
Related link: Education is a Racket (2016)

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.

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

Alaska is Leading the College Meltdown. Who's Next?

Related article: Enrollment declines, campus closings, economic losses and the hollowing out of America   


Related graph:  State by State Funding for Higher Education, 2008-2017

In an recent article, titled "Enrollment declines, campus closings, economic losses, and the hollowing out of America," I posted the state-by-state enrollment drops from 2011 to 2018. These numbers are posted here. Alaska was at the top of the list, with a 31 percent drop in enrollment. However, there are other states with significant enrollment losses.

Besides Alaska, New Mexico, Hawaii, Michigan, Illinois, Oregon, Missouri, West Virginia, Montana, Minnesota, Arkansas, Louisiana, Kentucky, Indiana, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Wisconsin have had the largest enrollment losses. What states do about the losses has varied, from austerity and tax cuts on the right side to prison reduction and social investments, such as free community colleges on the left.

What drives austerity, and higher education cuts, depends on many factors, and politics are important. State economies, movement of people and companies out of state, obligations to K-12 education, Medicaid, and infrastructure, enrollment losses and tax structures also play a large part in how dramatic these cuts will be. Alaska's recent cuts are a worst case scenario, but that doesn't mean we won't see dramatic funding cuts in other states and counties in the coming years.

I was reminded by one College Meltdown reader that Alaska was not the first state to feel Republican slash and burn tactics. Louisiana, under Bobby Jindal, felt it.

In fact, eight states cut funding more than 30 percent from 2008 to 2017: Arizona, Louisiana, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Alabama, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and New Mexico.

While Democrats and Republicans are diverse within their own parties, we can take a first look at the situation by charting higher education enrollment and state control and make the hypothesis that states with the largest enrollment losses and Republican control of state politics are most vulnerable to austerity, at least in the short run.

My first guess for the most vulnerable states? Missouri, West Virginia, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Indiana, and as many as 18 other states, because they are Republican controlled. But many others will have to make tough economic decisions, to increase taxes, reduce funding, and to make cuts elsewhere. This is especially true in states like Illinois, Michigan, and Wisconsin. The problem with raising taxes is that many people don't like to pay taxes, and they see higher education as an individual choice rather than a public investment. In some cases, they also see (or hear about) administrative largesse and university amenities that border on insanity.

Smart leaders will look for smart (and just) answers.

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Laureate Education: Here For Good?

Related link: Vultures Coming After Laureate (2016)
Related link: Laureate Education Turned Against Democracy in Turkey and Latin America (2016)
Related link: Department of Justice Gives Green Light to Laureate Education to Continue Corruption (2018)

Baltimore-based Laureate Education Inc. (LAUR) is fighting for survival. The international for-profit system of colleges is no longer backed by the Clinton Foundation. Its founder Doug Becker was ousted in 2018 with an enormous golden parachute. And its rich and powerful investors are getting more impatient. After corruption scandals in Chile, Turkey, Spain, and now Brazil and after four years of downsizing, Laureate's slogan, "Here For Good" must be posed as a question rather than a statement.

For a decade and a half, CEO Doug Becker went on a buying spree of colleges across the globe, with a boatload of famous people to pitch for them. But since 2015, Laureate has sold or shut down more than 30 schools, and it faces enormous headwinds in the countries where it continues to operate. 2018 and 2019 have been particularly difficult. This year, LAUR even threatened to sell its big US moneymaker, subprime Walden University.
Walden grants more doctorates to African Americans than Howard University, Jackson State, and Georgia State combined.
Brazil, Laureate's largest segment, is facing reducing revenues after student aid was cut. Brazil's President, Jair Bolsonaro, who is terrible for the country is a wild card at best for Laureate. In earlier years, someone in the company might have been able to bribe officials, but those days are probably gone.
Laureate cut corners in Brazil, though, by allegedly forging documents and hiring teachers for classes they weren't qualified for.
While Laureate has continued to pare down its $3.5B debt to just above $2B, most of its profits have come from selling off more than 30 schools. Here's a list of the schools it has sold, closed, or lost contracts with since 2015. More are likely to be sold off in 2019 and 2020. Laureate sold off Bilgi University, but forgot to mention the terrible details.
  1. Centro Universitário do Norte – UniNorte (Brazil) (sold 2019)
  2. Les Roches Jin Jiang International Hotel Management College (China) (sold 2016)
  3. Xi'an Jiaotong-Liverpool University XJTLU (China) (Laureate's online program partnership with the university was discontinued in 2018. The degrees were awarded by University of Liverpool.)
  4. European University--EUC (Cyprus)
  5. Universidad de Las Americas--UDLA (Ecuador)
  6. École Centrale d’Electronique (France)
  7. École Supérieure du Commerce Extérieur (France)
  8. Institut Français de Gestion (France)
  9. BiTS--Business and Information Technology School (Germany)
  10. Pearl Academy (India) (in sale negotiations as of May 2019)
  11. University of Petroleum and Energy Studies--UPES (India) (in sale negotiations as of May 2019)
  12. Domus Academy (Italy)
  13. Nuova Accademia di Belle Arti (Italy)
  14. Universidad del Desarrollo Profesional--UNIDEP (Mexico)
  15. Université Internationale de Casablanca (Morocco)
  16. University of Liverpool (Laureate's online program partnership with the university was discontinued in 2018. All degrees were awarded by University of Liverpool.)
  17. University of Roehampton (Laureate's online program partnership with the university was discontinued in 2018. All degrees were awarded by University of Roehampton.)
  18. Instituto Tecnologico del Norte (Peru)
  19. Universidade Europeia de Lisboa (Portugal) (sold 2018)
  20. Instituto Português de Administração de Marketing (Portugal) (sold 2018)
  21. Monash University (South Africa) (sold 2019)
  22. Universidad Europea de Madrid (Spain) (sold 2018)
  23. Glion Institute of Higher Education (Switzerland and UK)
  24. Universidad Europea de Valencia (Spain)
  25. Universidad Europea de Canarias (Spain)
  26. Bilgi University (Turkey) (sold 2019)
  27. National Hispanic University (US) (closed 2015)
  28. Santa Fe University of Art and Design (US) (closed 2018)
  29. Kendall College (US) (sold 2018)
  30. University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (US) (sold 2019)
  31. Stamford International University (Thailand) (sold 2019)
  32. Royal Academy of Culinary Arts (Jordan) (sold 2016)
  33. Al Kharj Female College of Excellence (Saudi Arabia)
  34. Higher Institute for Paper and Industrial Technologies--HIPIT (Saudi Arabia)
  35. Higher Institute for Power and Water Technologies--HIWPT (Saudi Arabia)
  36. Jeddah College of Excellence (Saudi Arabia)
  37. Mecca Female College of Excellence (Saudi Arabia)
  38. Riyadh Polytechnic Institute--RPI (Saudi Arabia)
  39. Riyadh Tourism & Hospitality College of Excellence (Saudi Arabia)
  40. Al Nammas Female College of Excellence (Saudi Arabia)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019

College Mania!: An Open Letter to the NY Fed (Opinion)

I just about had a heart attack reading the headlines from two NY Federal Reserve researchers in Buffalo, that college was still a "good investment" despite the costs. The authors, Jaison R. Abel and Richard Deitz, showed a few graphs indicating that college completion still resulted in significant wage premiums, and muttered something about “back of envelope” projections to prove their point.

Are these people mad? Have they not read Annie Nova (CNBC), Jillian Berman (Marketwatch) or Mike Vasquez (Chronicle of Higher Education)? Have they not glanced at Wikipedia or or bothered to use IPEDS help? Have they read Suzanne Mettler’s “Degrees of Inequality”? Have they ever heard of the or College Meltdown? Don't they listen to Dave Ramsey on the radio? The answer is no and probably no, no, no, no, no, no, definitely not because it’s too heavy, no, no, and no.

Have these guys no understanding of the outrageous costs of higher education: tuition, housing, board, text books, transportation, computers, fees, officially licensed college t-shirts, football tickets, concert tickets, pizza, beer, drugs, pregnancy tests, and who know what all else?

Don't they know about the millions who are underemployed after college, the millions that have delayed leaving home, delayed marriage, delayed having children, and delayed starting businesses? Don’t they know anyone who is suffering from the College Meltdown? Have they ever heard of the “gig economy” or talked to an “adjunct professor”? Don't they have friends or coworkers who have nervously cosigned on loans for their children?

Speaking of businesses, haven’t these NY Fed guys figured out that there is a failing for-profit college system, Bryant & Stratton College, luring people with slick ads, whose corporate headquarters is literally two blocks from their office? A school whose target demographics include single mothers with jobs and people with two jobs, who already can't make ends meet?

In 2019, subprime Bryant & Stratton College will be luring hardcore gamers with their esports programs. BSC already has junior college basketball at the dwindling Buffalo campus.

If you read the small print in the NY Fed article, these two wise guys from Buffalo oh so briefly mention that the wage premium doesn’t apply to 25 percent of the people who start. They note that the wage premium is muted in the 40 percent who don’t finish college. And the wealth premium, you know, the actual return on investment after trying to pay off the loans? Forget about it.

They don’t mention that college students are selling their bodies ("Sugar Babies") across the US or selling drugs to get through college. (For the record, I sold my body very cheap to the US Army for an ROTC scholarship to get out of Western Pennsylvania).

These guys don’t mention that more than 40 percent of all student debtors are not paying off their principal. Or that millions of Millennials with student debt are delaying marriage and kids, not starting families or businesses. And by having fewer kids, they are setting the nation up for another phase of the College Meltdown in 2026.

Nor did they note that peak enrollment was in 2010-11 and that numbers have decreased every year since then. I suppose they’d say that was all due to a great economy, like so many others who do not live near reality, even in Buffalo. Really, it would never have anything to do with outrageous prices or record-setting inequality.

And wait a second. Aren’t these two the guys who wrote College is Not for Everyone, back in 2014? What has happened? Have they too contracted College Mania?

Perhaps the men are talking about the business of education, which has been a good investment for some. The higher ed “racket” involving dorm building, restaurant building, gyms and climbing walls.  Or the student loan business that’s booming and student loan asset-backed securities also known as SLABS. Or the online program managers that actually run colleges online. Or the marketing and ad agencies that are profiting hand over fist, as some students literally live in their cars or struggle with hunger. Or maybe they are talking about the bright future behind unregulated “human capital contracts” (What could go wrong?).

But why should I be so angry, literally fed up? The NY Fed is not the only organization feeding the “College Mania!” It’s everyone, aside from Dave Ramsey, Thomas Frank, and too few others. But who reads Thomas Frank? Hopefully it’s the same people who read the two guys from the NY Fed.