Submitted by Paul Fain on August 17, 2012 - 3:00am
A newly released poll of influential types, including lawmakers, gave President Obama better marks than Mitt Romney on education policy. The poll, which was conducted by Whiteboard Advisors, an education consulting firm, focused mostly on K-12 issues. However, it found that a Romney administration probably would not seek to substantially revise student aid policies. Respondents also said for-profit colleges should be somewhat concerned about a second term for Obama.
Four years after investors stepped in to stave off the death of Myers University, which has educated adults in Cleveland since the 1850s, the institution -- now called Chancellor University -- once again faces an existential threat, this time at the hands of its regional accreditor. The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools voted in late June to put Chancellor on "show cause" status, meaning that the institution will be shut down if its officials cannot persuade the accreditor within a year that it has ameliorated the agency's concerns, which relate to weak finances, conflicts of interest and poor student retention.
It has been a bumpy few years for the institution since 2008, when the Higher Learning Commission granted permission for Myers' buyers (led by the high-profile investor Michael Clifford) to transform it into Chancellor. Clifford had grand plans, including the naming of the institution's management school for Jack Welch, the former head of General Electric. (The management school has since been sold to another for-profit institution, Strayer University.) But it wasn't long before the institution was back in turmoil; in February 2010, the Higher Learning Commission gave it a show cause order, but the commission concluded by February 2011 that the institution had addressed its concerns. But quarterly reports filed by the institution triggered new concerns last February, leading to the new show cause order.
Chancellor University officials told Crain's Cleveland Business that the institution would get through the current crisis as it did two years ago. “Every member of the leadership team and the board of trustees would swear in a court of law, on the Bible and the U.S. Constitution that this institution is significantly better than it was when it got off show-cause” last time, President Robert Daugherty told the newspaper.
Most for-profits operating in California have been deemed ineligible to participate in Cal Grants, the state's generous need-based financial aid program. The California Student Aid Commission on Tuesday released a list of 154 ineligible institutions or branch campuses, 137 of which are for-profits, including the University of Phoenix. The rest are mostly small, private religious institutions. The program's rules were tightened to save money amid California's budget crisis, and were drafted in such a way that they were aimed specifically at for-profits. For example, they apply only to colleges where more than 40 percent of students take out loans. That effectively exempts community colleges, which don't charge enough in tuition for federal loans to be a major issue.
The biggest factor in setting the pay levels of for-profit CEOs is corporate profitability, according to the preliminary findings of an investigation by Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Maryland Democrat. Cummings examined the compensation of executives at 13 publicly traded for-profits, asking for documentation on whether the companies linked executive pay to the performance of students. Only three companies provided specific references to how they weigh student achievement in setting compensation, according to a statement from Cummings.
The university is not recognized by a recognized accrediting agency in the United States or Britain, and it is not recognized by the Department of Education to receive federal financial aid, either.
Alan Etter, vice president of university relations and public affairs at the University of D.C., wrote in an e-mail to Inside Higher Ed that the university is looking into the legitimacy of Commonwealth Open University and the professors’ relationships with it, and administrators want to understand the questions surrounding the professors' degrees before making any judgments.
“The professors in question are all productive, have good histories and are committed to student achievement,” he wrote, adding that the university considers more than academic credentials when hiring faculty.
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority’s tuition reimbursement program, which pays for employees to take college-level courses, has garnered some criticism from an Iowa senator who said the agency doesn’t provide students with enough information about college options. WMATA -- which is funded by the federal government, the District of Columbia, and state and local jurisdictions -- spent almost $500,000 on the program in fiscal year 2010, according to The Washington Times.
“I am increasingly concerned that many government agencies, not just WMATA, are using taxpayer dollars to send students to low-quality, high-cost for-profit colleges with terrible student outcomes,” said Senator Tom Harkin, a Democrat, in a statement. “Most troubling is that these agencies do not provide students with sufficient information to protect themselves or perform adequate due diligence regarding the schools’ value.”
According to The Washington Times, which received documents about the program from an open records request, many WMATA employees opted to take courses at for-profit institutions, such as the University of Phoenix and Strayer University. Employees also took courses at some area institutions, such as the University of Maryland University College and Prince George's County College.
The documents also revealed that some employees took courses with no apparent professional correlation -- on video games, black history and parenting, for example.
The U.S. Department of Justice is investigating Universal Technical Institute over a former employee's complaint about potential violations of rules prohibiting incentive compensation in student recruiting as well as other potential violations, according to a corporate filing. The for-profit, which specializes in automotive technician training, also disclosed that the same former employee has claimed to have been subjected to retaliation by the company for being a whistleblower. The company said the employee was terminated for performance rather than for any retaliatory reason.
The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools last week gave Ashford University one month to prepare a report demonstrating the for-profit university's compliance with the commission's criteria for accreditation, according to a corporate filing by the university's parent company, Bridgepoint Education. Ashford last week had its bid rejected for accreditation with another regional accreditor, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), which found the university lacking in several areas, including low numbers of full-time faculty, high student dropout rates and questions about academic rigor.
Ashford had sought to change its accreditation status in part because the Higher Learning Commission has required that the university demonstrate a "substantial presence" in the region. Now Ashford must respond to a range of questions from the commission that stem from the critical finding from WASC. After submitting the report, the commission will conduct a site visit sometime before a mid-October.