Wednesday, March 24, 2021

HEI Investigation: EducationDynamics

EducationDynamics (“EDDY”) is a multichannel higher education marketer and lead generation company that services a number of for-profit and formerly for-profit online colleges, including American Intercontinental University, Colorado Technical Institute, South University, Purdue University Global (formerly Kaplan University), and University of Arizona Global (formerly Ashford University). [i]

EDDY’s operations include call centers in Boca Raton, Florida and Lenexa, Kansas where some education advisors are paid commissions for enrolling students. It appears that the call centers have been engaged in bait-and-switch tactics as consumers who are seeking work are enrolled in these schools.

Originally known as Halyard Education, EducationDynamics has faced allegations of being a predatory company for at least a decade. [ii] [iii] For more than a decade, the company, through a number of lead generation websites and tv commercials, brought hundreds of thousands of leads to the most predatory schools, including Corinthian Colleges, ITT Technical Institute, and Virginia College, all which have closed. In 2019 and 2020, EDDY purchased the assets of other dubious marketers, Thruline[iv] and Quinstreet. [v] [vi]

At least one source has indicated that Halyard and EducationDynamics purchased leads from Alec Defrawi, who was prosecuted by the FTC in 2016 for a job-education bait-and-switch scheme.[vii] While the recipients of the leads were not mentioned in the complaint, a comment on the FTC website also alluded to a relationship between Defrawi and EducationDynamics.[viii]

More recently, there is evidence on GlassDoor[ix] and Indeed[x] suggesting that EDDY has engaged in bait and switch tactics at its Boca Raton call center. Former employees have complained that the call center receives leads from people who believed they were applying for work, and that call center workers were required to enroll them in schools.

While the allegations were not as clear at the Kansas location, one EducationDynamics sales associates stated that they were getting “shady” and “uninterested” leads and that management was aware of the problem. The employee also noted that EDDY workers went under different company names to avoid scrutiny. 

[i] EducationDynamics History, Acquisitions, And Higher Ed Services
[ii] Sen. Durbin: Don't fall for college-in-your-pajamas trick | TheHill
[iii] Veterans could be first to pay as DeVos rolls back for-profit college oversight (
[iv] EducationDynamics Acquires Key Assets from Thruline Marketing
[v] EducationDynamics Acquires Assets of QuinStreet's Higher Education Vertical (
[vi] In 2012, Quinstreet was prosecuted by 20 state Attorneys General for deceiving veterans through its website. Attorneys general announce settlement with for-profit college marketer (
[vii] Robert Nolan of Halyard Capital Had Knowledge of Alec Difrawi Scams – scamFRAUDalert™ Report
[viii] Don’t quit your day job: FTC sues education lead generator for bogus job application process | Federal Trade Commission
[ix] EducationDynamics Reviews | Glassdoor
[x] Working at Education Dynamics: Employee Reviews |

Thursday, March 18, 2021

Even Elite Schools Have Subprime Majors (Keil Dumsch and Dahn Shaulis)

Even elite US universities have academic majors that result in negative or low returns on investment (ROI).   The Higher Education Inquirer I looked at some of America's most elite schools and found the worst performing majors at each school.  You can find the information yourself by going to the US Department of Education's College Scorecard.  

While the College Scorecard has limitations, including incomplete and missing data, it can still be used as one tool for choosing a college and a major to study.  The College Scorecard has a section for every school called "Salary After Attending." 

If you click on "View More Details" you can see several sections, including a section titled "Salary after Completing."  If you take a look at the range and hover over the low you see the major that had the lowest performing major in terms of salaries.  

The salary ranges for some schools are enormous, and it's amazing what you will find for low salary majors at elite schools. Some may argue that the salaries are misleading if people go on to grad school or medical school, but many do not.  And of those who do continue their studies some still end up as post docs or in other less than optimum jobs while holding an even larger amount of debt.  CalTech is the only school that does not have a low-ROI major. 

Here's a sample. 

Brown, Human Biology, $27,669
Caltech, Mechanical Engineering, $83,177
Carnegie Mellon, Fine and Studio Arts, $20,140
Columbia University, Philosophy, $28,598
Cornell, Geologic and Earth Sciences/Geosciences $25,194
Dartmouth, Biology, $32,563
Duke, Area Studies, $20,262
Emory, Biology, $16,940
Georgetown, Biological and Physical Sciences, $27,476 
Harvard, Anthropology, $26,353
Johns Hopkins, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology, $14,627
MIT, Biology, $35,772
New York University, Dance, $16,478
Notre Dame, Classics and Classical Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics $20,140
Princeton, Research and Experimental Psychology, $33,993
Rice, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology, $24,421
Stanford University, English, $23,649
Tufts, Fine and Studio Arts, $23,538
University of California - Berkeley, Philosophy, $20,824
University of California - Los Angeles, Music, $18,498
University of Chicago, Biology, $23,649
University of Michigan - Ann Arbor, Microbiological Sciences and Immunology, $16,169
University of North Carolina - Chapel Hill, Philosophy, $18,154
University of Pennsylvania, Film, Video, and Photographic Arts, $24,035
University of Southern California, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology, $10,925
University of Virginia, Drama/Theatre Arts and Stagecraft, $18,771
Vanderbilt, Biochemistry, Biophysics, and Molecular Biology, $16,663
Wake Forest University, Health and Physical Education/Fitness, $26,353
Washington University in St Louis, Biology, $16,663
Yale, Ecology, $30,771

Friday, March 12, 2021

Coursera IPO Reveals Bleak Future For Global Labor

Coursera (COUR) is an online educational provider, most notably known for its Stanford grad founders, its free Massive Open Online Courses and its relationship with elite schools like University of Pennsylvania, University of Michigan, and University of Illinois who have provided content.

After about a decade of existence, amid the Covid pandemic, the company has decided to go public, with the help of Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, Citigroup and others acting as underwriters. Coursera has never made a profit even though it has enormous margins, taking the lion's share of the revenues from its joint operations with notable schools.  

Like the Laureate Education IPO in 2017,  Coursera's intentions are global in scope.  Laureate's IPO sold the idea that there was a growing global middle class that needed education and was willing to pay for it. But Laureate's slogan "Here For Good" became a bad joke as the global economy worsened and the company downsized.  

Coursera has already served tens of millions of people, most of whom gained access for free or next to nothing--other than having an internet connection.  

Like Laureate, Coursera has also received funding from the World Bank, but in 2021 the picture is framed differently. Coursera's idea is that the world's labor force is facing a more challenging and perhaps bleak future, a "double disruption" of a global pandemic and increased automation, and the notion that COUR can profit from this disruption.  

The company's Prospectus states: 

According to our estimates based on data from the International Labour Organization, the global workforce will grow by 230 million people by 2030. This is expected to happen at a time when up to half of today’s jobs, around 2 billion, are at high risk of disappearing due to automation and other factors driving obsolescence by 2030, according to The International Commission on Financing Global Education Opportunity.

So how will Coursera make a profit?  According to Gary Roth, author of The Educated Underclass, "Many of these unprofitable, investment-capital initiatives only succeed if they can cannibalize other parts of the economy (e.g. Home Depot or Lowe's versus traditional hardware stores). The education sector is already unprofitable and requires massive amounts of public funding. We'll see if initiates like this can survive."

Roth added that Coursera is mostly "confined to pre-professional and professional areas like non-technical business disciplines that don’t require huge inputs of expertise or equipment. The humanities are out, as are the sciences. They also represent a low tier of degrees, without much respect from much of the ‘employing class’, most of whom graduated from decent-quality liberal arts or state-funded schools."

Tuesday, March 9, 2021

The Business of Higher Education

Higher education is a multi-trillion dollar industry in the US.  Journalists and policy people who cover the industry are often quick to put schools and their related businesses into distinct categories, but these categories are often oversimplified.  One of the biggest oversimplifications is in categorizing schools as "for-profit" and "non-profit."  

For-profit higher education has typically referred to institutions operating as profit-seeking businesses, but this ignores three centuries of history, economics, and public policy showing the intermingling of for-profit institutions and non-profit enterprises with a for-profit mentality.    

For-profit schools and the for-profit mindset are not new to US education.  While elite private religious based colleges were the first schools of higher education, proprietary training was also available during the late 1700s.  It could be argued that even then, elite colleges could not have grown without the benefits of enslaving their labor, the ultimate in greed and depravity.   

After the US Civil War, through federal legislation (the Morrill Act), state flagship universities were granted land.  Private and public black colleges were also formed.  For-profit business and trade schools also sprang up in many American cities, serving a growing demand for entrepreneurs and skilled labor.  Private non-profit colleges followed suit.  As early as 1892, University of Chicago started a correspondence school, a money-making strategy copied by Penn State, University of Wisconsin, and many other universities.  

Since the early 20th century, critics have complained about money rather than academics driving traditional university leadership. Thorstein Veblen's book  The Higher Learning in America (1918), was subtitled, "A Memorandum on the Conduct of Universities by Business Men."  Yale and Harvard also brought on football, which was a big money maker for the schools in the early 20th century.  

With the help of government funding, higher education grew by leaps and bounds after World War II (the GI Bill) and into the 1960s and 1970s (Pell Grants and federal loans).  State universities and community colleges grew in number.  In 1972, with the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, proprietary schools gained access to these funds to become a larger player in US higher education.  

By the 1980s, the for-profit University of Phoenix (UoPX) became a pioneer as a mega-university, a  school of over 80,000 students with an emphasis on adult learners, convenience, and a business attitude.  For-profit schools gained legitimacy as universities like Devry and UoPX became regionally accredited and others created their own national accreditors.  In the 1980s and 90s for-profit colleges grew as they became publicly traded corporations with enormous profits and political power. 

With profit-driven schools, academic labor was faced with unbundling, where components of the traditional faculty role (e.g., curriculum design) were divided, while others (e.g., research) were eliminated.  Colleges resembled academic assembly lines rather than bastions of wisdom.  But the marginalization of academic labor was not reserved to for-profit schools.  

As this great unbundling was occurring, state flagship universities became enormous research institutions with multiple missions, many of them profit driven.  Proponents of privatization, outsourcing from for-profit companies, have said that it "helps universities save money and makes them more nimble and efficient." Moody's Dennis Gephardt, however warns that "more and more are cutting closer to the academic core." 

Since the 1980s commercialization in nonprofit and public higher education has accelerated, with universities increasingly involved in enterprises focused on generating net revenue, such as licensing of patents. Indicators of for-profit incursions into nonprofit and public higher education may include corporate sponsored science labs, for-profit mechanisms such as endowment money managers, for-profit fees for service, for-profit marketing, enrollment services and lead generation, privatized campus services, for-profit online program managers (OPMs), privatized housing, private student loans, student loan servicers, student loan asset backed securities, and Human Capital Contracts, also known as income share agreements.

For-profit college enrollment has been in decline since the 2010-2011 school year.  University of Phoenix and Devry are shadows of their former selves,  and two other big schools, Kaplan University and Ashford University have been transformed into arms of two state universities, Purdue University Global and University of Arizona Global Campus.   

But proprietary colleges have not been the only type of colleges in decline.  Community colleges and second tier public and private colleges also reported significant enrollment and revenue losses.  Community college enrollment, in fact, has declined in absolute numbers more than for profit colleges.  

During this decade long decline, what I have referred as the College Meltdown, for-profit mechanisms have gained even ground as government aid and institutional bonds fill in revenue gaps.  Today, US higher education marketing and advertising is ubiquitous. The Harvard Business School operates in many ways like a for-profit enterprise.  And many elite schools rely on for-profit online program managers to grow and profit from. 

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Buyer Beware: Servicemembers, Veterans, and Families Need to Be On Guard with College and Career Choices

GI Bill Complaints (downloaded February 8, 2021)

Has anyone noticed that Harvard has the fourth highest number of GI Bill complaints? Harvard? Is this a typo?

While several of the schools on the current list of worst actors have bad reputations (e.g. University of Phoenix, Ashford University (aka University of Arizona Global), Colorado Tech, New Horizons, Keller (aka Devry, and Keiser University), Harvard seems to be one of those schools that's not like the other. At first I thought this might be an input error. But on closer look, it appears the complaints may be about Harvard extension and their certificate programs. Haven't been able to verify what these numbers mean. In any case though it illustrates a point: Just because a school has a good label doesn't mean you are getting a quality education or a fair deal.

This also goes to show that servicemembers, veterans, and their families--and all other consumers--must apply the maxim "buyer beware" to every school they consider. Be patient and do your homework. Ask questions and demand credible answers. Use your critical thinking skills. Don't merely rely on word of mouth, advertisements, and rankings

If you decide to go to school and use your DOD Tuition Assistance, MyCAA, or GI Bill benefits,  choose a good school and a major that results in gainful employment--in a meaningful career.  Make sure you also learn skills that are transferable when the economy changes and when things get tough. 

And if you get ripped off, make a formal complaint to the Department of Defense, Department of Veterans Affairs, or Department of Education. Veterans should also contact Veterans Education Success for help. 

I have more ideas about college and career choices posted at Military Times, called 8 tips to help vets pick the right college.

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

Higher Ed Became More Brutal During 2020-21 Pandemic

The Covid-19 pandemic was the largest news item in US higher education in 2020 and the beginning of 2021.  It certainly had an effect on higher education enrollment and revenues.   But the larger story, according to author Gary Roth, was that the “College Dream is Over.”  

College is supposed to be a transitional space between K-12 education and good jobs. But savage inequalities in the K-12 pipeline, alienating and sometimes questionably substandard online education, and fewer good jobs at the end of the pipeline meant that more students would be unprepared for college and for work life in the brutal tech (fintech, medtech, and edtech) and gig economy.  

Banks and big businesses (including brand name universities and for-profit colleges ) were bailed out twice in 2020 by the federal government as student debtors only got temporarily relief.  

Savage inequalities in the K-12 pipeline intensified with online education and the hollowing out of America continued.  

Under the Trump administration, privatization, deregulation, and lack of transparency  (in gainful employment, defense to repayment, student loan repayment rate) were the rule.  2021 shows promise for progressive change, but we'll have to wait and see if anything gets done to reduce the College Meltdown.  

Friday, January 15, 2021

Chasing Carl Barney: My 7-Year Fight for Student Justice and Corporate Accountability (Debbi Potts)

It was July 16, 2012 and I called a meeting with all of my staff.  I was the campus director of CollegeAmerica in Cheyenne Wyoming; one of the many campuses owned by Carl Barney. I called the meeting to inform my staff that I was resigning that day. I wanted to let them know before I emailed a resignation letter to Barney and the CEO and COO and left the building.  

The Dean of Education (Linda) also resigned that day because of her concerns about the lack of ethics of the company. My exit was abrupt, and my resignation letter called Barney out on the fraud that his organization is infested with. I left without notice and without a job to go to.

I told my staff that there comes a time in most people’s lives where you cannot put your foot over the line and that day had come for me. I could not put my name on one more enrollment agreement or participate in the fleecing of students.  

This is my story of the 7-year chase of Carl Barney as he levied a brutal, retaliatory, and relentless plan to silence me.  

Who is Carl Barney?

Carl Barney is a college owner who has turned his private colleges into money making machines for the benefit of his own wealth. His schools were a toxic blend of substandard education, outrageously high tuition, and poor outcomes that left students deep in debt with little to no skills or hope for a better future. The demographic of most of the students that were solicited to enroll lacked the ability to succeed; but that did not matter.

Why did I leave the company and how bad was it?

I was so excited to be part of changing student’s lives through education and taking the role of the top administrator of my own campus. Career schools are high priced and fast paced and unfortunately this one was not about the education of students; it was about sales and enrolling students and pulling down as much federal aid as you could to line Barney’s pockets.  As time went on it was evident that the company had no regard for oversight of rules or regulations that guide these types of schools; nor had they ever been held accountable for their blatant contempt.

An associate degree was upwards of $40k and a bachelor degree was $78k! The students were solicited through a hard sell of manipulative sales techniques and the education and equipment left much to be desired. The students struggled in 4-week courses where the mid-term was at the beginning of week 3.  The faculty who were mostly all adjuncts and were paid less than $10.00 per hour considering the time they put into lecturing, grading papers and coaching students who needed remedial help before they could even comprehend the course materials.

The company was “enrollment driven” with unrealistic goals every month of starting new students. It is called “greed” at the expense of education. Barney’s motto was “We do as we please and ask for forgiveness later.” Accreditation standards were violated throughout the entire system and the students were the ones who suffered.

An example of disregard for regulations

Barney could not operate his company by merely offering a quality education and focusing on students; he always had to have a scheme to entice and enroll students, even if it were a violation of accreditation. He rolled out a free services program where he decided to offer a free certified nursing course to the general public including all of the books, supplies and certification.  Sounds amazingly generous..right? Not so fast. This particular course was part of the medical assisting program and Barney believed that once he gave away “free” services, those students would enroll in the full program. The problem was that each of those students had a target on their back and they were heavily recruited to enroll into the full program. There were literally waiting lists of hundreds of potential enrollees across all of the campuses. Barney never bothered to get this stand-alone course approved through accreditation. Since this course was vocational in nature we also were required to track student completion and placement; that never happened.

Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), the accrediting agency issued a “cease and desist” of these programs, leaving hundreds and hundreds of students hanging and angry and disillusioned. Campus directors were left on their own to try to explain this deplorable situation to our unsuspecting victims.

What happened next?

Linda and I immediately contacted the Wyoming and Colorado Attorneys Generals offices in order to divulge the numerous issues of consumer fraud that we had witnessed. 

I received a personal phone call from Barney a day after my exit. He was definitely on a fishing expedition that was intended to figure out what my plans were moving forward. In that conversation I reported to Barney that the company had owed me $7,000.00 for earned but not paid bonuses. He assured me that he would look into my unpaid bonus. Days went by and I decided to file for lost wages through the Wyoming employment labor board.

On July 21, 2012. I received an email from Barney, and it contained a document entitled “Saying Goodbye” which outlined his theory that you can tell a great deal about the character of people by the way they say goodbye. Additionally, he spewed that he hoped that I had filed a written report within the organization with my concerns about the fraud allegations or I was now a contributor to these allegations of fraud!  

I received my bonus in exchange for signing a contract to not disparage the company.

During the months that followed, I was in direct contact with the Attorneys General. In a LinkedIn communication with a former employee of the organization and I asked him to cooperate with the Attorneys General. The employee turned on me and turned the correspondence into Barney. I was sued for an alleged violation of the contract. I represented myself over a two-year period and wrote 75 legal motions to defend myself.  I filed a charge with the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) who took a case against them on my behalf. 

It was around that time that I met an attorney from Salt Lake City, Utah who had been enjoined by the US Department of Justice in a qui-tam action with several former employees of Barney’s Utah schools because Barney was illegally paying bonuses to admissions recruiters.

Mr. Bandon Mark, this attorney took my case pro-bono and followed me through depositions and court hearings for several years for the lawsuit, while EEOC pursued Barney in federal court.

The entire purpose of this retaliation by Barney was to punish me and intimidate me into silence…it did not work!  The more relentless he became, the more the fraud became public, he would not agree to settle anything, and neither would I.

In May of 2019, a jury of 6 people in a two-day trial awarded Barney $1.00 (instead of the $7,000.00 bonus he was trying to recoup). This was the least amount the jury could give! 

The Colorado Attorney General’s office testified on my behalf as an optic to show the jury what this malicious lawsuit was really about. As icing on the cake, EEOC forced Barney to never enforce the illegal contract they had issued me. The contract violated public policy by requiring me to not contact any governmental agencies with grievances against Barney or his schools. 

What started out as Barney attempting to make an example out of me for speaking the truth about the fraud in his schools actually opened the doors for me to spend 7 years chasing him.

As a result of this chase, I have been deposed numerous times including a 6-hour videotaped deposition all the while his attorneys spewed venom in my face in an attempt to intimidate me. I was scorned publicly in courtrooms for being a whistleblower…none of that mattered.

Barney’s feeble attempt to stop me from bringing truth forward only made the chase more enticing and his fury caused him to make many mistakes including spending hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees against me.  His desire to make me pay only served to make public what he had tried to stop me from saying! 

Fruits of my chase:

At the trial where Barney sued me in May 2019; the courtroom was filled with people who got to hear the fraud that Barney had tried to keep silent by suing me! This is in the community where I reside, and community members are now aware of the fraud.  

On August 21, 2020, a Colorado Court issued a fraud finding against Barney in a lawsuit where the Colorado Attorney General was the plaintiff, and I was the whistleblower.  

I have interviewed with US Department of Justice for an upcoming trial against Barney for illegal bonuses.

I have filed numerous complaints with their accreditor. (ACCSC)

I have interviewed with Veterans Education Success as part of their petition to the VA to cease funding to Barney’s schools.

I have participated in a podcast about my whistleblowing story with Heidi Weber who was responsible for the demise of Globe University with her whistleblowing efforts of their fraud. 

I have personally filed a complaint with the Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General (VA-OIG). 

I have interviewed with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and provided information regarding their investigation of loan fraud regarding Barney’s schools. 

My story has been covered and publicized by David Halperin in Republic Report. Not just once, but twice

I have also been interviewed by David Halperin in Republic Report


Indeed …Barney’s schools are in peril

The following are on-going actions of great consequence:

·       The company is on probation with ACCSC and serious question are pending regarding the ability of Barney’s schools to continue to operate as a result of the Colorado Attorney fraud finding.

·       The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is awaiting a court decision to move forward to compel documents related to loan fraud.

·       The US Department of Education in tandem with some former employees are in the “discovery stage” of litigation regarding illegal bonuses Barney paid to recruiters.

·       Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois has petitioned the United States Department of Education to look at the possibility of suspending federal funds to Barney’s schools.

·       Due to declining enrollment, the lion’s share of Barney’s brick and mortar schools are closed, leaving only an online school platform which has its own issues with ACCSC. 

I will continue the chase wherever and whenever I can be helpful in fighting the fraud of Carl Barney in order to prevent more students from being harmed.