Buyer beware of some for-profit colleges

25 Nov

The General Accounting Office (GAO) has a report which details just how far from bargains some for-profit schools are.

According to the Washington Post article, GAO: 15 For-profi Colleges Used Deceptive Recruiting Tactics written by Daniel de Vise and Paul Kane some for-profit schools used deceptive practices to recruit students.

Congressional officials on Wednesday identified 15 for-profit colleges where recruiters allegedly encouraged investigators posing as prospective students to commit fraud on financial aid applications or misled them about such matters as tuition costs and potential salaries after graduation.

The Government Accountability Office’s findings, presented to a congressional committee along with grainy video clips captured by hidden cameras, may amplify federal scrutiny of the fastest-growing higher-education sector.

Many of the largest for-profit entities were named among the 15 sites targeted by GAO investigators: University of Phoenix, with more than 400,000 students; Argosy University, part of the 136,000-student Education Management Corp.; Kaplan College, part of the 119,000-student Kaplan Higher Education operation owned by The Washington Post Co.; and Everest College, part of the 110,000-student Corinthian Colleges.

Also named: Westech College in California, Bennett Career Institute and Potomac College in the District, MedVance Institute in Florida, College of Office Technology in Illinois, Anthem Institute in Pennsylvania, and Westwood College and ATI Career Training in Texas. Kaplan, Everest and Phoenix each were cited twice, for different campuses.

Four of the colleges — Westech, MedVance, Anthem and Westwood — “encouraged fraudulent practices” in meetings with undercover investigators, the report says. All 15 “made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements.”

At a morning Senate hearing, some of the most powerful revelations came in a brief video presentation, spliced together from hidden-camera feeds….

For-profit or “career” colleges have grown in enrollment from 365,000 students to nearly two million over the past several years, and their students borrowed more than $20 billion in federal loans last year. With so many tax dollars at stake, Congress asked the GAO to determine whether the sector has engaged in fraud, deception or questionable marketing practices, as its critics allege.

Across official Washington, reaction to the findings and the video was swift and unequivocal.

Education Secretary Arne Duncan termed the apparent evidence of fraud “unacceptable, absolutely unacceptable.” [Emphasis Added]    

See, Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’ https://drwilda.wordpress.com/2011/11/21/online-k-12-education-as-a-cash-cow-for-wall-street/

Kelly Field is reporting in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Undercover Probe Finds Lax Academic Standards at Some For-Profit Colleges:

An undercover investigation by the Government Accountability Office has found evidence of lax academic standards in some online for-profit programs.

The probe, which is described in a report made public Tuesday, found that staff at six of the 12 colleges that enrolled the investigators tolerated plagiarism or awarded credit for incomplete or shoddy work.

The release of the report, “For-Profit Schools: Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges,” comes roughly a year after the accountability office revised an earlier report on recruiting abuses at for-profit colleges, acknowledging errors and omissions in its findings. A coalition of for-profit colleges has sued the office over that report, accusing its investigators of professional malpractice….

This time, the agents attempted to enroll in online programs at 15 for-profit colleges using a home-school diploma or a diploma from a closed high school. Twelve of the colleges accepted them.

The “students” then proceeded to skip class, plagiarize, and submit “substandard” work. Though several ultimately failed their classes, some got credit for shoddy or plagiarized work along the way.

At one college, a student received credit for six plagiarized assignments; at another, a student submitted photos of political figures and celebrities in lieu of an essay, but still earned a passing grade. A third student got full credit on a final project, despite completing only two of the three required components. That same student received full credit for an assignment that had clearly been prepared for another class.

In two cases, instructors confronted students about their repeated plagiarism but took no disciplinary action against them. One student received credit for a response that was copied verbatim from other students’ discussion posts.

Instructors at the other six colleges followed their institutions’ policies on grading and plagiarism, and in some cases offered to help students who appeared to be struggling.

All of the students ultimately withdrew or were expelled from the programs. Three of the colleges failed to provide the departing students with federally required exit counseling about their repayment options and the consequences of default.

http://chronicle.com/article/Undercover-Probe-Finds-Lax/129881/

The Chronicle of Higher Education has an interesting report by Josh Keller about the tactics used by some for-profit colleges.

In Online Ads Hijack Prospective Students, Former Employee Says Keller reports:

Last year, James Soloway called hundreds of prospective students per day on behalf of a company that placed advertisements on Google and Bing. The ads promised to help students contact the admissions offices of public colleges if they filled out an online form and included their phone number.

He told students that they would hear from their preferred public college, even though they almost never did. In the meantime, he said, they should consider attending a for-profit college—such as Kaplan University and Westwood College.

Most of the prospective students were confused. Some hung up. But sometimes the pitch worked. Some people, especially high-school students, believed he was an educational counselor and gave weight to his recommendations, he says.

The entire process was designed to redirect students who wanted information on a public college to a for-profit college, Mr. Soloway says. “The expectation was that we were not to allow a call to end with a student until we had created three private-school leads.”

Victor Hugo said it best when dealing with many for-profit colleges:           

Caution is the eldest child of wisdom
~Victor Hugo

Resources:

College accreditation – U.S. Department of Education

http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/

College Accreditation: Frequently Asked Questions

http://www.back2college.com/library/accreditfaq.htm

Ask questions before deciding on a for-profit college [Video]

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/money_co/2011/02/questions-deciding-for-profit-college-video.html

For Profit Colleges: Get the Facts

http://www.education.com/magazine/article/for-profit-colleges/

Dr. Wilda says this about that ©

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