GAO report on recruiting practices at for-profit colleges

Inside Higher Ed reports on the GAO (Government Accountability Office) investigation of the unethical, if not illegal recruiting practices at for-profit colleges. Read the GAO report (warning pdf): gaomarketing. Here’s an excerpt from the Inside Higher Ed article (the rest is here):

Undercover investigators posing as students found that employees at all 15 for-profit colleges visited for the investigations made “deceptive or otherwise questionable statements” to students about accreditation, graduation rates, employment outcomes, program costs or financial aid. At four institutions visited, admissions or financial aid officials encouraged students to submit fraudulent financial information in order to qualify for federal aid, the GAO says in its report. Though many similar tactics have been reported in the news media and recounted by former employees like Pruyn, the GAO report and video carry the weight and credibility of a Congressional investigation.

The investigators also submitted contact information for four prospective students with fictitious identities to “lead generation” websites that supply colleges with names of interested students, and encountered aggressive behavior, they said. Some students began receiving marketing calls from colleges within five minutes of submitting the information and, over the course of a month, one received more than 180 calls. Some came as late as 11 p.m.  In all, the four students received 436 calls in the span of a month. Of those that could be tracked, all but six came from for-profit institutions. The six that came from nonprofit institutions were all from the same public college, according to the GAO. More damning than aggressive calls are instances in which college employees encouraged prospective students to commit fraud, or conveyed incomplete or false information about the institution’s costs and student outcomes. Continue reading

Useful Resource: Hans Ehrbar’s Annotations to Marx’s Capital

[Das Kapital, special edition with gold-edge… I simply had to have it!]

This 3178 page document (yes, that is correct) is a treasure for anyone reading Capital. I was looking for a good English equivalent to Schatzbildung (translated as “hoarding” in Capital, chap.3:3) and came across it. The best part is that it’s easy to use because of all the hyperlinks and searchability. I hope more scholars put up their work online and challenge the system of subscription-only access to knowledge and research, especially in humanities.

Ehrbar also has a full German/English (side-by-side) text of Capital here and other resources here.

Diploma Mills

Here’s an excerpt from an interesting interview with Barmak Nassarian, associate executive director for external relations and a lobbyist with the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), from Frontline’s “College, Inc.” program.  The section on loan defaults –also discussed in the Barron’s article I posted yesterday–is particularly revealing, I think.  In what follows, Nassarian is discussing quality and regulation.

Q: So we’re in the middle of a recession. Record demand for postsecondary education, am I right? And just the massive growth of for-profits. I mean, those would be the sort of saving features of what we’re seeing now.

Well, there’s one important additional dimension that makes all of that toxic, which I have a hard time communicating to people without being a little sort of colorful.

We live in a society that most transactions for goods and services involve the profit motive, and we’re used to that. There’s nothing wrong with it. But we’re also living in an advanced post-industrialist society where there are fundamental assumptions about consumer protection that we all walk around with. I walked into this room without examining the building, without any engineering drawings, on the assumptions that surely it was somebody’s job to make sure it’s not going to collapse on my head, despite the fact that it might have been built by a for-profit builder who might have had profit maximization as their primary incentive. Continue reading

The Repo-Man Comes to Campus

I finally caught the latest Frontline program, “College Inc,” on PBS late last night (no need to troll your local PBS station though–you can watch it online here).  It certainly makes for some interesting viewing.  Here’s the summary from Frontline:

Even in lean times, the $400 billion business of higher education is booming. Nowhere is this more true than in one of the fastest-growing — and most controversial — sectors of the industry: for-profit colleges and universities that cater to non-traditional students, often confer degrees over the Internet, and, along the way, successfully capture billions of federal financial aid dollars.

In the meantime, have a look at this rather dispiriting article I found in Barron’s, “Leveraging Up to Learn” (below the fold).  Some of the links below are pdfs of charts/tables. The most important, in my view, is the one labeled “Giving It the Old College Try.”

Continue reading

Cornel West Interview

Here is an excerpt from an interview with Cornel West I came across on Alternet.  I was most interested to read about West’s criticism of Obama and his comments about Michael Moore’s faith in Obama:

McNally: My fiancee said the saddest moment for her was watching how excited people were the night Barack Obama was elected. Share a little bit about your feelings that night and your feelings today.

West: I was ready because I draw a radical distinction between the symbolic and the substantial. As a critical supporter of Barack Obama, engaged in over 50 events for him from Iowa to Ohio, I knew that at a symbolic level something could happen that was unprecedented. And it did happen. At that symbolic level, I can understand the tears, I can understand the jubilation, I can understand the euphoria. But I always knew there was a sense in which he, now heading the American empire, was tied to the shadow government, tied to CIA, FBI, tied to the establishment waiting to embrace him. It was clear when he chose his economic team, when he chose his foreign policy team, he was choosing, of course, the recycled neo-liberals and recycled neo-Clintonites that substantially you’re going to end up with these technocratic policies that consider poor people and working people as afterthoughts. Beginning with bankers, beginning with elites.

Symbolically, black man breaks through makes you want to break dance. So, yes, we have to be able to relate to both of these. So I resonate with your dear fiancee, because the hopes that were generated and the call for change, and then we end up with this recycled neo-liberalism. There’s no fundamental change at all. Continue reading

(Im)morality of Walking Away

An interesting piece in L.A.Times today:

Professor advises underwater homeowners to walk away from mortgages.

Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, says that it’s in the homeowners’ best financial interest to stiff their lenders and that it’s not immoral to do so.

Reporting from Washington – Go ahead. Break the chains. Stop paying on your mortgage if you owe more than the house is worth. And most important: Don’t feel guilty about it. Don’t think you’re doing something morally wrong.

That’s the incendiary core message of a new academic paper by Brent T. White, a University of Arizona law school professor, titled “Underwater and Not Walking Away: Shame, Fear and the Social Management of the Housing Crisis.” Continue reading

So you want to be a Professor?

Somehow I missed it, but this is an interesting article from the WSJ, “So you Want to Be A Professor.”  Along with Mark Taylor’s pretentious Op-ed from the NY Times last week (for a spirited reaction see here), it kind of rubbed me the wrong way.  For instance:

On some recent doctoral program cuts at Emory and Columbia:

But graduates students also act as teaching assistants, doing a great deal of time-consuming classroom work (and grading) that professors themselves are thus not compelled to do. In all sorts of courses, especially in their freshman and sophomore years, undergraduates may find themselves being instructed more often by a 25-year-old doctoral candidate than by the university’s full-time faculty members, who, of course, already have their doctorates (and one or two books to their credit, too). It is an odd, upside-down arrangement, but it has an economic logic: By providing cheap labor, graduate students save college administrations millions of dollars each year in salary costs.

So why the cuts? Well, the calculations work out differently for different schools. For instance, universities in lower tiers might not have to do as much because they can get away with having a higher percentage of classes taught by graduate students. But some of the schools making doctoral cuts this year gave compassion as their reason. Catherine R. Stimson, the dean of Graduate School of Arts and Science at New York University, was quoted in Inside Higher Ed: Given the state of the academic job market, she asked, referring to would-be doctoral candidates: “Is it fair to bring them in?” Continue reading

David Harvey On Financial Crisis in Red Pepper

David Harvey talks about the financial crisis in April/May issue of Red Pepper

What happened in the US was that eight men gave us a three-page document, which pointed a gun at everybody and said ‘give us $700 billion or else’. This to me was like a financial coup against the government and the population of the US. Which means you’re not going to come out of this crisis with a crisis of the capitalist class; you’re going to come out of this with a far greater consolidation of the capitalist class than there has been in the past. We’re going to end up with four or five major banking institutions in the United States and nothing else.

Read the whole thing.