Education Department turns up heat on for-profits with job-placement-rate scrutiny, three months before gainful-employment rules kick in. But lack of federal standards for placement rates causes confusion.
The U.S. Department of Education has granted federal aid eligibility to two new academic programs that do not rely on the credit hour -- a form of competency-based education called direct assessment. So far six institutions have earned approval from the department and regional accreditors for direct-assessment programs.
Walden University, a for-profit institution that Laureate Education owns, announced on Tuesday that the department approved its new competency-based master's degree in early childhood studies. The university offers the degree through its Tempo Learning program, in which it said "students can progress at their own pace by applying their existing knowledge and prior experience while focusing on mastering the skills they need to meet the demands of the workforce."
The Texas State College System last October got a green light from the department for its competency-based certificate in industrial systems technology, according to a spokeswoman for the system. The 27-credit program features training in electrical and computer systems. Students work at their own pace and can earn a certificate in two semesters or less. The credential appears to be the first department-approved direct-assessment program to feature face-to-face instruction.
Hillary Clinton, on her first trip to Iowa after declaring her presidential candidacy, criticized for-profit colleges and talked about college costs in a discussion at Kirkwood Community College.
She said it was important to look at "some of the for-profit schools, some of the scandals that have arisen in these places where they have taken all this money… and put all these people into debt" without providing students with the skills they need. Then many students "drop out and they don't have the degree or credential" but do have debt, Clinton said. "We have to take on those interests that want to keep the system the way it is."
Clinton endorsed President Obama's proposal to provide free community college tuition. But she stressed that she realized tuition alone was not the only expense faced by many community college students. Books and online materials cost money, she said. She said she has been told that because Pell Grants cover tuition at most community colleges for low-income students, many say that the "bigger problem" is other expenses beyond tuition. "A lot of students are working or are single parents and they have all these other expenses," she said.
C-SPAN video of the appearance may be found here, with the section on college costs and for-profit higher education starting around the 58-minute mark.
As the campaign for debt relief for its students mounts, for-profit Corinthian Colleges tries to pressure California's attorney general to ease her scrutiny as the chain seeks buyers for its campuses in the state.
Jones International University, an online, for-profit institution based in Colorado, has announced plans to shut down. The university was the first online university to receive regional accreditation, which was controversial at the time, The Chronicle of Higher Educationreported. Jones had seen steep enrollment declines in recent years, according to the Denver Business Journal. The university currently enrolls about 2,000 students, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Glenn Jones, a cable television pioneer, founded the university in 1993. As part of its winding down, the university has signed a formal transfer agreement with Trident University International, another for-profit institution. In an announcement on the Jones website, the university said it "is committed to a smooth and orderly transition" for students.
Harrington College of Design will close, the Chicago-based for-profit announced on Wednesday. Career Education Corp., a national chain, owns Harrington. The college has struggled with declining revenue and enrollments, Crain's Chicago Businessreported. Its total enrollment is currently 360 students. The college will work with Columbia College, a private institution, to ensure that those students can finish their academic programs.
"Harrington regrets having to make this decision," the college said in a statement, "but it became necessary because of increasing financial deficits caused by multiple years of continuous declines in enrollment, as well as increased regulatory burdens facing private sector higher education institutions like Harrington."
The U.S. Department of Education plans to release on Friday the names of the nearly two dozen colleges it had redacted from the list of colleges it is watching more closely.
The department earlier this week released a list of 556 colleges and universities that were subject to restrictions on their student aid and extra scrutiny known as heightened cash monitoring. But officials declined to identify 23 of those institutions, 21 of which had been placed on the more stringent level of monitoring. Most of them were singled out for scrutiny after federal audits of their financial aid programs resulted in “severe findings.”
Because the department has ongoing investigations at those institutions, Undersecretary of Education Ted Mitchell said Monday, “releasing those names would impede the progress of our investigation.”
Denise Horn, a department spokeswoman, said Thursday that the decision to now release all of the names came after “further legal review and in response to follow-up inquiries.” It also comes after The New York Times editorial board on Thursday criticized the department for withholding the information, calling it a "disservice to students."
The department also plans to release Friday an updated cash-monitoring list that is current through this week. The list released earlier this week was from March 1.
Apollo Education Group's revenue and enrollment slide has continued, according to a corporate filing released this week. The publicly traded company, which owns the University of Phoenix, had a net-revenue decline of 15 percent, or $223 million, during the six months prior to March. Phoenix's revenue was down 19 percent in this period. The university's degree-seeking student enrollment dipped by roughly 15 percent, to 213,800. The high-water mark for enrollment at Phoenix was 475,000 in 2010.
Laurus Technical Institute, a three-branch for-profit college in Georgia, closed on Monday without advance word, WXIA reported. Students arrived for classes to find signs on the door telling them the college was closed. Staff members reported that the owner, who could not be reached, sent them email messages saying he lacked the financing to continue operations.