Friday, May 18, 2007

Why Profit Doesn't Necessarily Mean Quality

I recently met with someone and he asked me how a school such as CRI could be successful despite the fact that it had so many unhappy (and indebted) customers. Many feel that the foundation of capitalism is that in a competitive market, the producer of the better product will succeed. There is one glaring exception to this rule however:

There are always confidence men, luring consumers into purchasing inferior or illegitimate products and profiting from the unsophisticated persons who succumb to the fraud. These persons make money precisely because their products are inferior! They don't spend as much money on creating or refining the product and a lot on "marketing" it.

Cases of fraud are embedded in every institution, profit and non-profit, however, non-profit universities have little reason to defraud students. They don't need the student's money, they are funded by the state and endowments which is why they are much more selective. It's not to say that non-profit education is completely free from fraud, however, taken as a whole they are less modified to defraud than for-profit is.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

BCTI Students get $9 Mil in Insurance Settlement.

As those who have been paying attention to the state of "vocational" education in Washington state the David Wickert of the Tacoma News Tribune who has reported extensively on BCTI reported that an insurance company for BCTI has agreed to pay $9 million dollars to settle some of the claims of fraud. It's very fortunate that BCTI had insurance for this .... sort of thing. I'm thinking it might be a great idea for the Washington State Workforce Training and Education Board to make it mandatory that these schools carry insurance for fraud. I'm thinking the premiums might be high in light of this settlement, but the price to students was extremely high. Now it's true that each school does pay into a tuition reimbursement fund but this insurance would supplement that. Ironically enough, if more students from Computer Reporting Institute ("CRI") had made successful complaints -- the Seattle Times article stated that only "a dozen" did -- the Tuition Reimbursement Fund might have been exhausted, another reason to have schools take out fraud insurance.

Some of the students from CRI are going to lobby the legislature to post the rules and statute of limitations (1 year from the time you leave the school) for filing a Workforce complaint against a vocational school for tuition refund in a public and central location at each school. Had this legislation been in place, many more students might have made complaints and there is a possibility that the tuition refund kitty would have been overdrawn.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

How Alen Janisch and CRI Profited from Not Educating!

You almost have to hand it to Alen Janisch, the director of CRI, congratulate him even. Mike Girgus too, CRI's Director of Education now that's a misnomer for you. Court Reporting Institute (CRI) may be dwarfed by BCTI in the breadth of its fraud but certainly not its persistence and complexity! Here is one of the complaints that finally got the Washington State Workforce Training and Education Board (Workforce Board) to not renew CRI's license to operate. The headings of her complaint read like the for-profit education fraud play book:

1. CRI provided false information regarding their graduation rate, placement rate, and the time it would take students to graduate.

2. CRI gave false information about the skills necessary to become a court reporter, and the costs to be incurred both as a part of the school and upon graduation.

3. CRI continually misled students regarding accreditation standards the school followed, and additionally misled accreditation agency representatives regarding the type of education that was being taught at the school.

4. CRI advertised courses and instruction that were not actually offered, or taught these courses at a level where a student could not potentially learn them at a professional level.

5. CRI consistently employed students as teachers or self-taught classes to a degree not supported by the National Court Reporters Association (NCRA) standards body, of which CRI was initially a member when I began attending and whose standards level CRI consistently claimed to be teaching at, even after losing their accreditation.

6. CRI courses were run by unqualified staff or by staff members who rotated through class at a rate that is unacceptable among any educational standards.

7. Despite a lack of real learning or educational progress, CRI continually moved students ahead to the next level of instruction, yet without teaching the skills necessary to graduate.

8. CRI completely changed the theoretical foundation of their entire educational approach to court reporting in about 1999, but offered no retraining to students taught under the old method, and provided no method for these students -- including myself -- to succeed.

9. Critical components of an education for court reporting -medical and legal terminology - were taught inadequately and unprofessionally.

10. Instruction on Computer Aided Transcription (CAT) software was completely inadequate, despite being a key and vital daily tool used in any court reporter position.

11. CRI misrepresented the basic typing class instruction and training provide by their school.

Sound familiar? It should, this is a problem with many of the fraudulent for-profit education institutions out there. Deceiving students as to the nature of their accreditation, the quality of the instruction, the instructors and the equipment. It could be Crown College and BCTI all over again. They used fellow students as instructors and most of these were not even in attendance. Instead the students were left to teach themselves on shoddy equipment including Walkman tapes. However, when it became time for more financial aid everybody was promoted to the next class in order to make sure that new money was received.

There was a history of complaints at CRI dating back to 1999 however, CRI managed to stay in business until 2005. One of these former students is not going away though, more on her crusade to get some legislative action and possibly have criminal charges filed.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Politicos and The Business of Higher Education

The predation of the huge lending corporate institutions upon young, naive students merely attempting to secure entry to even the basement of the American Dream is indeed pathetic. No less pathetic is the role of their "enablers", the many politicians who will walk lockstep with any entity that contributes to their campaigns; regardless of who these entities profit from or how they do it. "Campaign contributions" is the biggest and most transparent oxymoron in the English language. A campaign contribution is a bribe already. In return for these "contributions", politicians, offer legislative assistance in direct relation to the the portion of the riches that are transferred to them.

John Boehner, who we blogged about earlier, is easily one of the fattest ticks feeding on the twin dogs of student lenders and for-profit schools. In reality, that is a faulty analogy because a tick is a parasite. The situation here is a symbiotic relationship. A more apt analogy would be the feeder fish and sharks. The politicians are the feeder fish gleaning bits of food from the shark's teeth. The amount of money that a lender such as Sally Mae pulls in from the legislation that a John Boehner is able to enact or stop from being enacted is considerable smaller than its one hundred thousand or so contribution to his campaign.

However, Mr. Boehner and the many student lenders and for-profit education he assists, in return for their campaign contributions, are ticks on the students who end up paying higher interest on educational loans and attend for-profit schools based on fraudulent expectations and end up saddled with debt they cannot pay off; on the taxpayers who must pay for the resulting defaults and for DOE officials who let student loan companies keep $278 million here and there, and for legislation that ends up costing the government more expenses so that the ticks can suck more blood in the form of higher interest rates.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Wretched of the Earth Now Include Student Debtors

Student loan debtors now have less rights that persons who have fallen out of favor with the Internal Revenue Service. Our society has certainly come to naught when this kind of behavior is sanctioned by our own government. Actually, its much more than sanctioned, it was part of the 1997 reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Provisions in that act made it much easier for the government to collect on defaulted loans and also made them harder to discharge in bankruptcy. A Wall Street Journal article explains the crushing effect of this legislation on students on defaulted loans. These provisions were put into place at the behest of John Boehner, Howard "Buck" Mckeon (pictured), and Senator Mike Enzi according to Student Loan Justice and Sally Mae and many debt collectors have reaped the benefit. Fortunately, the light of the media has exposed the symbiotic relationship between these newfangled robber barons and their corporate Repug enablers. Hopefully the astonishing greed of these lending institutions and the injustice visited about the hapless debtors who stumble into their web will be exposed next.

Monday, May 7, 2007

Bush Administration Stopped Loan Reforms...Irregulation Again!

So we didn't have to have this student loan scandal after all according to the Washington Post. Back in 2001 the Bush Administration killed a proposal to clamp down on the student loan industry. Not particularly surprising since inasmuch as there is no money making endeavor that the Bush Administration can stomach regulating. They prefer irregulation. Mr. Bush entrusts regulation to veterans of the industries that would -- or should be -- regulated which results in irregulation. Think killer whales regulating seals, cheetahs regulating antelope, crocodiles regulating wildebeests, you get the picture. There is something extraordinarily pernicious about this practice so reminiscent of Reagan. It can be far worse than no regulation at all.

In keeping with this theme, the esteemed Theresa S. Shaw (pictured), is "Chief Operating Officer of the Office of Federal Aid." Wow, C00 sounds so like a private industry title wouldn't you think? Well a kind of pubic/private partnership! Not surprising that she spent 20 years at Sally Mae honing her talents until they became suitable to regulating the student loan industry for the DOE. Yep the same Ms. Mae that is the biggest student lender. She brought some of her ilk from Sally Mae and other student loan lenders according to the New York Times and the Herald Tribune Hey networking works so well for private industry, it should do well for public service also! And surely an intimate knowledge of what you're irregulating is helpful. Ms. Shaw and her band of irregulators are now being investigated for conflict of interest as part of the burgeoning student loan scandal. Well, that's ironic, because there are no conflicts of interest in irregulation. Everyone is on the same side!

Another one of DOE irregulators, Sara Martinez Tucker, the under secretary of education, brought the meaning of term irregulation into sharp focus when she decided that Nelnet, a student lender, could keep the $278 million dollars they overcharged the government according to a DOE Inspector General audit. Ms. Tucker, of course has some ties -- actually many ties, think bondage -- to the loan industry and even Nelnet as the New York Times illustrates. Irregulators need to be in touch with the industry they are iregulating. That's what makes them such good irregulators!

In fact, another irregulator, Sally Stroup, an assistant secretary of education, spent much of her formative years in for-profit education which is complete dependent on student loans. Ironically enough she received a memo in August 2003 from the DOE inspector general urging her to curb any "illegal inducements" to lenders. Well, the DOE inspector general obviously doesn't understand irregulation so Ms. Stroup paid the memo little mind. According to the College Journal:

"At least eight top officials in the Education Department during the Bush administration either came from student-loan or related organizations or have taken lucrative jobs in that arena since leaving the agency. Former Education Department staffers say a revolving door between the department and industry has led to lax oversight of federal financial aid."

I'm thinking you are starting to understand how and why irregulators are chosen!
Secretary of Education Spellings asserts its an asset having administrators who have
so much experience in the student loan and other related industries.

Well according to the Washington Post and New York Times, Ms. Shaw will be leaving her post at the rudder of the student loan department having done all the irregulation college students and the nation can stand for now. The following is what she said in an email per the aforementioned Washington Post article:

"The recent attention on our programs and our work only confirms how very important our programs are to the students and families we serve, I am confident that together we established a solid foundation for Federal Student Aid's continued success."

Now that's irregulation and it is indeed a success . . . for the loan industry. But that's the goal of irregulation, benefiting the industry that's being irregulated.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Crown College Lies

Crown College, in Tacoma, Washington, is the biggest reason not to choose for-profit education. Crown College is a vocational, mostly on-line school which holds itself to be an academic institution because it issues issues bachelor and associate degrees as if that's all it needed to do. However, its still just a vocational, "career" school and its credits and degrees generally don't transfer to academic aka "real" schools. It has managed to deceive many customers, oh students, into believing that its degrees and credits do transfer. This has resulted in it being sued three times by eleven different students! Crown settled two of these Lola Jackson v. Killebrew/Dalton, Inc. and Joanne Black v. Killebrew/Dalton, Inc. lawsuits were settled and Crown College lost the Latesha Gonzalez v. Killebrew/Dalton, Inc. case at trial. IF YOU WANT YOUR CREDITS TO TRANSFER TO A REGIONALLY ACCREDITED SCHOOL DON'T GO TO CROWN COLLEGE.

Incidentally, the logo states that they were founded in 1969, well Crown College of Hair Design was founded in 1969. However, that school was purchased 1990 by John Wabel and now bears little resemblance to a beauty school ... actually it might, at least in quality. Mr. Wabel, who despite the fact that he does not possess even a nationally accredited college degree, has come across a fantastic way to make money: having students borrow it from the federal government and then turning it over to him for an online, inferior education. In fact, Mr. Wabel has been providing a sub par education for students for over 10 years now. As far back as 1997, complaints show that Crown College has been misleading students regarding the quality or lack there of its educational programs much like a used car salesman might mislead you about the facts concerning several mechanical occupants of his lot. More importantly, he and his staff have misrepresented (lied) about the nature of their accreditation and the transferability of their credits for the same amount of time. Crown College is accredited by the American Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT) and is on probation yet again.

A former admissions representative came forward and filed a complaint against Crown College alleging that she was instructed to mislead (lie) and misrepresent (lie) and deceive (lie) prospective students about many pertinent facts including Crown College's accreditation (national accreditation is better than regional accreditation), whether Crown College was being sued (Oh, its not this Crown College that's being sued), whether or not Crown College's credits transfered to other schools (well we educate students all over the nation so our credits are transferable to all schools). Why, why would they lie to prospective students? Well the bottom line. This school is a money making enterprise and let's say they are highly motivated when it comes to generating revenue ... ummm, recruiting students though not as motivated when it comes to educating their students but then education is a mere by-product of making money. It's a great scam, an unlimited supply of money from the federal government. This student is a conduit, a middle man, a funnel, through which loan money flows into the school's bank account. Thus education is not the end, its a means to the end. The end is making money.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

For-Profit Education's Admission "Standards"...

Well, they don't have any because they are businesses. If you are running a car dealership and a customer comes in wanting to buy a car and has a driver's license you are going to sell him one! If one comes in vaguely thinking about buying a car you're going to try to sell him (or her) one. If one comes in because he wants to use the bathroom, you're going to try to sell him a car. If they need a loan you will do everything within your power to arrange one. You are not concerned with his driving record or if its the right car for him. The first problem belongs to his insurance agency, the second one to him. That's how businesses operate, that's what they do, they sell things that's the only way they can profit.

Well for-profit educational institutions are like car businesses, and they don't operate much differently. If a student comes in with a GED and wants an education they will sell him one and if he's not sure he wants one from them they will do everything they can to convince him that their education suits him. If ultimately it doesn't suit him that's not their problem.

Ohhh, but for-profit education has a huge advantage over car dealers and other like businesses. They have no worries about customer's credit records, don't need to have a service department and no pesky warranties. The customer always gets the loan regardless of his credit record and the for-profit educational institution always gets their money ... well as long as the customer stays in school. If the customer doesn't like the education and it doesn't end up suiting their needs, well that's too bad, its non-returnable and non-refundable!

Now, under those circumstances, do you really expect for-profit educational institutions to turn customers, ummmm.... students away!!!

Crown College is like that. Students came in wanting an education which they could transfer to a traditional school. What did the admission representatives do, tell them that they could transfer Crown College's credits to a traditional school? Why, because the Crown College makes a profit from each student it enrolls and profit is what concerns them. There has been amble evidence that this is the policy of other for-profit educational institutions. The Chronicle of Higher Education published an article concerning an investigation of Career Education Corporation which revealed that they were very reluctant to turn anyone away. "If you can breathe and walk, you can get into the school," says a professor who wished to remain anonymous."

The Chronicle has talked to credible sources and reviewed documents that strongly suggest that, over the last several years, administrators at the campus here have:

* Regularly admitted students who had not graduated from high school or earned a General Educational Development certificate, and directed many of those students to unaccredited high schools where they could obtain high-school diplomas the very same day.

* Improperly counted as "starts" students who never showed up for class or dropped out before they had completed their first week of courses.

* Encouraged admissions officers to sign up themselves, as well as family members and friends, and counted them as "starts" even if they never actually attended.

* Routinely misled prospective students about the college's classes and programs, as well as about the nature of the institution itself.

University of Phoenix paid a $9 million to the Department of Education to settle charges that it gave admission representatives incentives to enroll students regardless of whether they were academically suited to for the program of study. Moreover, University of Phoenix, still faces a false claims lawsuit which the Supreme Court refused to throw out according to the Los Angeles Times.

A report issued by the department said the company promoted an intense sales culture that rewarded recruiters who encouraged large numbers of students to enroll, even if they were not qualified.

For-profit educational institutions are business regardless of what they might want you to believe and its extremely hard for them not to conduct themselves accordingly. They simply cannot help themselves.

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Court Reporting Institute (CRI) and Irregulation!

CRI aka Court Reporting Institute was a corporation incorporated in Washington state which ran four court reporting schools in Seattle, Tacoma, Idaho and San Diego. CRI is is a failure that rivals BCTI and it employed many of BCTI's tactics and some of Crown College. As in the BCTI case, lax oversite by the Washington State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board allowed CRI to continue to perpetuate its fraud when perhaps it should have been shut down earlier. Ultimately, the decision by the Workforce Board to revoke its license led to its demise and its entry into the bankruptcy court.

However, in its dealings with CRI, the Workforce Board appeared to be more interested in chiding a beloved but wayward child rather than enforcing the law and addressing the real concerns of students. Time and time again, it brandished its mighty ruler and brought it down softly on the naughty palms of CRI, then offered it a cookie. CRI took the cookie, savored it, appeared mollified then did it all again. According to the Seattle Times CRI was ordered to refund tuition to students in 1999 and 2003 because the Workforce Board found CRI used deceptive practices. Then it did it again. Finally, 2005, the Workforce Board pulled their license. CRI appealed the decision was hit with a lawsuit by its former students. The lawsuit named the sole shareholder of now defunct CRI, Alen Janisch, and also its director, Mike Girgus. Mike Girgus was so good at recruiting students with false promises that Gene Juarez Academy is now utilizing his skills as the supervisor of their recruiters. After adverse publicity from the Seattle Times newspaper article CRI dropped its appeal of the Workforce Board's decision and closed its schools. Here are articles in the Seattle Times, the San Diego Union Tribune and the Idaho Statesman covering the closure.

Subsequently, it declared bankruptcy in Western District of the U.S. Bankruptcy court in Seattle. The former students some of which owe as much as $50,000 in student loans have not given up. They have filed proof of claims in the bankruptcy court and are hoping to get the sole shareholder of the CRI, Alen Janisch, indicted in federal court for frauds they allege he has committed against the Department of Education. They also allege that he has kept thousands of dollars of federal aid that should have been returned to the Department of Education, the lenders or the students.