Wednesday, January 6, 2021

UT Austin President Eats Cake in a Pandemic (Austin Longhorn*)

For years, I have been amazed at the heights of hypocrisy at The University of Texas at Austin. When I was in college, the UT President’s salary was around $500,000. I felt that was outrageous.

Having seen that many of my peers graduate without a good job, it felt terrible to see the leader who is supposed to make its stakeholders succeed is just enjoying life at the top with an insane salary most of the students would never make, even in their wildest dreams.

The career services were horrible at the university. I bet that is still the case. Before Betsy DeVos’s horrible decision to rescind the Gainful Employment Placement Rule, we at least had an idea, though imperfect, how graduates were faring. We don’t even have that information now. However, this article is not about Betsy DeVos or Gainful Employment Placement Data. It is about the callousness of UT Austin President Jay Hartzell who has received a $1.25 Million salary. Yes, you read that right. $1.25 Million in salary that was approved during a pandemic.

The reasoning behind The University of Texas System Regents is that peer institution presidents have similar salariesLet us assume that it takes top dollar to recruit top talent.  But how do you explain a $1.25 Million salary during a Global Pandemic when people are struggling to pay rent or mortgage and are basically lining up at the local food pantry to get food? It is almost saying “Let Them Eat Cake” to every hardworking person who is unable to feed their family while the UT Austin President enjoys an outrageous salary.

UT Austin and every university collects data on their graduates using a Qualtrics or other company survey that the graduates fill out electronically. It is not that President Hartzell did not know that the university students are struggling in the job market. He knows. Yet, he does not care. He cares about his salary and a rubber stamp board of regents approving such a salary.

To put it in perspective, the US President makes $400,000. TX Governor makes $150,000. The Austin Mayor in whose city UT Austin is located makes $80,000. That means with a $1.25 Million salary, Hartzell makes almost double than the salaries of the US President, TX Governor and Austin Mayor make in salaries combined. How do you explain about recruiting top talent when there are public officials who have a lot more responsibilities, who are top of the line talent, that work for less compared to the UT Austin President?

President Hartzell is disingenuous of his empathy for the working man or woman. Hopefully he will  offer to take less in salary and work for the welfare of the student body by reforming career services. Until then, he is going to leave a “Let Them Eat Cake” feeling in the working people’s lives.

Related links:

The College Dream is Over (Gary Roth)
Executive Compensation at Public and Private Colleges (Chronicle of Higher Education)

Saturday, January 2, 2021

DEBT STRIKE!





Student debt forgiveness is no longer a fringe issue.  In June 2020, 60 groups, including the NAACP, the American Federation of Teachers, and the National Consumer Law Center supported debt relief. By November 2020, more than 230 groups called for Joe Biden to cancel the debt (see list below). However, Biden is reluctant to do an executive order. 

Here are links to some US student debt groups and associated links:

AOC tells progressives to ‘push Biden hard’ on canceling student loan debt (Fox Business)NAACP And 60 Other Groups Call On Congress To Cancel Student Deb (Forbes)Student Loan Justice
ITT Tech Warriors

Student Debt Crisis


Groups Supporting Debt Forgiveness

Asset Funders Network
Action Center on Race and the Economy (ACRE)
Advocates for Youth
Agroecology Research-Action Collective
Alliance for Strong Families and Communities
Alliance for Youth Action
American Academy of Social Work & Social Welfare (AASWSW)
American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education
American Association of University Women (AAUW)
American Economic Liberties Project
American Federation of Teachers
American Medical Student Association
American Psychological Association
Americans for Democratic Action (ADA)
Americans for Financial Reform
Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance, AFL-CIO
Augustus F. Hawkins Foundation
Bayard Rustin Liberation Initiative
Bend the Arc: Jewish Action
Campaign for America’s Future
Center for Justice & Democracy
Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP)
Center for LGBTQ Economic Advancement & Research
Center for Popular Democracy Action
Center for Responsible Lending
CFPB Union NTEU 335
Children’s Defense Fund
Clearinghouse on Women’s Issues
Coalition on Human Needs
Community Organizing and Family Issues
Community Oriented Correctional Health Services (COCHS)
Consumer Federation of America
Consumer Reports
Council on Social Work Education
Demand Progress
Demos
Disability Rights Education & Defense Fund (DREDF)
Economic Justice Ministries, United Church of Christ
Emgage Foundation Inc
EMPath: Economic Mobility Pathways
Franciscan Action Network
Friends of the Earth U.S.
Generation Progress
Girls Inc.
Greenpeace
Hispanic Federation
In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Justice Agenda
Indivisible
Insight Center for Community Economic Development
Invest in Women Entrepreneurs
Japanese American Citizens League
Jobs With Justice
Labor Council For Latin American Advancement
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Media Voices for Children
Minority Veterans of America
MomsRising
MoveOn
MyPath
NAACP
NACBHDD – National Association of County Behavioral Health and Developmental Disability Directors
NARMH – National Association for Rural Mental Health
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity (NAPE)
National Association for College Admission Counseling
National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders
National Association of Consumer Advocates
National Association of Consumer Bankruptcy Attorneys (NACBA)
National Association of Social Workers (NASW)
National Center for Law and Economic Justice
National Children’s Campaign
National Community Reinvestment Coalition (NCRC)
National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients)
National Domestic Violence Hotline
National Education Association
National Employment Law Project
National Equality Action Team (NEAT)
National Latino Farmers & Ranchers Trade Association
National Partnership for Women & Families
National Partnership for Women and Families
National Urban League
National WIC Association
National Women’s Law Center
National Young Farmers Coalition
OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates
Organic Consumers Association
Parents Organized to Win, Educate and Renew – Policy Action Council
People For the American Way
People’s Action
People’s Parity Project
Progressive Change Campaign Committee (BoldProgressives.org)
Progressive Leadership Initiative
Project on Predatory Student Lending
Protect All Children’s Environment
Public Advocacy for Kids (PAK)
Public Citizen
Public Counsel
Public Good Law Center
Rachel Carson Council
Restaurant Opportunities Centers United
Revolving Door Project
School Social Work Association of America
Service Employees International Union (SEIU)
Sikh American Legal Defense and Education Fund (SALDEF)
Social Security Works
Southeast Asia Resource Action Center (SEARAC)
Southern Rural Black Women’s Initiative for Economic and Social Justice
Student Action
Student Borrower Protection Center
Student Debt Crisis
Student Defense
Student Voice
Sunrise Movement
Swipe Out Hunger
Take on Wall Street
Tax March
The Climate Mobilization
The Congress of Essential Workers
The Debt Collective
The Education Trust
Towards Justice
U.S. Federation of Worker Cooperatives
UE, United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America
UnidosUS
United for a Fair Economy
United for Respect
United Parents And Students
United State of Women
United States Student Association
UnKoch My Campus
URGE: Unite for Reproductive & Gender Equity
Voices for Progress
Working Families Party
Young Invincibles

State Groups:

ACTION Tulsa
AFGE Local 3354 (AFL-CIO)
AFGE Local 704
AKPIRG
Arkansas Community Organizations
Bucks County Womens Advocacy Coalition
California LULAC
Cash Campaign of Maryland
Center for Economic Integrity
Center for Popular Democracy
Charlotte Center for Legal Advocacy
Chicago United for Equity
Chicago Urban League
Children’s Defense Fund Southern Regional Office
Children’s Defense Fund-CA
Civil Service Bar Association
Community Legal Services, Inc. of Philadelphia
Community Service Society of New York
Comprehensive Youth Services Inc.
Consumer Federation of California
Convencion Bautista Hispana de Texas
Debt-Free MD, INC.
Delaware Community Reinvestment Action Council, Inc.
Denver Area Labor Federation, AFL-CIO
East Bay Community Law Center
Education Minnesota
Empire Justice Center
Equality North Carolina
Fayetteville Police Accountability Community Taskforce
Friendship of Women, Inc.
Generation Hope
Georgia Watch
Grassroots Action NY
Greenlining Institute
Hildreth Institute
Housing and Economic Rights Advocates
Indivisible San Diego
Inversant
Jacksonville Area Legal Aid, Inc.
Just-A-Start Corporation
Kanawha Valley National Organization for Women
Kentucky Center for Economic Policy
Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee
Legal Services Staff Association, NOLSW/UAW 2320
Long Beach Alliance for Clean Energy
Los Amigos of Orange County
Louisiana Budget Project
LSCNY, Inc.
LULAC of Simi Valley
MAHA
Maine Center for Economic Policy
Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition
Massachusetts Affordable Housing Alliance
Massachusetts Budget and Policy Center
Massachusetts Jobs with Justice
Miami Valley Fair Housing Center, Inc.
Michigan Poverty Law Program
Mission Possible Community Services, Inc.
Mississippi Center for Justice
Mobilization for Justice
Montana Fair Housing
Morgantown Pastoral Counseling Center, Inc.
MS Black Women’s Roundtable and MS Women’s Economic Security Initiative
National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence-Maryland Chapter
NC Climate Justice Collective
New Economics for Women
New Economy Project
New Era Colorado
New Georgia Project
New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies, Inc.
New Jersey Citizen Action
NextGen California
Ohio Student Association
Olive Hill Community Economic Development Corporation, Inc
Pennsylvania Council of Churches
Piedmont Alliance for the Prevention of Substance Abuse (PAPSA)
Premier Women’s Council
Public Higher Education Network of Massachusetts (PHENOM)
Public Justice Center
Public Law Center
Reinvestment Partners
S.C. Appleseed Legal Justice Center
Save Us Now Inc
SEIU Local 509
Southern Echo Inc.
Southern Maryland Community Network
The Freedom BLOC
The Health, Education and Legal assistance Project: A Medical-Legal Partnership at Widener University Delaware Law School (HELP: MLP)
THE ONE LESS FOUNDATION
The Recovery Council
Triangle Community Foundation
Tzedek DC
United Vision for Idaho
Unity Fellowship of Christ Church NYC
Virginia Organizing
VOCAL-NY
VOICE – OKC
West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy
Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice
Women Employed
Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network
Women’s Foundation of Arkansas
Women’s Foundation of Minnesota
Women’s Fund of Rhode Island
WV Citizen Action Education Fund
Zero Debt Massachusetts


Tuesday, December 1, 2020

Community Colleges are an Essential Piece of "Building Back Better"


Fifty years of growing inequality, "savage inequalities" in the K-12 pipeline, college enrollment down for a decade, millions of students without the requisite skills to succeed in college or at work, a student loan debt bubble, fewer good jobs at the end of the pipeline,  a looming enrollment cliff in 2026, and existential threats such as climate chaos in front of us.  It's a daunting series of tasks, thinking how we can improve the situation.  But in my opinion, it is possible if many of these pieces are dealt with honestly and openly. 

In building back better, President Biden's Department of Education must look objectively and yet imaginatively at community colleges, and how these institutions can serve the needs of the People, their society, and the world.  This won’t be easy.  

US community colleges have been hit hard by the College Meltdown, with dramatic losses in enrollment and revenues over the last decade, and their mission has become more complicated over time, with more than a half century of growing inequality, decades of working-class wage stagnation, and the hollowing out of America.  Community college certificate completion, transfer, and graduation rates have been historically abysmal. 

[Image below: Community college enrollment has dropped dramatically since 2010, from 10.9 million attending in 2010 to 8.2 million in 2018. Graph generated using the IPEDS tools. ]


One essential challenge for US community colleges in “building back better” is working to remedy structural and historical injustice in the K-12 system.  US K-12 education is fraught with “savage inequalities,” which has led to tens of millions of its citizens unprepared for the new economy.  This leaves poorly funded, understaffed, and stigmatized colleges tasked with remediating millions of students who desperately need language, math, science, and critical thinking skills.  While many working people would be better by starting at a community college and not incurring so much debt, the prestige of a 4-year school draws them away from smarter choices

With support from local businesses and non-profits, and support for local start ups, community colleges have the potential to do more as economic engines.  Better-resourced schools are already doing this. 

State universities, in New Jersey for example, have also partnered more closely with community colleges, giving these schools for the working class more credibility. 

Community colleges do offer programs in important jobs, such as certified nursing assistant (CNA), but many of these high-demand jobs are low paying. Programs like that need to be free and should even offer a stipend. In other cases, community colleges don't have particular courses in lucrative working-class professions (e.g. diesel mechanics), and something needs to be done. We also need to imagine, in detail, how community colleges will be part of any Green New Deal, replacing diesel mechanics with jobs that create a sustainable and more humane world.

Tuesday, November 17, 2020

Navient and the Zombie SLABS Meltdown (Bill Harrington*)

I look forward to reviewing the quarterly and annual Student Loan Portfolio reports, courtesy of Dahn Shaulis and the College Meltdown. The biggest student loan company Navient (NAVI) is melting down too. In the year-to-date, NAVI has underperformed the S&P 500 by 33%! Since spinning out from Sallie Mae in April 2014, NAVI has underperformed the S&P 500 by 137%! (The S&P 500 is up 92% and NAVI is down 45%.)

NAVI's standing is even worse than the trading suggests, in large part because the company still finances itself with the type of asset-backed security ("ABS") deals that birthed and prolonged the 2008 financial crisis. Big Picture: Navient valuations of its student loan ABS deal are exceptionally generous (and that assessment is itself exceptionally generous). The most fantastical valuations are those of the many Navient ABS deals with long-dated maturities as far in the future as 2080, as well as the deals with embedded flip-clause-swap-contracts. Navient’s complete reliance on crisis-causing finance is a governance failure with real dollars-and-cents credit costs — costs that Navient vendors such as auditors, counsel, and credit rating companies ignore.

I pointed out the credit costs of Navient’s failed governance to the credit rating company Moody’s Investors Service in my critique of Moody’s proposed global credit rating methodology for ESG. Moody’s issued a comment request on the proposal and I replied. The non-profit research Croatan Institute, where I am a senior fellow, posts my submission. See pages 10-16 for some of the most egregious Navient governance failures that should spell credit rating downgrades for the ABS and for Navient the company.

Responsible Investor published my op-ed “Moody's ESG overhaul won't have any actual effect on credit ratings...” on October 19. The op-ed highlights the governance failure of Moody’s in proposing a worthless ESG overhaul and links to my methodology critique.

I’ve forwarded the critique of Moody’s ESG proposal to regulatory entities such as the SEC Office of Credit Ratings and the Office of Credit Rating Agency Supervision at the European Securities and Markets Association that should be holding Moody’s (and DBRS, Fitch Ratings, and S&P Global Ratings) feet to the fire. 

Likewise, I’ve forwarded my critique of Moody’s methodology to law enforcement, including the attorneys general of New Jersey and New York. Both have acknowledged receipt and review of my critique. Finally, I’ve let Moody’s know that I’ve alerted the regulators, law enforcement, and many others. Moody’s knows that a lot of eyes are watching how it finalizes the ESG proposal. If Moody’s improves the ESG methodology even a little, that could be a BIG problem for Navient. Here’s hoping.

*Bill Harrington is a Senior Fellow at Croatan Institute, “an independent, nonprofit research institute whose mission is to harness the power of investment for social good and ecological resilience by working at the critical nexus where sustainability, finance, and economic development intersect.”


Friday, November 6, 2020

A Letter to the US Department of Education and Student Loan Servicers on Behalf of Student X (Heidi Weber)

[Editors Note: Whistleblowers like this author, Heidi Weber, are an essential part of a democracy, shedding light when there is little transparency, and demanding justice and accountability when it is in short supply.  Her podcast, Whistleblower Revolution, is available at https://whistleblowerrevolution.com/

November 5th, 2020

TO: THE UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION, THE US SECRETARY OF EDUCATION, US CONGRESS and ALL FEDERAL SUBSIDIZED AND UNSUBSIDIZED STUDENT LOAN LENDERS

In the Interest of Student X (DOB x-x-xx) regarding GLOBE UNIVERSITY (closed)

To whom it may concern & the above-mentioned recipients,

My name is Heidi Weber, and I am the higher education whistleblower, that spoke up, regarding fraud and deceptive practices I witnessed while being a Dean at Globe University and its sister chain, Minnesota School of Business. I was retaliated against and endured a long legal process resulting in a 7-day jury trial against the large for-profit chain with campuses in several states. [see full Background story attached to this letter]

Fortunately, in my case, truth prevailed, and that jury verdict, along with my evidence, opened the door to scrutiny from the MN State Attorney General, State and Federal Higher Ed Departments, ultimately, forcing the schools to cease operations.

I’ve been invited and still speak at universities, business groups, non-profits, and even in the halls of Congress regarding this sector, what it’s doing to our country and imploring change. Recently, my story was featured as the season one finale of CBS Whistleblower with Alex Ferrer. I also, host a national podcast, and am a consultant and trainer on employee relations/engagement.

THEREFORE, I FEEL I HAVE EARNED THE RIGHT TO BE HEARD, not only on the topic itself, but especially, as an advocate of the students of Globe University/MSB, directly.

As I write this, the owners had retained a group of high dollar attorneys who are still a lengthy process representing them in bankruptcy court, after claiming & filing bankruptcy, days after being court ordered to give thousands of students their money back. Meanwhile, those private owners and senior corporate stakeholders have delayed proceedings, transferred assets, and still enjoy lavish homes and vacation/retirement properties after making hundreds of millions over the years on the backs of people just wanting a promising future.

Instead, they have stolen the futures of those students and grads who haven’t been able to and still cannot, utilize a degree from these schools. A degree that has become even more worthless, many times being a strike against the grad, as the school’s activities have come to light.

What I, and every other American, finds disturbing, is the fact that,

THE OWNERS CAN LEGALLY FILE FOR BANRUPTCY TO GET OUT OF JUDICIAL ORDERS TO PAY STUDENTS BACK, NEVER BE HELD FINANCIALLY OR MORALLY ACCOUNTABLE, AND CONTINUE LIVING WEALTHY LIFESTYLES, YET, THE PEOPLE THEY PREYED UPON, and DEFRAUDED, WHO CANNOT TRANSFER THOSE CREDITS and GRADS WHO CANNOT WORK IN THEIR FIELD, (much less EVER GET THAT TIME BACK), ARE NOT ABLE to FILE BANKRUPTCY OR EVER GET OUT FROM UNDER THE CRUSHING DEBT.

This is a LIFELONG SENTENCE for most of these people, many of which had few opportunities to begin with and struggled to sacrifice already.

I know this.

I had them in my classrooms. Vets, single parents, minorities, immigrants, young people who had little means, and no other options, to finally be “sold” their dream. I loved being a teacher and grew to know many of their stories, before being promoted to Dean.

“Find their pain” and “Sell them their dream.” 

In fact, those were some of GU/MSB mottos, in their admissions representative training manual which I presented as evidence at my trial, and the AG utilized in hers also.

Student X (AND the OTHER STUDENTS AND GRADS) DO NOT DESERVE TO BE SWINDLED OUT OF THEIR FUTURES, burdened with crushing DEBT.

THEY SHOULDN’T BE FORCED TO PAY for these schools’ crimes, loss of credibility and poor reputation in the public as a result.

I would ask, why are you allowing this to happen to so many of our kids, active military and vets, who are the future of our country? Further, why are we, the taxpayers, paying for it?

Please give Student X the same chance as every other American, the freedom to work hard toward the American Dream without being punished for a bait and switch of lies and fraud, pinned to them forever.

It affects all of us. Our country is strong because we showed future generations that here, anyone can better themselves, be treated fairly, and become vital members of our communities; that everyone has the chance at life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

Please discharge her student debt from Globe University.

I stood up for them.

I sacrificed my career and have endured hard times. I still do, but I also, earned my nickname of “the unstoppable” Heidi Weber. I won’t stop until these schools are held accountable and MY students get justice and their futures back.

It’s long overdue!

This is your chance to make a real difference too. Please start by discharging Student X's student debt.

Sincerely with Conviction & Gratitude,

Heidi Weber

Whistleblower, Advocate, Legal Client Coach, Employee Relations Consultant, Speaker and Higher Ed commentator Contact: xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

Host of “The Whistleblower Revolution Podcast” available everywhere you listen. https://WhistleblowerRevolution.com


Background

Globe University was a large For-Profit College/University chain in the Midwest that is now closed and in currently in bankruptcy courts, in an attempt to delay and avoid post trial court orders to repay thousands of students. GU/MSB (Globe U/Minnesota School of Business) had approximately 11,000 students across several states, in 2011, and were at the height of their enrollment, when Heidi Weber, a Dean came forward and filed a whistleblower complaint against the schools. After reporting to the school’s corporate leaders, several issues of deceptive and fraudulent practices that she had uncovered, witnessed, and received from students, she was subjected to retaliation, & wrongful termination. Heidi and the school went head to head, through a long “david vs goliath’ legal battle and a 7-day public jury trial. She prevailed with a unanimous jury verdict, and modest jury award. It has become a landmark case for two reasons. First, it was the first very public whistleblower trial loss by a national for-profit college chain that showcased many of the issues that the entire sector still battles today. As such, it opened the door to many other similar cases being filed across the US. Secondly, it was the catalyst to another long legal battle with the State of Minnesota and State & Federal Dept of Higher Ed that consequently resulted in GU/MSB being permanently disqualified from receiving any more Federal funded student grants and loans. Additionally, resulting in the large for-profit chain losing a trial brought by the Attorney General of MN, who subpoenaed Heidi as a key witness. At the same time, the National Accrediting body that GU/MSB and several other for-profit colleges used, and were accredited under, ACICS, was dissolved. This, along with their funding cut, left GU/MSB no choice but to close its doors at over 20 campuses. Even after several convictions and court losses, the school’s leadership still deny any responsibility of wrongdoing. The same private owners still own a few schools under different brands and still lobby to be allowed to reopen.

*[GU/MSB were never regionally accredited. They never even applied as they did not meet the criteria and standards for Regional Accreditation like all State Colleges/Universities and traditional private institutions are accredited through. Each regional body requires high educational standards and the State and Traditional institutions rigorously work to adhere and maintain those standards to show their commitment to providing quality and credible education to potential students, employers and their communities. One main purpose of accreditation is to ensure that schools are held to strict standards and the delivery of education is at the same level between schools. This is how they evaluate and accept transfer credits because they know if the other school is Regionally Accredited, the courses, method and delivery meet the level and match hours making transitions seamless for the student. The other main purpose is to assure financial and Federal funding of student loans and grants that the school is worthy and adhering to their requirements to receive funding. Also, the accrediting institutions evaluate and enforce standards as an outside neutral party which is to avoid and alleviate conflicts of interest and/or “pay to play” schemes by the schools themselves. It is set up very different in the for-profit Sector. ACICS and ACCSC were the two main “National” accreditors for that entire realm generally. For years, the two national accreditors jockeyed back and forth as to which was larger or had the most schools under it, and both shared many of the same personnel who would float between the two. ACICS was a peer review organization, meaning that the schools themselves, were responsible for policing and doing audits on each other. As long as their “fees” were paid, rarely were any of its members held back or forced to meet strict requirements. Consequently, the larger schools with the most campuses were able to monopolize and dictate the direction and activities of the accreditor.]



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, https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/education-postsecondary/reports/2020/09/28/490838/time-worry-college-enrollment-declines-among-black-students/; Kevin Carey, ‘A Detailed Look at the Downside of California’s Ban on Affirmative Action’, The New York Times, 21 August 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/21/upshot/00up-affirmative-action-california-study.html.

[iii] Federal Reserve Bank of New York, ‘The Labor Market for Recent College Graduates: Underemployment’, 17 July 2020, https://www.newyorkfed.org/research/college-labor-market/college-labor-market_underemployment_rates.html.

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. Indeed.com, legaljobs.com, militaryjobs.com, warehousejobs.com, 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.  

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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)