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Corinthian Acknowledges Scrutiny of Placement Rates

Corinthian Colleges, Inc., a chain of for-profit colleges, said in a federal filing Wednesday that the U.S. Education Department had rejected "many" of the company's requests for new programs because of concerns about its reporting of job placement and other information. Company officials disputed an assertion made in a January letter from the Education Department that Corinthian had "admitted falsifying" placement or grade information, saying instead that the company had detected and reported to federal authorities "isolated instances" of misreporting.

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Groups Call for Strong Gainful Employment Regulations

A group of 50 organizations has written to officials at the White House and U.S. Department of Education to "urge the administration to issue promptly a stronger, more effective" set of gainful employment regulations. The group includes higher-education associations, faculty unions, consumer advocates and veterans organizations.

In December a panel of department-appointed negotiators failed to reach consensus on the proposed rules, which would affect vocational programs at for-profit institutions and community colleges. The department is expected to issue its final draft standards in coming months. A period of public comment will follow their release.

Complaint System for Student Veterans

The federal government this week announced the launch of a new online complaint system for college students who are veterans or active-duty members of the U.S. military. The Education Department and Department of Veterans Affairs, as well as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, are participating in the interagency effort to protect students and Post-9/11 GI Bill investments. The complaint system will be a way for students report negative experiences with colleges and universities. Veterans groups called the announcement a "game changer," according to Stars and Stripes.

DeVry Grad Will Be State of the Union Guest

A DeVry University graduate will be among First Lady Michelle Obama’s special guests at this evening’s State of the Union address, the White House announced Tuesday.

Sabrina Simone Jenkins of Charleston, S.C., a single mother who worked full-time while graduating from college, was selected to sit in the House gallery with Mrs. Obama. The First Lady’s guests are often mentioned in the president’s speech and are selected to highlight key themes of the address.

The White House said Jenkins’ story illustrated perseverance and a determination to improve oneself. 

“After servicing in the Air Force,” according to a White House press release, Jenkins “took classes at DeVry University while working full time, graduating with a 3.7 GPA at the age of 42 – all while caring for ailing family members and becoming seriously ill herself.” She then earned a masters degree in human resources.

Jenkins now owes nearly $90,000 in student loan debt, “something that will only worsen” as she pays for her teenaged daughter to attend college, according to the information provided by the White House.

The president's advisors have said this year's speech will focus on “opportunity, action and optimism” and will reflect the administration’s desire to move forward unilaterally with executive actions the face of a gridlocked, divided Congress.

But few other details have been released, leaving it unclear what, if anything, Obama will say about higher education tonight. In his most recent addresses to Congress, Obama has warned colleges about rising tuition and pushed accreditation as a lever to slow the growth of college costs.  

Another guest of the First Lady will be 23-year-old Cristian Avila, a “DREAMer” and immigration reform activist from Phoenix, Ariz. Avila was brought to the United States illegally as a child and received temporary relief from deportation through the administration’s deferred action program.  

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States Investigate For-Profit Chains

Several holding companies of major for-profit chains announced Monday that they have received letters of inquiry from attorneys general in a group of states, usually a dozen or so. The investigations center on business practices, such as the recruitment of students, graduate placement statistics and student lending activities, according to corporate filings. The companies include Career Education Corporation, ITT Educational Services Inc. and Corinthian Colleges Inc. The investigations have been in the works for years, and feature a growing number of for-profits.

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National Hispanic U. Halts Enrollment

Citing a "very difficult financial situation," National Hispanic University has stopped enrolling new students, according to the San Jose Mercury News. Laureate Education, a large for-profit chain, bought the San Jose-based university in 2010, announcing plans for it to grow to 8,000 students, many of them attending online. The university was struggling before the purchase, and has failed to right itself in the last few years. Its enrollment stands at just 600 students. And last year the U.S. Department of Education withdrew federal financial eligibility for the university's liberal arts programs, straining its finances.

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Rasmussen Changes Its Corporate Status

Rasmussen College on Tuesday announced it had changed its corporate status to that of a Public Benefit Corporation, which essentially means the for-profit chain will donate more employee and facility usage time to its local communities. The college will not have a different tax status, however.

Rasmussen is a mid-sized higher education chain with 24 campuses in the Midwest and Florida. Kristi Waite, its president, said the college was making the shift -- which is rare in higher education -- to send a message. She said Rasmussen would lose some money because of the change.

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Another For-Profit College in Consumer Agency's Sights

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has told Corinthian Colleges, Inc. that the agency's enforcement office may urge the CFPB to "take legal action" against the for-profit higher education provider for possible violations of federal law, Corinthian announced in a federal tax filing Monday. In its statement, the for-profit education provider said that the consumer bureau had informed it in December that its enforcement staff plans to charge the company with violating the Consumer Financial Protection Act of 2010. The consumer bureau may seek "injunctive and monetary relief" against Corinthian, the agency told the company.

Corinthian officials said that they would respond to the agency's notice and that they believe the company's "acts and practices relating to student loans — financing that is essential to preserving our students’ access to post-secondary education — are lawful." 

ITT Educational Services, Inc. announced having received a similar warning from the CFPB last month.

 

 

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California Agency Recommends Changes to Oversight of For-Profits

California's Legislative Analyst's Office (LAO) wants the state's government to devise criteria for determining which for-profit institutions are most at risk for having questionable business practices. In a newly released report, the agency said state regulators should exempt most for-profits that hold regional accreditation from their reviews, freeing up resources to conduct targeted oversight. Possible factors that could be used to determine which institutions need extra scrutiny could include "school ownership, types of programs offered, track record of operation in state and performance criteria," the report said.

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Apollo Buys Australian Online College

The Apollo Education Group's global division is buying 70 percent of Open Colleges Australia for $99 million, with additional payments of up to $48 million, the for-profit chain announced Tuesday in a news release. Founded in 1910, Open Colleges offers more than 130 online courses. Company officials hope the Australian institution "provides a platform for Apollo Global to operate and expand in other areas of the region.”

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