In new draft, U.S. panel endorses specific ideas for reworking higher education accreditation, including keeping link to student aid and defining common data for accreditors to use in judging colleges.
The Department of Education admits failing to include black students in its calculation of loan repayment rates in run-up to gainful employment. The mistake will fuel for-profit claims of unfair treatment by feds.
Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, disclosed in a corporate filing Wednesday that they received a civil investigative demand from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission.
According to the filing, that "demand" relates to an investigation to look into allegations of "deceptive or unfair acts or practices in or affecting commerce in the advertising, marketing or sale of secondary or postsecondary educational products or services or educational accreditation products or services."
It requires Apollo to provide the federal agency with a broad range of documents and information about Phoenix, relating to the for-profit's chain's marketing, recruiting, enrollment, financial aid, tuition and fees, academic programs, academic advising, student retention, billing and debt collection, complaints, accreditations, training, military recruitment, and other matters. The request covers 2011 to the present.
Representatives from the company declined to comment and referred to the statement in the filing, saying: "Apollo is evaluating the demand and intends to cooperate fully with the FTC."
This is the most recent action taken by the agency against a for-profit institution since it charged the Georgia-based, online Ashworth College with misrepresenting the training and credentials students could earn, as well as whether credits from Ashworth would transfer to other institutions.
More than a year ago, DeVry Education Group received a similar demand from the FTC relating to the "advertising, marketing or sale of secondary or postsecondary educational products or services or educational accreditation products or services by DeVry Group during the past five years."
That investigation has been ongoing.
"The University of Phoenix investigation is important because of the national reach of the organization and because of the documents requested by the FTC," said Elizabeth Baylor, an associate director of postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress.
Those documents, including ones related to military recruitment, are important because a 2014 report from the Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions -- or HELP -- committee found that Phoenix received the most GI Bill funds of any institution, totaling $750 million over four years, said Baylor, who also served as a senior investigator on the HELP committee under former Iowa Senator Tom Harkin.
"This type of finding shows that the FTC plans to examine the practices of University of Phoenix might well be warranted," she said.
Phoenix has struggled in recent years as enrollment and revenue has plummeted. Most recently Apollo Group announced it was laying off approximately 600 employees, who were mostly "enrollment counselors."
Earlier this month the company announced they would revamp the admissions policy to become a more selective institution.
Higher Ed, Not Debt is a nonprofit advocacy group with a focus on for-profit colleges. It joined with the Service Employees International Union and Student Debt Action to organize a Monday protest outside the annual shareholder meeting of ITT Educational Services Inc., which owns ITT Tech, an embattled for-profit chain that is facing federal fraud charges and various other state and federal lawsuits.
Inside Higher Ed reported on the demonstration in Arlington, Va., which featured about 20 protesters. A news release Higher Ed, Not Debt distributed before the event said “former educators and ITT students” would attend. At the demonstration, an official with the group told a reporter that multiple students who had attended ITT were there.
However, only one former ITT student attended, the group later disclosed. The former student, Anthony Byrd, said he attended an ITT campus for about six weeks. Inside Higher Ed was not able to confirm those details, as Byrd refused to grant a waiver from federal student privacy rules that would have allowed ITT to release details about his time at the school.
Higher Ed, Not Debt is organized by unions and progressive groups, including the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank. On Tuesday, a spokesman for the Center for American Progress confirmed that only one former ITT student attended the event.
“Anthony Byrd was the only former ITT Tech student who was able to attend the demonstration yesterday,” the spokesman said in an email. “Many of [the] demonstrators were advocates from groups like Higher Ed, Not Debt and the SEIU, which advocate for students who were wronged by for-profit institutions like ITT Tech.”
The spokesman said many ITT Tech students are financially stressed and unable to make the trip for the protest. But he said 1,500 former students of the for-profit chain have signed a petition asking for a refund.
On Monday ITT said the protest's organizers were not providing accurate information to students or shareholders about ITT's successes.
“Organizations with ideological biases are tainted by ulterior motives, and they frequently recruit people to stage protests,” said Nicole Elam, an ITT spokeswoman, in an emailed statement. “We are helping students build better lives, secure employment and earn higher salaries. The targeted recruitment of former students as ‘spokespeople’ by these organizations also provides us no option to counter claims that may be false, without a student providing a signed release of their records.”
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the Western District of North Carolina last week issued a subpoena to Universal Technical Institute Inc., the for-profit chain disclosed in a corporate filing. The inquiry covers a "broad range of matters" at the institute's campus in Mooresville, N.C., including its compliance with a federal rule that requires for-profits to receive less than 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government.