Thursday, October 15, 2020

The College Dream is Over (Gary Roth*)

For the last decade already, access to a college education has been shrinking. This is unprecedented for the United States, in which expanding access has always presupposed that enrollments grow faster than population. This has been true in all but a handful of years ever since annual data were compiled by the U.S. Census Bureau. During the major expansion of higher education during the 1950s and 60s -- when for the first time large numbers of students from working class backgrounds entered the collegiate system, college enrollments outpaced population by a factor of eight. Even as recently as the first decade of this century, enrollments increased four times faster than population growth. The current crisis began in 2010, with enrollments expected to remain flat for another ten years or more, even though the population continues to grow.[i] The college educated will shrink as a portion of the population at large.

If access is declining, so too are the chances for upward mobility. The future has narrowed. Stagnant enrollments put into reverse some of the signature accomplishments upon which the educational community and the nation at large have prided themselves. Two groups in particular have been hit hard. Much attention has been given to the decline in black student enrollment, generally attributable to a rollback of affirmative action policies and a pronounced increase in racist incidents. Less noticed has been the decline in white student participation, which has fallen by a similar percent over the last decade.[ii] For both black people and white people, access is shrinking.

This decline compounds the difficulties which college graduates already face. Since the early 1990s, one-third of the graduates with bachelor’s degrees have found themselves in jobs for which a college education is not necessary.[iii] Here too, upward mobility in terms of the types of work available, compensation, and possible career paths forward has been foreclosed. This in turn produces a ripple effect on everyone without a four-year degree. The underemployed college graduates crowd into employment fields that they had hoped to avoid, which in turn exerts downward pressure on wages across the board. If college attendance was once motivated by the desire to get ahead and improve one’s circumstances, it has increasing become a negative motivation. You go to college in order to avoid the even-more difficult fates that await those with less schooling. 

The dream of education as a lever of social transformation is over. This dream was never fully grounded in reality anyway, but whatever it stood for in the past no longer fits the current situation. Collegiate institutions have become temporary warehouses for the children of the middle and working classes. Graduation dumps them into an economic cul-de-sac in which appropriate jobs are lacking. Student debt makes this situation all the more disturbing. Since the pandemic, even underemployment has begun to look good, so scarce have jobs become. Richard FariƱa’s Been Down So Long It Looks Like Up to Me (1966) takes on a new poignancy. 

[i] Annual enrollment data begins in 1947; U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 303.10 (2019). For population 1790-1930: U.S. Census Bureau, Bicentennial Edition: Historical Statistics of the United States, A 6-7; for population 1940-2020: U.S. Census Bureau, Decennial Censuses.

[ii] Between the peak year of enrollment in 2010 and 2018, black student enrollment declined by 18%, while white student enrollment declined by 19%; U.S. Department of Education, Digest of Education Statistics, Table 306.10 (2019). Also see: Ben Miller, ‘It’s Time to Worry About College Enrollment Declines Among Black Students’, 28 September 2020,; Kevin Carey, ‘A Detailed Look at the Downside of California’s Ban on Affirmative Action’, The New York Times, 21 August 2020,

[iii] Federal Reserve Bank of New York, ‘The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates: Underemployment’, 17 July 2020,

*Gary Roth is the author of "The Educated Underclass: Students and the Promise of Social Mobility." 

Friday, October 9, 2020

"Edugrift": Observations of a Subprime College Lead Generator (by J.D. Suenram*)

First a little about my background. I came to work at a company called Edsoup in 2010. I worked there for four years. Previously I worked for DOD as a civilian contractor as a military contractor. This very lucrative job ended when the Defense Department under Bill Gates decided to eliminate the civilian military recruiter in each recruiting office across the country. 

I knew nothing about Edsoup when I was hired there in Salt Lake City in 2010. Ostensibly, as the job was explained to me, I was to help people make college decisions by setting appointments telephonically for the students. The colleges would then contact them about enrolling. Simple right?

Wrong. Four years later, I had received an education of sorts, on the countless  layers of grift which can only be described as subprime education. And, unlike housing, in which you do get a house, the educational grift here left the consumers/students with nothing. Zip. Zero. Nada.

Why you ask? First of all uniformity. Many would choose to quibble here. Our schools (Liberty University and Grand Canyon come to mind) are not like the 'bad apples' (Everest, Ashford, Kaplan) That is simply a lie.

While it is true that GCU and Liberty have large campus enrollment, that reality was built on backbreaking debt laden online subprime degrees. Hundreds upon hundreds of thousands of them. The vast majority of which are useless, except for adding to the coffers of old, rich white men.

Look at uniformity. Whether it was Kaplan or GCU, Edsoup would set appointments for these schools off a monthly menu. Say you had the misfortune of thinking a 4 year online degree in cybercrime or homeland security would improve your economic standing. If we ran out of the GCU monthly budget option for those degrees, we would hook you up with Kaplan. Until they ran out. At the end of the month you might just have Everest as your only option. No problem. They will call just like the other grifters did.

Now Edsoup's menu was just the tip of iceberg. You express your degree preference to me over the phone. We pull up the menu, which was just the number of candidates each school needed to keep the grift juggernaut rolling. We also set appointments for OTHER menus, like Mediaspike and Quinstreet. We were a grifterpalooza of education. 

You may ask where did we find the leads for these subprime schools? We did have that inbound 800 number, which produced 2 dozen appointments a month. The other THIRTY THOUSAND appointments were outbound. Hammer time baby.

You may ask who did we call? Again, uniformity.,,,, the list of about 50 jobsites here. We even had sleazy companies cut and pasting legit sites like Monster and getting leads from them. Also, if you wanted Medicaid, food stamps, power assistance, we are calling you. Hammer time. 

The bait and switch went like this. I know you were online recently, looking for a job. But if you WERE to go back to school, what would you want to study? Most said no in rather unpleasant terms. But many did not. Ka-ching.

Uniformity. Who received these leads? Enrollment counselors/salespeople at Ultimate Medical Academy, Kaplan, Everest, Colorado Technical (University), (University of) Phoenix, Grand Canyon, Post University, Ashford University, Virginia College, Le Cordon Bleu, Art Institutes, Western Governors University, to name a few of roughly 50.

Liberty U we set leads for in the beginning until Jerry Falwell Junior in housed the call center leads at his former Lynchburg Sears mall.

Now more recently, organizations like Ashford thru Arizona, GCU, and Kaplan through Purdue Global have in housed their own subprime appointment factories. Not having first hand information, I would still unequivocally  say these operations have not changed their operations one bit.

I was able to successfully put a lawsuit on the docket in Salt Lake Federal Court in 2015. Two firms, one the largest player in Salt Lake, the other the largest player in San Francisco, took the mega case to challenge the operational scam of this subprime juggernaut. A good 2 dozen schools (I left out Full Sail above they were in the lawsuit) were on the hook for their "uniformity".

Unfortunately, this was for naught as the election happened. Some of the same CEO's we sued were now IN The Department of Education. So we withdrew. They were decidedly not the same dozen or so Edgov and DOJ folks we met with in Salt Lake prior to the election. 

Fortunately, edugrift slowly has become a much harder sell. Even with a few major U's taking on the subprimes and airbrushing them. With 2020 coming, there may be yet a death knell for this sad chapter in U.S. educational history.

*This article is the opinion of the author.  

Monday, August 31, 2020

Student Loan Volumes Show College Meltdown Has Accelerated

According to Ken Miller at The Century Foundation, volumes decreased 10 percent at public colleges, 18 percent at for-profit colleges, and 20 percent at private non-profit colleges.  

And according to Mark Kantrowitz, new student loan volumes were down 42 percent

Student loan volumes were especially low at subprime schools University of Phoenix (-48%), Walden University (-48%)Ashford University (-56%), and Colorado Tech (-43%) and state flagship universities, University of Washington (-95%), Ohio State (-68%), Penn State (-51%), Temple University (-47%), and University of Texas-Austin (-41%).  

Elite private universities Columbia University (-87%), Boston University (-55%) and Georgetown (-39%) also saw big losses in student loan volume. 

While schools with large endowments will be able to cover these dramatic losses, those with less in alternative revenue streams and endowments will have to make tough decisions, in many cases cutting costs through layoffs in 2021.   

Numbers for the 4th quarter, posted in November after the election, could be even worse, at least in absolute terms.  The loss of these funds may not only hurt colleges and their employees, but also college towns.  Federal student loan fiscal year numbers will also be reported in November.  

In late December 2020, the National Student Clearinghouse will post national enrollment numbers which may parallel declining student loan volumes.  The greatest income losses, however, may come from losses from room and board revenues.  

Related Links:

Monday, May 18, 2020

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

As CEO of Turning Point USA (TPUSA), Turning Point Endowment, Turning Point Action (TPA), and Students for Trump (SFT), 26-year old Charlie Kirk has established an "alt-lite" non-profit empire, funded by the rich and powerful, and supported by President Donald Trump. Kirk's network includes close ties to Donald Trump Jr. and access to the White House for Turning Point events President Trump has attended.

As progressive celebrities cancel speaking engagements on college campuses this fall, TPUSA and Students for Trump have a clearer path to continue their "aggressive" assault on Division I college campuses in battleground states: Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Florida, Wisconsin, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, with the major purpose of getting President Donald Trump reelected. 

Charlie Kirk's organizations have become well-funded Donald Trump youth groups, supporting unrestrained gun rights, fossil fuels, deregulation, and political cover for whatever Donald Trump needs.

Jane Mayer (New Yorker), Lachlan Markay (Daily Beast), Mike Vasquez (Chronicle of Higher Education), Haley Victory Smith (USA Today), Alex Kotch (Sludge), the Southern Poverty Law Center (Hate Watch) and the Anti-Defamation League have done good work in documenting important and unsettling aspects of Kirk's empire: questionable business practices that evade IRS and federal election rules, acting as a corrupting influence in college elections, promoting disinformation for the National Rifle Association and the fossil fuel industry, lying for President Trump, using surreptitious listening devices on campuses, intimidating professors and minority students who oppose President Trump, and opening the door for hate speech on campus

Politico has also documented Turning Point's Arizona headquarters, a beehive of activity for Kirk's non-profits. But Politico failed to ask any tough questions about TPUSA's questionable practices on and off campus. They didn't even bother to ask questions about the potentially illegal intermingling of personnel and resources at Turning Point. While Politico noted the organization's access to the White House, they failed to mention Turning Point's use of Trump's Mar-a-Lago Resort for exclusive, high-priced events.

Turning Point Action was formed in May 2019 and now acts as the parent company of Students For Trump (SFT). SFT previously acted as a non-affiliated political committee, but it was administatively terminated by the Federal Election Commission (FEC) in April 2018. Their only treasurer, John Lambert, pleaded guilty to wire fraud charges in August 2019. Less than a month later, SFT sponsored a relaunch in Las Vegas at the Palms Hotel, owned by Trump allies, the Fertittas.

Should Turning Point Action be filing with the FEC as a political action committee? It's anyone's guess, and it really doesn't matter during the Trump era. Current rulings and guidelines, the Citizens United Supreme Court decision, and lack of a quorum at the FEC make a complaint to the FEC next to useless. The same is true about asking the IRS to look into the intermingling of funds between Turning Point USA, a 501c3 and Turning Point Action, a 501c4 and parent organization of Students For Trump.

An essential part of the story now is how Charlie Kirk has been able to take advantage of weaknesses in federal oversight, making complaints to the FEC and IRS fruitless. Another part is Kirk's close collaboration with the White House, through Donald Trump, Jr. and Turning Point USA events at the White House and Mar-a-Lago

With Trump's Executive Order for Free Speech on Campus (which penalizes colleges for preventing "speech" of all sorts, particularly Trumpian speech), Charlie Kirk and his organizations have more openings for hate speech and dirty tricks on campus. Schools that deny this "free speech" could potentially lose their federal funding streams. Perhaps college students should exercise their 1st Amendment rights and employ a Watchlist for Turning Point activists that are breaking federal and state election laws.

Turning Point USA Blurs the Line Between Charity and Pro-Trump Political Group (Alex Kotch, Sludge)

A Conservative Nonprofit That Seeks to Transform College Campuses Faces Allegations of Racial Bias and Illegal Campaign Activity (Jane Mayer, New Yorker)

5 Takeaways From Turning Point’s Plan to ‘Commandeer’ Campus Elections (Michael Vasquez, Chronicle of Higher Education)

Students For Trump Is More Dangerous Than You Think

Pro-Trump Non-Profit Sign of the (Corrupt) Times

Turning Point USA opens door for hate groups and gun violence on campus

Charlie Kirk, Turning Point USA incite racial conflict, secret surveillance on campus

The Rise of the Battleground Campus (Kyle Spencer, Politico)

Trump’s Free-Speech Executive Order and the Right’s Fixation on Campus Politics (Osita Nwanevu, New Yorker)

I went inside a rightwing safe space to find out the truth about universities (Cas Mudde, The Guardian)

Extremism, Terrorism, and Bigotry: Turning Point USA (Anti-Defamation League)

Turning Point USA accused of boosting their numbers with racists by long-established conservative student group (Southern Poverty Law Center, Hate Watch)

Tuesday, May 5, 2020

"Let's all pretend we couldn't see it coming" (The US Working-Class Depression)

How is the working-class Depression of 2020 similar to the other 47 financial downturns in US history? 

Downturns are frequently precipitated by poor economic and cultural practices and preceded by lots of signals: over-speculation, overuse of resources, oversupplies of goods, and exploitation of labor. What I see are many poor practices brought on by corruption--with overconsumption, climate change, growing inequality, and moral degeneration at the root.

The "disrupters" (21st century robber barons) have enabled an alienating and anomic system that is highly dysfunctional for most of the planet, using "algorithms of oppression." And this cannot be solved with data alchemy, marketing, and other forms of sophistry.

Put down your iPhone for a minute and ponder these rhetorical questions:

How long have we known about all of this dysfunction? Academics have known about the effects of global climate change and growing US inequality since at least the 1980s. The Panic of 2020 should be a lesson so that we don't have a larger economic, social and environmental collapse in the future.

Who will hear the warnings and do something constructive for our future? Or is this Covid crisis another opportunity for the rich to cash in on the tragedy?

The answer lies, in part, to an ignorance of history and science, and oversupply of low-grade information, poor critical thinking skills, and lots of distractions. That's in addition to the massive greed and ill will by the rich and powerful.

US downturns are baked into this oppressive system. And crises are used to further exploit working families. With climate change and a half century of increasing inequality, these situations are likely to worsen.

Workers will resist and fight oppression; they always do, but will they have a voice as the US faces another self-induced crisis, as trillions are doled out to those who already have trillions?

Here are the dates of the largest economic downturns.
1873–1879 (The Long Depression)
1893–1896 (The Long Depression)
1918–1921 (World War I, Spanish Flu)
1929–1933 (Stock Market Crash, Great Depression)
1937–1938 (Great Depression)
Feb-Oct 1945
Nov 1948–Oct 1949
July 1953–May 1954
Aug 1957–April 1958
April 1960–Feb 1961
Dec 1969–Nov 1970
Nov. 1973– March 1975
Jan-July 1980
July 1981–Nov 1982
July 1990–March 1991
Mar-Nov 2001
December 2007 – June 2009 (The Great Recession)
March 2020-

We live in an economic system that is unsustainable, unjust, and exploitative. While many of us in academia and the thought industry have known this for decades, those with greater wisdom have known for centuries. Techies and disrupters think it can all be solved with technology, not with profound wisdom. The ultimate in hubris and reductionism. We have to change the system politically, socially, and culturally. We have to be wiser.

How do we do that, radically change society, when our economic system has driven us in the wrong direction for so long? Some of these lessons can be learned from working class history, but they have to be applied with wisdom.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Revising Indicators of the College Meltdown during the Panic of 2020

Insiders in higher education and at bond rating agencies know how bad the College Meltdown has become. They have been tracking it for years, and know the most vulnerable schools by name. What indicators do they use, and why aren't the People privy to the information?

In May 2017, I posted the short piece, Charting the College Meltdown. The article included a spreadsheet of key variables that could be used to gauge the direction and intensity of the downturn in US higher education.

Three years ago, revenues were the only variable in the green, and those numbers were from 2015. Clearly, even revenues had been declining earlier at many institutions, especially at for-profit colleges, community colleges, and smaller private schools.

Additional information has been compiled and analyzed since 2017. For example, Gary Roth's "The Educated Underclass" (2019), painted a disturbing picture of US higher education and gainful employment, and the larger economy that had been producing lots of low-wage jobs and fewer good jobs with security. And enrollment data from the National Student Clearinghouse point to a hollowing out of America and significant declines in state enrollments.

Nathan Grawe's analysis of demographic trends also projected a dramatic loss in the college enrollment pipeline in 2026, a ripple effect of the 2008 Great Recession.

One of the problems with even doing an analysis is the lack of data and the quality of data. As part of their plan to deregulate, defund, and privatize higher education, the Trump Administration has discouraged transparency and accountability measures put in place during the Obama Administration.

Student loan defaults, measured by the 3-year student loan default rate, is a poor indictor of problems in the student loan system. Colleges and universities have learned how to game the system, offering deferments to students to keep debtors from defaulting in the three-year window. Student loan repayment rates, a good proxy for long-term defaults, have been eliminated from the College Scorecard.

Variables, like the actual quality of Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (SLABS) can only be gained through inside information.

The New York Federal Reserve had been a source for the College Meltdown, but recently they appeared to be more like cheerleaders of the industry rather than objective analysts.

In addition, US Department of Education data is released at a plodding pace, often lagging about 2 years. That's why data from the National Student Clearinghouse are so important.

What variables do you think are the most important in gauging the higher education business? And what variables should be added or removed from the chart?

More resources from College Meltdown

Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time

College Meltdown Resources (includes college choice and career planning tools)

A preliminary list of private colleges at risk 

Are Brand Name Coding Bootcamps the New Higher Education Scam? 

College Meltdown Expands to Elite Universities

Education is a Racket

Higher Learning Commission: Accreditation Is No Sign Of Quality

The Slow-motion Collapse of America's Largest University

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

Community Colleges at the Heart of the College Meltdown

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

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

The College Meltdown Is Painfully Obvious

When College Choice is a Fraud

Music Videos of the College Meltdown

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Coronavirus and the College Meltdown

If the student loan debt bubble blow ups in coming months, it will be because the US economy had been seriously compromised for decades. 

The College Meltdown continues in 2020. This phenomenon is deeper than the coronavirus, the temporary closing of campuses across the US, and the cancellation of NCAA basketball's March Madness. What we are seeing in the news should be a smaller entry in the History of American Higher Education compared to larger trends and social problems that preceded the pandemic.

College and university enrollment has been declining slowly but constantly since 2011, with for-profit colleges and community colleges taking the largest hits. And it follows larger demographic trends which include a half century of increasing inequality, including "savage inequalities" in the K-12 pipeline, crushing student loan debt, decreasing social mobility and the underemployment of college graduates, smaller families, and the hollowing out of America.

Spending on college is also an increasingly risky decision for working families.

A larger enrollment decline is projected for 2026, a ripple effect of the Great Recession of 2008. With fewer younger people to attend college, this "enrollment cliff" could amount to a 15 percent drop in a single year.

There are many parts to the current Coronavirus crisis and its effects on US higher education. But they all boil down to the Trump mantra (defund, deregulate, and privatize) and the opportunity for the elites to capitalize from the crisis, as they did during and after the Great Recession.

[Image below from Wikipedia. Higher education in the US has increasingly relied on for-profit mechanisms for growth and revenues. This includes privatized housing and services and for-profit Online Program Managers (OPMs).]

Higher education is a small but significant part of the US economy, which includes much larger sectors like Health Care and Finance. While the working class will not get bailed out, these sectors likely will, with the sudden crisis used as a rationalization. The crisis of crushing student loan debt and the much larger problems related to 50 years of growing inequality may be more disruptive in the long run, but these matters continue to be ignored.

Whether the next President is Donald Trump or Joe Biden, things could get worse for working families, unless there is mass resistance--right now I don't see that happening. For the moment, many young people are responding by living with family, not going to college, and delaying child bearing. Those who do get an education are also making economic sacrifices. Some, for example are selling their bodies as Sugar Babies to get through school.

Many state economies also look bleak in the near future. Not enough in revenues and increasing Medicaid costs make investments in education difficult to do without increasing taxes or state-level debt. And it's not likely that the wealthy will be willing to pay their fair share, unless they feel economically threatened. If that happens, rich companies and rich people can just move out of state or out of the country.

Higher Education and the Student Loan Mess

In October 2019, Trump Department of Education official Wayne Johnson resigned, recognizing that student loan debt mess was worse than anyone had imagined. US higher education enrollment is supposed to be countercyclical (improving when the economy drops) , but don't bet on it without government help.

Haven't heard any rumors in months, but it should also be interesting to see if President Trump tries to unload the $1.5T in federal loans to his banking friends using an executive order. McKinsey & Company have been tasked to determine the possibilities of such a maneuver, but there is radio silence on that front.

In the education sector, I'm watching student loan servicers and private lenders Sallie Mae (SLM), Navient (NAVI), and Nelnet (NNI) closely. Student Loan Asset-Backed Securities (also known as SLABS) are also worthy of scrutiny given the low rates of student loan repayment.

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