Tag Archives: Thoughts on For-profit Schools

Study of Washington community college students: Online college courses could widen achievement gap

27 Feb

Moi wrote in Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’:

There should be a variety of options and approaches in education. Still, School choice does not mean education on the cheap! K-12 education should not be the next sub-prime mortgage or derivative gambit for large for-profit companies. Lee Fang has written the alarming Nation article, How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools.

While most education reform advocates cloak their goals in the rhetoric of “putting children first,” the conceit was less evident at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, earlier this year.

Standing at the lectern of Arizona State University’s SkySong conference center in April, investment banker Michael Moe exuded confidence as he kicked off his second annual confab of education startup companies and venture capitalists. A press packet cited reports that rapid changes in education could unlock “immense potential for entrepreneurs.” “This education issue,” Moe declared, “there’s not a bigger problem or bigger opportunity in my estimation.”

Moe has worked for almost fifteen years at converting the K-12 education system into a cash cow for Wall Street. A veteran of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he now leads an investment group that specializes in raising money for businesses looking to tap into more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent annually on primary education. His consortium of wealth management and consulting firms, called Global Silicon Valley Partners, helped K12 Inc. go public and has advised a number of other education companies in finding capital.

Moe’s conference marked a watershed moment in school privatization. His first “Education Innovation Summit,” held last year, attracted about 370 people and fifty-five presenting companies. This year, his conference hosted more than 560 people and 100 companies, and featured luminaries like former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now an education executive at News Corporation, a recent high-powered entrant into the for-profit education field. Klein is just one of many former school officials to cash out. Fenty now consults for Rosetta Stone, a language company seeking to expand into the growing K-12 market.

As Moe ticked through the various reasons education is the next big “undercapitalized” sector of the economy, like healthcare in the 1990s, he also read through a list of notable venture investment firms that recently completed deals relating to the education-technology sector, including Sequoia and Benchmark Capital. Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm and one of the first to back Amazon.com and Google, is now investing in education technology, Moe noted.

http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools

Henry M. Levin of Columbia University had some cautionary notes about for-profit K-12 education in 2001.

In the 2001 paper, Thoughts on For-profit Schools, Levin wrote:

The fact is that we know little about how for-profit schools will operate and how they will affect students and other schools. At least three major questions have yet to be answered satisfyingly:

If schools are a potentially profitable endeavor, then why did entrepreneurs wait so long to enter the market? Is there something unique about schooling that makes it difficult to earn a profit?

Now that we do have for-profit schools, how will they achieve cost savings? Will they bring fundamentally different approaches to education through curricular and technological innovations that will “break the mold”?

Even if they are more effective or less costly, or both, will they earn profits that are comparable to the returns on other investments? http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/7_OP14.pdf

Levin mused about some of the other issues that for-profit operators of K-12:

In short, even the most expensive private schools with the most elite clientele fail to cover their costs with tuition. This goes far in explaining why entrepreneurs have shied away from the K–12 market. This is not to say that an individual, for-profit, family-owned school can’t survive. I know of a few for-profit schools at the K–12 level and more at the preschool level that appear to be marginally profitable. But much of what appears as profit is due to the family members’ hard work for little pay. The salaries they draw on the school understate the value of their time, leaving the impression that the enterprise is profitable.

Whether this can be replicated on a large scale by corporate entities is doubtful. Historically, economic studies have not identified substantial economies of scale in education at school sites or in multi-school endeavors. Perhaps this is for the reason suggested by John Chubb and Terry Moe in Politics, Markets, and America’s Schools (1990): that the best results are obtained when schools are given great autonomy.2 A corporate competitor in schooling must establish brand and product identity, which necessitates relatively uniform operations and services from site-to-site. This puts the need for quality control and similarity from site to site in direct competition with the need to be responsive to differences among particular clients and settings. http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/7_OP14.pdf

https://drwilda.com/2011/11/21/online-k-12-education-as-a-cash-cow-for-wall-street/

The study, Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas reviewed Washington community college students and concluded that many college students do not benefit from online courses.

Jake New reports in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Online Courses Could Widen Achievement Gaps Among Students:

Low-cost online courses could allow a more-diverse group of students to try college, but a new study suggests that such courses could also widen achievement gaps among students in different demographic groups.

The study, which is described in a working paper titled “Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas,” was conducted by Columbia University’s Community College Research Center. The researchers examined 500,000 courses taken by more than 40,000 community- and technical-college students in Washington State. They found that students in demographic groups whose members typically struggle in traditional classrooms are finding their troubles exacerbated in online courses.

The study found that all students who take more online courses, no matter the demographic, are less likely to attain a degree. However, some groups—including black students, male students, younger students, and students with lower grade-point averages—are particularly susceptible to this pattern.

Shanna Smith Jaggars, who is assistant director of the Community College Research Center and one of the paper’s authors, said the widening gap is troubling, as it could imply that online learning is weakening—not strengthening—education equality.

We found that the gap is stronger in the underrepresented and underprepared students,” Ms. Jaggars said. “They’re falling farther behind than if they were taking face-to-face courses.” http://chronicle.com/blogs/wiredcampus/online-courses-could-widen-achievement-gaps-among-students/42521

Citation:

Adaptability to Online Learning: Differences Across Types of Students and Academic Subject Areas

By: Di Xu & Shanna Smith Jaggars

Abstract

Using a dataset containing nearly 500,000 courses taken by over 40,000 community and technical college students in Washington State, this study examines how well students adapt to the online environment in terms of their ability to persist and earn strong grades in online courses relative to their ability to do so in face-to-face courses. While all types of students in the study suffered decrements in performance in online courses, some struggled more than others to adapt: males, younger students, Black students, and students with lower grade point averages. In particular, students struggled in subject areas such as English and social science, which was due in part to negative peer effects in these online courses.

Associated Project(s):

Online Courses in Community Colleges

Doug Lederman writes in the Inside Higher Education article, Who Benefits From Online Ed?

The new study is a follow-up prompted by questions from officials at the Washington State Community/Technical College System whose courses were examined. (The study examined the performance of 40,000 students in about 500,000 online courses.) “They asked us, ‘So who? Is it all students who fare less well, or certain subgroups?’ ” said Jaggars.

The answer is that virtually every group of students fared less well (defined by the number of course credits they completed, and/or by their grades) in online courses than they did in on-ground classes.

But some groups fared worse than others. Men showed a more negative effect from online courses than did women in terms of both course persistence and grades. Black students’ grades fell significantly more in online courses, as did those of Asian students. Students with stronger academic skills saw their course persistence and grades decline less in online courses than did students with weaker academic credentials.

Like other groups, older students were less likely to complete online courses than they were on-ground courses, though their grades were actually slightly higher. But traditional-age students saw their comparative performance decline such that while they outperformed adult students significantly in face-to-face classes, they lagged their older peers in online courses.

To the researchers, the working paper’s findings that “students who are already doing poorly in college do even more poorly when they take online courses” suggest several possible implications, said Jaggars. It may make sense, she said, “to restrict online courses only to students who demonstrate they do well in those courses.”

Other options would include incorporating into the sorts of lower-level courses in which struggling students tend to cluster training in online-learning skills, to help such students adapt better to online environments.

And most of all, the researchers suggest, colleges should focus on improving the quality of all online courses, to “ensure that their learning outcomes are equal to those of face-to-face courses, regardless of the composition of the students enrolled. Such an improvement strategy would require substantial new investments in course design, faculty professional development, learner and instructor support, and systematic course evaluations.”

The Study’s Implications

Jaggars acknowledged that the researchers did not do any analysis of the quality of the Washington State community college courses examined in the working paper. And that led numerous observers to urge caution in applying its results too broadly, as a New York Times editorial about the study arguably did last week.

The editorial focused on the terribly high attrition rates of noncredit massive open online courses and used the Community College Research Center’s study to extrapolate about online learning generally: “The picture the studies offer of the online revolution is distressing.” http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/02/25/study-finds-some-groups-fare-worse-others-online-courses

Children are not the new sub-prime mortgage business or the new derivative gambit. People must be afraid, very afraid of the vultures who are now hovering around the education sector. If folks don’t watch them, the results will not be pretty.

Related:

The University of Wisconsin ‘Flexible Option’ program: A college GED?                                                                           https://drwilda.com/2013/01/25/the-university-of-wisconsin-flexible-option-program-a-college-ged/

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For-profit colleges: It’s all about the $$$

16 Oct

Moi wrote in Report: For-profit colleges more concerned with executive pay than student achievement:

Michael Stratford reports on the Harkin report in the Chronicle of Higher Education article, Senate Report Paints a Damning Portrait of For-Profit Higher Education:

For-profit colleges can play an important role in educating nontraditional students, but the colleges often operate as aggressive recruiting machines focused on generating shareholder profits at the expense of a quality education for their students.

That’s the unflattering portrait of the for-profit higher-education industry detailed in a voluminous report officially released on Monday by the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. The report, which also criticizes the accrediting agencies that evaluate the colleges, concludes a two-year investigation into the operations of 30 for-profit higher-education companies from 2006 to 2010….

Profits Over Students

The report says that more than half of the 1.1 million students who enrolled in the colleges under scrutiny in 2008-9 had withdrawn by mid-2010. Those retention rates varied between publicly traded and privately held for-profit colleges. At the 15 publicly traded companies 55 percent of students withdrew, compared with 46 percent at the 15 privately held companies, many of which are owned by private-equity firms.

While community colleges and two-year for-profit programs have similarly low retention rates, the cost of the for-profit programs makes those programs more risky for students and federal taxpayers,” the report says. Nearly all students attending a for-profit college take out loans to attend, the report says, compared with just 13 percent of community-college students.

Internal company documents examined by the investigation reveal that decisions to increase tuition at for-profit colleges were driven by profit goals rather than increasing costs of instruction. The educational interests of students rarely, if at all, figured into that decision making, the report says. https://drwilda.com/2012/07/31/report-for-profit-colleges-more-concerned-with-executive-pay-than-student-achievement/

For-profit education exists at both higher education and K-12.

Moi wrote in Online K-12 education as a cash cow for ‘Wall Street’: There should be a variety of options and approaches in education. Still, School choice does not mean education on the cheap! K-12 education should not be the next sub-prime mortgage or derivative gambit for large for-profit companies. Lee Fang has written the alarming Nation article, How Online Learning Companies Bought America’s Schools.

While most education reform advocates cloak their goals in the rhetoric of “putting children first,” the conceit was less evident at a conference in Scottsdale, Arizona, earlier this year.

Standing at the lectern of Arizona State University’s SkySong conference center in April, investment banker Michael Moe exuded confidence as he kicked off his second annual confab of education startup companies and venture capitalists. A press packet cited reports that rapid changes in education could unlock “immense potential for entrepreneurs.” “This education issue,” Moe declared, “there’s not a bigger problem or bigger opportunity in my estimation.”

Moe has worked for almost fifteen years at converting the K-12 education system into a cash cow for Wall Street. A veteran of Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch, he now leads an investment group that specializes in raising money for businesses looking to tap into more than $1 trillion in taxpayer money spent annually on primary education. His consortium of wealth management and consulting firms, called Global Silicon Valley Partners, helped K12 Inc. go public and has advised a number of other education companies in finding capital.

Moe’s conference marked a watershed moment in school privatization. His first “Education Innovation Summit,” held last year, attracted about 370 people and fifty-five presenting companies. This year, his conference hosted more than 560 people and 100 companies, and featured luminaries like former DC Mayor Adrian Fenty and former New York City schools chancellor Joel Klein, now an education executive at News Corporation, a recent high-powered entrant into the for-profit education field. Klein is just one of many former school officials to cash out. Fenty now consults for Rosetta Stone, a language company seeking to expand into the growing K-12 market.

As Moe ticked through the various reasons education is the next big “undercapitalized” sector of the economy, like healthcare in the 1990s, he also read through a list of notable venture investment firms that recently completed deals relating to the education-technology sector, including Sequoia and Benchmark Capital. Kleiner Perkins, a major venture capital firm and one of the first to back Amazon.com and Google, is now investing in education technology, Moe noted. http://www.thenation.com/article/164651/how-online-learning-companies-bought-americas-schools

Henry M. Levin of Columbia University had some cautionary notes about for-profit K-12 education in 2001.

In the 2001 paper, Thoughts on For-profit Schools, Levin wrote:

The fact is that we know little about how for-profit schools will operate and how they will affect students and other schools. At least three major questions have yet to be answered satisfyingly:

If schools are a potentially profitable endeavor, then why did entrepreneurs wait so long to enter the market? Is there something unique about schooling that makes it difficult to earn a profit?

Now that we do have for-profit schools, how will they achieve cost savings? Will they bring fundamentally different approaches to education through curricular and technological innovations that will “break the mold”?

Even if they are more effective or less costly, or both, will they earn profits that are comparable to the returns on other investments? http://www.ncspe.org/publications_files/7_OP14.pdfhttps://drwilda.com/2011/11/21/online-k-12-education-as-a-cash-cow-for-wall-street/

AP and Seattle Times staff are reporting in the article, University of Phoenix closing some Puget Sound-area learning centers:

Apollo Group, the for-profit education company that operates the University of Phoenix, said it would close 115 of the university’s locations, including several in the Puget Sound region…

Apollo said the closures will affect 13,000 students nationwide, or about 4 percent of the university’s students. The move was spurred by a 60 percent decline in Apollo’s fiscal fourth-quarter profit, which was hurt by higher costs and declining University of Phoenix enrollment.

Shares in the Phoenix-based company tumbled nearly 8 percent in after-hours trading Tuesday.

The closings nationwide include 25 main campuses and 90 smaller satellite learning centers. At least one location in 30 states is slated to be shuttered.

Students affected by the closures will be given the option of transferring to online programs or moving their course work to other sites, said University of Phoenix President Bill Pepicello.

If no other center is nearby, the company will continue courses at other space near the closed facility until students complete their degrees, he added.

The university, which also recently announced a tuition freeze, is in the process of notifying students.

The University of Phoenix currently has about 328,000 students, down from a peak of more than 400,000. Following the closures, it will be left with 112 locations in 36 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.

The announcement comes as enrollments overall in the for-profit sector are declining after years of rapid growth, even as enrollment in other sectors of higher education rises. Recent federal figures showed enrollment in for-profits fell 2.9 percent in 2011. The sector has faced tighter regulations and more pressure to enroll students who have a better chance of graduating.

Another factor in the closures: students increasingly favor online courses. Others are put off by the shaky economy.

People are simply holding off investing money in education at a time when the costs are escalating and the outcomes are uncertain,” Pepicello said.

In the June-to-August quarter, the number of students enrolled in degreed programs at University of Phoenix fell on an annual basis by 13.8 percent to 328,400. While enrollment of new students in degreed programs declined 13.7 percent.

That decline led to an 11 percent drop in fiscal fourth-quarter revenue for the university’s parent company, which helped weigh down earnings despite some changes in tuition prices and other fees.

Apollo reported net income of $75.4 million, or 66 cents per share, for the three months ended Aug. 31. That compares with net income of $188.6 million, or $1.37 per share, a year earlier.

The latest results included $9.4 million in restructuring costs and other charges. Excluding the special items, Apollo’s earnings amounted to 52 cents per share.

Revenue fell to $996.5 million from $1.12 billion. http://seattletimes.com/html/businesstechnology/2019448516_universityphoenixxml.html

Many critics put the emphasis on “for-profit” and will adamantly argue that any entity which is for-profit is inherently bad for education. Moi would put the emphasis on neighborhood choice and argue that entities without strong ties to the neighborhood they intend to operate in, do not have the loyalty to succeeding in that particular neighborhood and will probably not be successful. Let’s be honest, corporations intend to generate a profit from their education activities as their primary goal. The secondary goal is probably the education of children. Moi is skeptical that a for-profit entity really has the commitment to a neighborhood and thus to a neighborhood’s schools. Still, moi is not like some so called “anti-reform” types who foam at the mouth at the words charter and for-profit. There is no magic bullet or “Holy Grail” in education. There is only what works to produce academic achievement in each population of children. That is why school choice is so important. Still, the welfare of the student must be paramount.

Children are not the new sub-prime mortgage business or the new derivative gambit.People must be afraid, very afraid of the vultures who are now hovering around the education sector. If folks don’t watch them, the results will not be pretty.

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/

Related:

For-profit colleges: Money buys government, not quality for students                                                                                https://drwilda.com/2011/12/12/for-profit-colleges-money-buys-government-not-quality-for-students/

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