Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Western Career College Sued, Another For-Profit Education Fraud?

Reading the story it certainly has the blueprint of the prototypical for-profit career school scam. Twenty students who graduated from the ultra-sound program are now suing the school for fraud and misrepresentation claiming they were lured into enrollment with misrepresentations about the quality of placement, accreditation, facilities, teaching, internships, whatever they deem necessary to enroll students. Once the student enrolls they find that the promises were illusionary. When the fraud is well prepared, the student does not discover the fraud until they have expended valuable time and money. Watching the KCRA3 broadcast of the story is even scarier as these students claim that they were thrust into ultrasound internships with insufficient training or supervision and that doctors were depending on their accurate diagnosis, a diagnosis they felt unsure about.

Schools that end up in the inquisitive scope of the news media tend to react in two ways. They get on camera or on print and answer the allegations, generally denying them, sometimes with distinct disdain like John Wabel of Crown College did. Others, simply do not comment to the media, like Alen Janish and Mike Girgus of CRI. In this case, the president of the school takes the Crown College avenue, steadfastly defending the school despite the fact that three-quarters of the graduating class is suing them.

In response to the allegation that the students who were interning at the hospital felt that they did not have the training to render competent ultra sound diagnosis, the president states that it is not unusual that a trainee would feel unsure in that position. The president also admitted that the school lacked the proper accreditation a fact that was disclosed in writing to students. However, admission representatives and staff assured the students that the school would get accreditation. That is a standard fraudulent practice by for-profit trade schools and was used by Crown College. Students signed a vague statement that stated that their was no guarantee that the credits would transfer. However, the language was designed to leave the students thinking the credits would transfer in most cases when that was exactly the opposite and Crown College staff knew this. This nebulous statement coupled with admission representatives assuring the students that the credits would transfer completed the fraud.

Many fraudulent schools employ this tactic. We don't have the proper accreditation and/or licensing and/or authorization but we will get it soon, not to worry, by the time you enroll/graduate everything will be in order. He also admitted that some of the students did not get the proper health screening. It will be interesting to see how this shakes out. Reading the plaintiff's attorney's press release certainly makes the school look like the classic for-profit education con.

Ironically, Western Career College is one of only five regionally accredited vocational/trade schools in California. So I can't pound on national accreditation because of their fraud. However, several for-profit schools which are nationally accredited have resorted to fraud, most notably University of Phoenix.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

For-Profits Want Their Credits Accepted By Regionals To Increase Profits, Not For Concern For Their Students.

Since 2001 nationally accredited schools, which are overwhelmingly, for-profit, career, technical and vocational, have had the Transfer of Credit Blues as detailed in the Chronical of Higher Education and have been working to make it more difficult for regionally accredited schools to reject their credits, if not compel them to accept them. This last failure to accomplish this feat has to be frustrating. As I have stated before, they are fundamental reasons why nationally accredited schools which are trade, technical, career and vocational schools are fundamentally different from regionally accredited schools, which are academic. One of the nationals' biggest arguments is that the Department of Education recognizes both accreditations as a reason why regionally accredited schools should accept their credits. This is a bogus argument however, the Department of Education does not set educational standards, the accrediting agencies do, so the fact that the Department recognizes an accrediting agency does not mean that they are all equal in requirements and quality.

One of the reasons that nationally accredited schools have fought so hard to make it hard for regionals to reject their credits, is not because of any concern for their students. If their credits were transferable, this would enhance the value of their schools aka their businesses and investment.

In an article in Inside Higher Education, Elise Scanlon, executive director of the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology and Mark Pelesh, executive vice president for legislative and regulatory affairs at Corinthian Colleges, Inc. "both acknowledged, as has been clear in the for-profit sector’s push for new rules or laws on transfer of credit, that part of the reason the issue is so important to commercial colleges is because of what the perceived discrimination says to students and others about their institutions."

Many of for-profit students have complained about the fact the their credits do not transfer to traditional universities and some have sued. Ironically enough, Nancy Broff, general counsel for the Career College Association (CCA), which represents for-profit schools once said: "Students often don't know if their credits will transfer until after switching schools. Most students and parents are unaware of the pitfalls they may encounter if they switch from a career college to a traditional four-year institution." Obviously if the nationally accredited schools are petitioning the government to have them "regulate" acceptance of their credits by regionals, they know there is a problem. Strange how many of their students are not informed of this, huh?

In other words, the real problem, is that many nationally accredited schools purposely don't tell their students of the transfer of credit problem before they enroll! Some go further, and lie and state that the credits transfer, though they know they don't, e.g. Crown College and Florida Metropolitan University.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

For-Profit's Lose Out On Transfer of Credits Clause - Money Can't Buy Everything

Well the Senate has revealed the Higher Education Renewal Act and after a cruel feint, that almost gave this blogger a restless night, the for-profit education industry and their campaign contributions have failed to bend reality to their liking again. Despite the fact, that it was included in an earlier draft, there will be no provision mandating that traditional academic universities not solely take into account accreditation when considering whether or not to accept credits from for-profit nationally accredited schools which are overwhelmingly career, technical and vocational in nature. Now that's a mouthful but in essence, as we stated before, for-profit, nationally accredited schools have wanted legislation that dictates that regionally accredited schools cannot reject their transfer credits just because they come, well, from nationally accredited schools.

Now nationally accredited, for-profit schools have been screaming that they are being discriminated against when regionally accredited schools consider the accreditation of nationally accredited schools when making a determination whether or not to accept credits transfered from those schools. Ironically enough, though for-profit schools trumpet the virtues of the free enterprise system, they have sought recourse in the regulatory process, at least as concerns righting this perceived wrong. They have appeared to be on the precipice of such a victory several times, especially with a Republican Congress quite sympathetic to their "plight". However, the Republicans didn't have enough time to pass their version of the Higher Education Act renewal which would have included this language.

When that Congress was replaced by a Democrat one, the Senator of Education, Margret Spelling (pictured) and her Commission on the Future of Higher Education set about to rewrite the accrediting rules to include this provision. What was interesting about this committee that was appointed to rewrite the accrediting rules is the fact that it was overly weighted with representatives of the for-profit education industry while no members of the research and liberal universities who would most be affected by this clause were on the committee. It was as if the Department of Education was trying ensure the outcome by the selection of the persons on the rule making committee. Even with things weighted toward a "positive outcome, the vote to include the transfer of credit provision still failed. As "Inside Higher Education" reported, the person who voted against the provision was then "urged" to resign her seat on the rules committee. That would have resulted in the transfer of credit passage passing.

Well Congress watched Ms. Spelling's attempt to circumvent Congress's jurisdiction build in a series of rule making meetings on accreditation and sent several signals of its discontent, including, a letter from several members of Congress, a letter to Spelling from Lamar Alexander, a republican senator and former secretary of education, protestations from the states, finally in its proposed passage of the higher education act Congress has prohibited the Secretary of Education would prohibit the Education Department from changing federal regulations on colleges’ transfer of credit policies. In fact, Spellings conceded that Congress had trumped her and that her department would not issue new regulations.

For-profits have contributed much money toward getting this provision passed, alas, to no end and that would appear to be one of the reasons that Republicans and the Republican Secretary of Education has pursued this transfer of credit legislation and then rule change. The Department of Education is filled with refugees from for-profit education and the House Committee governing Education was headed by two republican representatives who took a great deal of contributions from for-profit education. Well, money can't buy you everything.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Political Landscape Shifts Toward Student's Welfare

Well good news hails from the Senate as concerns student loans and the welfare of the student itself. Don’t want to be partisan but interesting how now that Democrats are in charge, students instead of lenders are now getting favorable legislation. There is a bill which has been introduced in the house which would trim subsidies for student lenders (not sure why they even needed them to begin with) and use that money to give the students a break. True Capitalists seem to not be able to resist “capitalizing” on any consumer especially the most vulnerable. When Republicans were in charge the welfare of the student lenders was paramount, now that Democrats are in charge things have reversed themselves. In fact, now that the media has gotten hold of the student loan conflict of interest story and run across a crowded field with it as if it were some lady’s undergarments, even the Republicans are pro-student and even challenging the Democrats for not being pro-student enough as detailed in an news article in Inside Higher Education titled "The Competition to Aid Students."

Who can forget James Boehner, despite the fact that he would love his past to slip past minds flummoxed by the lightening speed of the internet. However Source Watch reveals his campaign contribution pedigree and who can forget his Patrick Henry like proclamation, delivered to the Consumer Bankers Association: "Know that I have all of you in my two trusted hands. I've got enough rabbits up my sleeve to be able to get where we need to", still resonates. The internet is like that, its a virtual, resounding terminal echo.

Ironic isn't it, how roaches and other creatures who do their best in dimness totally change when an errant spotlight suddenly finds them. Now that the public is aware of blatant conflicts of interest in the student loan industry and also within the Department of Education, Republicans who were previously only beholden to their capitalist constituents can no longer justify such positions. Campus Progress has taken note of the change of direction without forgetting the "way we were" when Republicans ran things. They list how Republicans voted and the contributions they received not that long ago.