op-ed Miami Herald:Opinion: For-profit colleges’ success ignored

May 02, 2015

I have spent decades at the top of two businesses that were juxtaposed on your front page last week: journalism and for-profit education. I had the honor of being publisher of The Washington Post for more than 20 years and the CEO of the company that owned it for 22. And I now have the equal honor of being CEO of the company that owns Kaplan University, which is one of the many colleges mentioned in your series.

Reading your series has made me sad indeed for one of my two professions.

Every journalist knows that he or she is supposed to report all sides of a story. In this case the reporter wrote an account of his own work — How the Higher Ed Hustle was reported. Every word is devoted to his efforts to learn what critics of the industry had to say. If he lifted a finger to learn whether any for-profit colleges in fact do a good job educating their students, he forgot to say so.

In other words, reporting on a story that has more than one side, the Herald’s reporter wanted to know only one. Every word of his series reeks of this. Every charge — from plaintiffs’ attorneys, former employees who were fired (though the Herald’s readers were not permitted to know they were discharged) and lifelong critics of the industry — is treated reverently. The few scraps of evidence of another side are treated contemptuously. If a politician doesn’t agree with the critics of the industry, it must be because he or she has received a microscopic percentage of his or her campaign contributions from those connected to us. (For the record, neither I nor Kaplan has ever contributed to a Florida politician).

So help me: “Not all students at for-profit colleges have a bad experience” is the start of the first quasi-positive paragraph in the first article — and it appears in the 27th paragraph of a story that begins with a stripper recruiting students to a long-defunct college and goes on to other horror stories. And after that short, lonely paragraph, the horror stories resume. One story (among nine!) about two students who experienced some success at for-profits is presented under the headline Industry Touts Success Stories.

When he contacted Kaplan for comment on some of the material he mentioned in his articles, the reporter said he had been working on the series since July.

The call came in February.

He worked for more than half a year on a story about colleges before he actually called the colleges.
Is there another side to the story? Well …

There are 2 million students attending for-profit colleges. Does the editor of the Miami Herald think that all were tricked or deluded into enrolling? Isn’t it likelier that most were well aware of their alternatives and made what they considered the best choice for them? Isn’t yours (as the Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year says in the 13th paragraph of one of the articles) a snob’s position — that poor students cannot understand their choices as well as you can?
In fact, they do.
I cannot speak for all the colleges your reporter writes about (though I do not believe a word he writes). Kaplan University is a decent place trying to offer a good education to its students and thereby improve their lives. When we fail (and your reporter points to one student who is disappointed with her education), they and I are bitterly sorry. But it is fair to ask: Is that student typical? How many are disappointed and how many benefit?

Over the last few years, Kaplan University — the same place referred to multiple times in your stories — surveyed all those who have graduated from the school. Not all replied, of course, but more than 17,000 did. This is not a scientific random sample; it’s possible it was disposed toward those who liked the place. But 17,000 people responding to a survey isn’t casual evidence, either. Here is what the most recently surveyed students had to say:

▪ 88.6 percent agreed or strongly agreed with, “Overall I am satisfied with my experience at Kaplan University.”
▪ 84.6 percent said, “I would recommend Kaplan University to others.”
▪ 86.2 percent agreed or strongly agreed with, “The education I received is relevant to my current goals.”

In each case, those who entered “strongly disagree” were between 1 percent and 4 percent.
I don’t know all the people who work at Kaplan University, but I know a lot of them. And for my whole working life I have known great newspaper people. Kaplan’s people, like the Herald’s, came to work there because they felt a sense of mission and a desire to serve others — in your case readers, in ours a particular group of students. (Perhaps because of that sense of mission, Kaplan was just named one of Forbes Magazine’s 100 Best Employers for 2015). I have taught at Kaplan University myself off and on for four years.

The university is something of a Florida success story. It grew (and our company lost many millions of dollars while it was doing so) by satisfying the needs of students who had few or no options elsewhere. Our average student is 33, has a job and a family. It is hard going to a campus if you have a job and a family; online education wasn’t created by for-profits, but the industry popularized it (and was heavily criticized for that, too, before every college in America joined us in offering online courses).

Our students are almost uniformly low-income. They go back to college (many have at least a few credits) because life has taught them they must. Like every high-school principal in Miami-Dade County, Kaplan’s people know that a college degree leads to a much greater chance of success in life.
Reader: The people at Kaplan University — the teachers, the counselors and the administrators — are as dedicated to the success of our students as the other educators you know. Schools that primarily serve low-income students, and we are one, have their challenges. Yes, our students graduate with debt (low-income students must borrow to attend college, and KU’s adult students almost never have parents paying their tuition); many do not graduate (but according to the best information we can gather, KU’s graduation rates are far higher than the average traditional university achieves with students from similar demographic background); they sometimes default (but the default rate among Kaplan University graduates is 4.5 percent).

Much of the series refers to the recruiting practices of for-profit colleges. During a federal investigation in 2010, we learned that one recruiter at a Kaplan College vocational campus had used utterly reprehensible tactics in recruiting a student.

Readers might ask themselves: What would your company do if it was facing such a challenge? Here’s what Kaplan did.

1. We stopped enrollment on the campus for months, until we could assure ourselves that every student in attendance had been admitted properly. Every student was offered a full refund if they wanted to leave. (The vast majority chose to stay.)

2. We adopted a program called The Kaplan Commitment, which offered something no university in the country did: A student could then enroll and take five weeks of classes, drop out any time during the five weeks and owe no tuition and incur no debt.

This program cost us well over $100 million. That’s how badly we wanted to ensure that no student attended Kaplan University because of false recruiting.

That’s how much money we lost — and that’s how much money Kaplan itself (not Kaplan University — the whole of Kaplan) makes in a good year. This was quite an extraordinary act; Your reporter ignored it. And all the information I have cited here is publicly available in obvious places (our SEC filings and Kaplan’s annual report).

I would like to say a last word as a longtime journalist. When a reporter writes only one side of a multi-sided story, such a reporter is normally kept in check by editors. Good editors demand that a reporter get both sides of a story. They do not publish blatantly unfair work. That wasn’t done at the Miami Herald.

The editors of the Herald deserve far more blame for this wretched work than the reporter. It is as if the words “for-profit education” made everyone at the Herald believe that there was no further reporting to be done.

But for-profit businesses can do a great deal of public good.

My Exhibit A would be the Miami Herald, a for-profit newspaper which at one time went to great lengths to give Floridians an honest and balanced view of the place they live.

Donald E. Graham is the chairman and CEO of Graham Holdings Company.

Direct link to op-ed: http://www.miamiherald.com/opinion/op-ed/article20052711.html

APSCU: Private Sector Instiutions Prepare the High-Demand Professional for Tomorrow

April 24, 2015
By APSCU Communications 

Private sector institutions prepare students and provide them with relevant skills in high demand career fields. Since 2001, the number of credentials awarded to students attending private sector institutions increased by 165 percent. This means that each year, more and more students are receiving the skills they need to work in high demand fields that boost their earnings potentials.
As seen in the infographic below, private sector institutions award the majority of all allied health and culinary arts credentials earned. Private sector institutions also play a significant role in teaching the skills required to be an electrician or a vehicle maintenance and repair technician.

Private sector institutions provide new traditional students with opportunities to further their educations and obtain skills in career-relevant fields. These new traditional students, who are over the age of 25, have financial dependents, and/or are employed full-time while enrolled, have been vastly underserved by traditional institutions of higher education. Private sector institutions are well equipped to meet the needs of these new traditional students through flexible learning options that public and private nonprofit institutions typically do not provide.

In the infographic below, you can see that private sector institutions are increasingly preparing the high-demand professionals of tomorrow.

APSCU_infographics_v6 Infographic 2

Direct link to article: http://www.highereducationforall.com/private-sector-institutions-prepare-high-demand-professionals-tomorrow/#.VT5Nr5OHeJ9

FAPSC: What you won't read in the Miami Herald this weekend

150 South Monroe Street, Suite 303
Tallahassee, FL 32301
Phone: (850) 577-3139 | Fax: (850) 577-3133


Higher Education Stakeholders,

Critics of private sector institutions continue to rely on dated anecdotes to portray our institutions in a negative light. These reports overlook the fact that private sector institutions are opening doors of opportunity for traditionally underserved students and creating a more skilled and educated workforce across the country.

One-sided portrayals of our sector are not only misleading, but they are damaging to the more than 500,000 students who have graduated from a Florida Career College in the last 5 years. Many graduates who are able to accelerate their careers and improve their lifetime earnings by attending our institutions, as well as their communities and employers. This reality is backed by recent studies (such as those presented by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce) demonstrating the value of a postsecondary education for students over their lifetimes.

In and out of Florida, our sector is opening doors that traditional higher education institutions have not.
In 2013, private sector institutions educated 296,578 students, or 18 percent of the total enrollment in the state of Florida. Of these students, 65 percent were female, 35 percent were veterans, and 30 percent were African American. All of these figures were higher for private sector institutions than the average of all universities in Florida.

Private sector institutions continue to enroll and educate a higher proportion of new traditional students than public and private non-profit universities. Private sector institutions do a better job of meeting the needs of these students by offering flexible course options and specific student services. New traditional students are also more likely to rely on federal financial aid, be older than the average student, work while attending class, and/or support a family. As research shows, relying on student debt anecdotes in an attempt to represent the landscape of student debt distorts the reality of the situation. The actual average borrowing debt for students who graduated in 2012 was $29,400, while the average borrowing debt for students featured in news articles was $85,400. Horrifying stories of debt may make for good click-bait, but they fail to represent the reality of the situation and overshadow the myriad benefits that so many individuals, from students, to local economies, to taxpayers receive from private sector institutions.

Private sector institutions are also more responsive to the needs of employers. Specifically, private sector institutions are awarding more credentials in high demand fields, such as business, computer and information sciences, engineering, and health professions, than public and private non-profit institutions.
60% of all Healthcare graduates in Florida
60% of all Information and Technology graduates in Florida (Sources: USDOE data at http://nces.ed.gov/collegenavigator/and the Florida Commission for Independent Education)

As the demand for middle skills grow and the skills gap becomes larger in the modern U.S. economy, private sector institutions are already responding by educating more students that can fill these roles. As a result, private sector graduates are more likely to have a career in their degree field than the average student. Additionally, these institutions provided jobs to 16,085 full time equivalent employees in Florida in 2013. In Florida alone, our institutions provide significant economic outcomes as well. In 2013, private sector colleges and universities generated a total economic impact of over $3.5 billion. This activity also generates $198.11 million in state and local revenues.

Contrary to what many headlines would have you believe, our institutions are saving taxpayer money. Without private sector institutions, states would either need to contribute significantly more taxpayer dollars each year to satisfy the demand for postsecondary education, or deny access to individuals seeking to continue their educations. In 2012, taxpayer savings in Florida amounted to $261 million according to Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (Source: Jorge Klor de Alva and Mark Schneider, Nexus Research and Policy Center)

We stand ready to work with all stakeholders that want to advance policies that improve student access and opportunity. We will not stand silent when our work and success is misrepresented.


Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges


APSCU Blog: Higher Education For All - Private Sector Institutions Are Equipped To Meet The Needs Of New Traditional Students

April 14, 2015

By APSCU Communications

Private sector institutions play a critical role in providing opportunities for new traditional students who have been largely overlooked and underserved by traditional institutions of higher education. New traditional students are more likely to rely on federal financial aid, be older than the average student, work while pursuing their credential, support a family, and/or be financially independent. By enrolling, educating, and graduating these students, private sector institutions offer individuals the opportunity to further their education and acquire in-demand career skills. Many of these individuals would likely not be able to have these opportunities without private sector institutions.

The result is a population of previously underserved individuals who are earning credentials in fields with high returns and increasing their lifetime earnings.

As explained in the infographic below, private sector institutions are particularly well-equipped to provide students with flexible schedules and career-focused educations.

APSCU_infographics_v6 Infographic 1