Huffington Post: Community College Budget Cuts Drive Students To For-Profit Schools

The Huffington Post

Chris Kirkham

ONTARIO, Calif. -- Just after she started working for an ambulance company in this suburban enclave east of Los Angeles, Cierra Nelson came to admire the quick decision making and street smarts of the nurses she met on runs to local hospitals. She soon opted to pursue a nursing degree, settling on a low-cost, two-year program at a nearby community college that has an excellent job placement record.

But despite her efforts to complete the coursework in the ensuing four years, Nelson is still not a nurse. California's budget cuts have forced the state's community college system to scale back the availability of crucial science classes. Nelson found herself repeatedly turned away from the oversubscribed courses required for her degree.

Frustrated and seeking an alternative, she took out more than $50,000 in student loans to enroll last winter in a nursing program at Everest College, one of many for-profit institutions that have sprung up in the area amid massive cutbacks in public funding for higher education.

"When I first saw how high it was, it was kind of a shock," said Nelson, who eventually came to the conclusion that taking out loans made more sense than waiting semester after semester to take the community college classes she needed to advance. "I know it's a lot of money and I'll be in debt, but I've got to do what I need to do."

While the program at Everest comes with a much higher price tag -- nearly $60,000 in tuition, compared to less than $3,000 at area community colleges -- its degrees appear to be less valuable on the career marketplace. More than 90 percent of the nursing students at nearby community colleges last year passed state licensing exams, which are required to practice in California. Fewer than 70 percent of Everest students passed the exams, registering the lowest success rate of all nursing programs in the state.

Nelson's predicament mirrors that of many students navigating the world of higher education in recent years. Community college degree programs, which have long provided affordable pathways to careers, have been overloaded by soaring demand, just as state governments grappling with budget crises have slashed support for such programs. Lack of public funding is among the more potent forces behind the surge in enrollment at for-profit colleges, which has turned their corporate parents into Wall Street darlings.

This dynamic has played out powerfully in California, where cuts to public education have been particularly deep, and where for-profit colleges have been notably aggressive, tacking up marketing notices on bulletin boards at community colleges where students are increasingly unable to enroll in classes.

"The population that is being pushed out is the most needy," said Jane Patton, past president of the Academic Senate for California Community Colleges, a group representing college faculty members. "These are the most vulnerable students that the for-profits have preyed on."

The for-profit college sector has faced increasing scrutiny in the past two years, as attorneys general in at least four states, including Florida and New York, have prosecuted or launched investigations into more than a half-dozen companies for overly aggressive marketing practices and financial aid fraud. More than 20 state attorneys general have signed on to a working group probing industry abuses.

Federal data has shown high rates of default on student loans among students enrolled at these institutions, prompting the Obama administration to promulgate new rules aimed at limiting abuses. A year-long Huffington Post investigation has found widespread rule-breaking at several of the largest for-profit college chains, with many institutions systematically preying on the anxieties of potential students, while making false promises about the success rates of their graduates.

Faced with the fact that large numbers of students fail to secure jobs that pay enough to keep them current on their loans, the industry has defended itself in part by portraying its campuses as the last bastion of opportunity for many Americans aspiring to a college degree. In testimony on Capitol Hill and in media interviews, industry representatives have emphasized that its schools welcome the least advantaged, hardest-to-educate students: people from low-income households, minorities and first-generation college students.

In the for-profits' scenario, any change in policy that risks slowing enrollment growth at their colleges also risks eliminating the only alternative available to more vulnerable segments of the student population.

But while for-profit colleges do indeed educate more low-income and minority students than other institutions, this is in large part because support for the traditional alternative, community college, has failed to keep pace with demand.

Though no one maintains a comprehensive list of state funding for community colleges, state and local support for community colleges on a per-student basis declined by 5 percent in 2009 from a decade earlier, according to Department of Education statistics compiled by the Delta Project, a nonprofit research group that studies higher education spending. The total subsidies provided to students by community colleges, including funding from public sources and other outside support, fell by 10 percent over the last decade, on a per-student basis.

The Obama administration has significantly boosted funding for Pell Grants, which are available to low-income students. Over the last three years of the program, the federal government has more than doubled spending on Pell grants, budgeting $20 billion more this year than in the 2007-08 school year. For-profit colleges have captured an outsized share of this pool -- roughly 25 percent -- despite educating only 12 percent of college students nationwide, according to the most recent federal data.

Intake of federal Pell Grant dollars, by higher education sector
Source: Department of Education

Had the $7.5 billion that for-profit institutions received via Pell Grants during the 2009-2010 school year gone instead to fund community college systems nationwide, that money could have created capacity for an additional 629,000 community college students, The Huffington Post calculated, using available estimates for the average expenditure per student. That would represent a 20 percent increase in the number of full-time community college students currently enrolled nationwide.

At California's community colleges -- the nation's largest system of higher education, serving a quarter of community college students nationwide -- an estimated 200,000 students will be turned away from classes next school year, according to the state community college chancellor's office, following state cutbacks of nearly 20 percent across the entire system. That amounts to more than 7 percent of the entire state's community college student body, and that does not count those who gave up on plans to enroll due to the difficulties of securing classes.

After accounting for inflation, California is now spending the same amount on community colleges that it did six years ago, despite adding more than 175,000 students in that period, a nearly 20 percent increase. On a per-student basis, the state is spending less this year than it was 15 years ago.

The for-profit college programs that have been absorbing the resulting overflow of students are on average more than five times as expensive as their community college counterparts, according to a Senate report that examined such schools nationally. While only about one in five students at community colleges takes out loans to finance their tuition, four of five students at for-profit two- and four-year schools sign off on loans, according to Department of Education data.

Because of the high costs and high debt loads, students at for-profit colleges are responsible for about 45 percent of all student loan defaults.

In the eyes of public education advocates, for-profit colleges are the inevitable, opportunistic outgrowth of a society that simultaneously rewards those with greater education while it eliminates traditional support for public campuses.

"The economy is essentially telling people that you have to get some kind of post-secondary degree or credential," said Anthony Carnevale, director of Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce. "So the demand is growing very fast, and our ability to fund this function is crashing. It's not just declining, it's crashing. The public sector is basically getting out of the business, so the costs are shifting to the individual students."


California's current status as the leading edge of for-profit college growth represents a substantial change in its history. A half-century ago when the state laid out its master plan for higher education, which quickly became a model for the rest of the country, it leaned heavily on public institutions.

The plan gave rise to one of the most prestigious public university systems in the nation, and it included a vast network of community colleges with a mission of educating "any student capable of benefiting from instruction."

"It is the intent of the Legislature that each resident of California who has the capacity and motivation to benefit from higher education should have the opportunity to enroll in an institution of higher education," the plan declared. "Once enrolled, each individual should have the opportunity to continue as long and as far as his or her capacity and motivation."

The community college system was crucial for career training, but it also provided a logical pathway for transfer to California State University or University of California schools. More than half of Cal State graduates started at community colleges, and nearly a third of UC system graduates began their education there. Nearly 70 percent of the state's college students are enrolled at a community college, a much higher rate than in other states, making California's system by far the largest in the nation.

Perhaps the most revolutionary concept was that of tuition-free education. Under the original master plan, the state subsidized every resident who came through the system, eliminating any out-of-pocket costs, save for some fees for specialized coursework such as labs.

Reuters: Middle-aged borrowers piling on student debt

By Mitch Lipka

Middle-aged borrowers are piling up student debt faster than any other age group, according to a new analysis obtained by Reuters.

Educational borrowing is up for every age group over the past three years, but it has grown far more quickly among those between 35 and 49, according to the analysis of more than 3 million credit reports provided to Reuters by the credit score tracking site CreditKarma ( That group saw its school debt burden increase by a staggering 47 percent, according to the analysis.

The average student loan debt for those aged 38 to 41 was the biggest of that group -- about $12,000, up from just under $9,000 in 2009. Young people still carry the biggest student loan burdens; those aged 26 to 29 have an average of $14,000 in student debt. But the increased levels in middle-aged student debt is a new phenomenon.

Credit Karma CEO Kenneth Lin says the reason is obvious: The tough economy has pushed people to seek mid-career training.

"More and more people are going back to school," he says. "High unemployment, rising tuition costs, artificially low interest rates from the government, and increased for-profit school advertising... (adds up to) consumers taking on student loan debt at an alarming pace."

For-profit schools tend to saddle more debt on older students with poorer credit than traditional institutions, he said.

For example, Atlantan Janice Derrick might be typical. She was 47, with 25 years of work experience when she got laid off nearly three years ago as an executive assistant. She applied for about 200 jobs without getting a single call.

"Not even temp agencies were taking on people," she says.

Derrick took an aptitude test and found she was well suited to be a social worker or school counselor. But she did the math and realized the low salary expectations and the amount of additional schooling weren't a great combination. So she decided to study to become a court reporter instead, and amassed about $25,000 in student loan debt for her training. That was on top of the credit card debt she accumulated while unemployed.

Now 50, she just got her court reporting license, and she says she's hopeful.

"I am still worried about money, but there is plenty of work," Derrick says. "Unlike most of my friends, I am starting to catch up."


Derrick has been working with a financial planner, Cristina Briboneria, vice president, oXYGen Financial in Alpharetta, Georgia.

Briboneria says she sees similar, and sometimes less-positive situations with people from all walks of life.

College loans are a huge problem beyond just this recent move into an older demographic. The financial aid site estimates the amount of outstanding student loans at $966 billion, which surpasses even the amount of credit card debt in the US .

Mitchell Weiss, co-founder of the The Center for Personal Financial Responsibility at the University of Hartford, which gives students personal finance guidance, says he's not surprised to see the trend and has words of caution for those who are considering taking on student debt in a career change: It's easy to get student loans - perhaps too easy.

"The loans they take are often times more than they can tolerate. And they can't always score a better job to pay for them... Everybody believes they will get out school, get a job and pay it back. Few really take the time to do the math and decide how much they could afford to borrow," he says.

The best bet for anyone who feels as though additional schooling will help their job prospects is to enroll while they're still employed and they are able to take advantage of any education support from their employer.

If that opportunity's already gone, it's important to do a realistic evaluation as to whether the job opportunities are going to justify the expense. Weiss says he knows people who assumed a mid-career change would be successful simply because they went back to school and got a master's degree in business. But a degree without any related experience could put a 40-something in competition with a 20-something graduate who's done internships and may be willing to work for less.

Going back to school and accumulating debt without a realistic plan to pay for it is a "roll of the dice," Weiss says.

Both Weiss and Lin noted that this government-backed debt, unlike most other debt, cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy, so it is an albatross for those who can't make enough money after going back to school.

"Some of my clients have come out of their programs with over $100,000 worth of debt and are unable to find a job making six figures," Briboneria says. "Because of the economy, many employers have an abundance of candidates to choose from for their open positions who will work for less money to pay the bills."

There are some alternatives to piling up student debt for those who do want to take the chance and go back to school. Explore what support might be available to you:

--Does you state offer grants toward job training and education if you've been laid off?

--Look for grants or student loan forgiveness if you pursue certain career paths, such as teaching.

--Shop around for aid packages from schools you're interested in attending. The Department of Education says some colleges and universities will offer a "bargain" tuition for older students.

--Ask a prospective college or university if they will award life experience credit to help offset the number of classes you might have to pay for.

The author is a Reuters columnist. The opinions expressed are his own. (Edited by Beth Gladstone and Jilian Mincer)

The Washington Post: 5 reasons for-profit colleges will survive

The Washington Post
By Jay Mathews

I am biased against for-profit schools. I have long thought of them as diploma mills, without ever having visited one. I like public charter schools, but only if they are non-profit. When Kaplan Inc., then the most profitable division of The Washington Post Co., built a chain of for-profit colleges, I never wrote about them.

Teachers I admired saw education as a public trust. They weren’t in it for the money. They wanted to help kids. I noticed that Edison Schools, a management network run by some smart and well-meaning people, failed to win the confidence of many parents and teachers because it, too, was trying to make a profit.

Now those of us who think this way have been vindicated. The federal government has tightened regulation of for-profit colleges, including Kaplan’s, in response to criticism that many students were being misled about loans they were likely to need to obtain a degree. This has put the entire industry on the defensive.

Enter Andrew S. Rosen, Kaplan’s chairman and chief executive officer, with a new book called “ Rebooting for the new talent economy.” Who does Rosen think he is, extolling the virtues of for-profit schools while his company faces such threats?

I wasn’t sure I wanted to read the book or write about it. As a 40-year employee of The Post, anything bad I say might seem too little too late, and anything good would be taken as trying to protect the company. I was glad Rosen agreed his company had messed up. He did not shake my feeling that profits and teaching are a bad mix, but I did learn things I needed to know.

Despite the industry’s troubles, Rosen convinced me that for-profit educational ventures are here to stay. People who feel as I do will have to adjust to that.

Here are five reasons why:
1.For-profit schools are less of a drain on tax dollars than non-profit or public schools. Georgetown University business school researcher Robert J. Shapiro and his felllow economist Nam D. Pham found that for-profit schools receive less than 30 percent of the government financial support per student that public institutions and their students do.

2.The public and non-profit private universities that dominate higher education are doing less with their money. They are building luxury dorms, restaurants and athletic facilities which don’t produce more learning or more graduates. In 2007 the United States spent 3.1 percent of its gross domestic product on post-secondary education, twice the 1.5 percent spent by other developed countries that produce more graduates per capita.

3.For-profit colleges often have better graduation rates for the same kind of students. U.S. Education Department data show students with two or more key risk factors, such as delayed enrollment, no high school diploma or full-time job, have only a 17 percent chance overall of getting a two-year or four-year degree. Their chances are 24 percent at for-profit schools. That’s not a big improvement, but they are doing it with fewer tax dollars.

4.In other industries, the rise of for-profits has sparked great controversy, but not for long. In the 1980s hospitals began to shift from publicly funded or non-profit to privately funded, with much criticism. Today, most of us don’t know or care how the hospitals we visit are financed.

5.Aggressive newcomers to higher education have historically been labeled as wasteful, low-quality, hucksters cheating our youth. That was the rap against land-grant colleges and community colleges when they were created. They are now vital parts of our system.

People like me may want for-profits to disappear, but that is not going to happen. They seem destined to become a significant part of what college means in the United States. While we are cleaning them up, we should think about what our own alma maters can learn from them.

Direct link to article:

Save Student Choice: Private-Sector Schools Work With, And For, GIs

Private-Sector Schools Work With, And For, GIs
By William R. Looney III

Active-duty servicemembers and veterans have defended our liberty. We should defend their freedom to choose among the various alternatives for higher education.

The post-9/11 GI Bill greatly expanded benefits for those who wear the uniform. Unfortunately, many lawmakers continue to view higher education as something delivered only on a traditional college campus.

I disagree. Private-sector colleges and universities (PSCUs), sometimes called career colleges, are a very important part of the postsecondary mix. Here’s why these institutions are so vital to our military.

Most military students begin their postsecondary education after joining the military. It is in the military where these individuals acquire a desire for higher education along with the focus and discipline to be successful. Given the demands of their service, these individuals usually spend years away from the traditional classroom setting. Therefore to serve the servicemember’s educational needs, postsecondary education must be flexible and adaptable. In the case of deployed soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, it must be available where and when it is needed, no matter the time or the setting.

Postsecondary educational institutions must recognize that mobility is critical and credits should be easily transferable. Servicemembers do not get to pick when and where they serve. An educational system that only offers the traditional in-residence classroom, liberal arts-andsciences model misses the reality of military life. Deployments play havoc with the educational plans of soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Service in combat zones adds an obvious set of complications to completing assignments and remaining on schedule to complete a degree. Military-friendly colleges and universities must understand and adapt.

Part of adaptation requires the educational institution to provide a range of academic and support services: career-focused programs that expedite the transition from military to civilian workforce, reasonable leave-of-absence policies; enlightened and informed financial aid counseling; and effective credit and SMART transcript reviews to maximize past experience and minimize course redundancy. Undergirding all of this must be a commitment to honest representations about the value of the educational services offered and a commitment to the highest quality of service delivery. All students, whether they have served in the military or not, deserve no less.

But adaptation to support our military students is not just a job for academic institutions. Our elected officials must also understand the need for options to remain open to our servicemembers — and for those options to be unencumbered by the thinking of the past. The popularity of private-sector colleges and universities has recently been called into question, primarily because these schools are just that: popular among military service and veteran students. Like any private school, these institutions do not receive government subsidies. Therefore, tuition at a PSCU costs more than tuition at a public college or university. Private institutions, regardless of their tax status, may simply do a better job of meeting the special interests and requirements of military service and veteran students.

Certainly there are lapses in PSCU education, as there are in traditional higher education. These should be isolated, analyzed and corrected. With unemployment rates for veterans running in the double digits, however, we should tread carefully among our higher-education policy choices. Stigmatizing PSCU education generally for the actions of a few harms military service students and veterans. And building barriers to the delivery of higher education by conjoining federal student aid and military veterans’ earned benefits policies, a step currently contemplated by members of Congress, is counterproductive.

Let’s honor our servicemembers by keeping their postsecondary education options and our thinking open to what works for them.

Gen. William R. Looney III (retired) is a former command pilot with more than 4,000 flying hours, including 2,500 in the F-15. He currently consults on national security, serves on numerous boards, and is a leadership/management mentor. His clients include Spartan College of Aeronautics and Technology in Tulsa, Okla., an Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities member institution.

Direct link to article:


Will Congress Look Into Community Colleges?
Paging Tom Harkin…

New Report Shows Taxpayer Money Being Lost On Community College Dropouts:
Nearly $4 Billion Spent On First Year Dropouts At Community Colleges. “Nearly $4 billion was spent by federal, state, and local governments over five years on full-time community college students who dropped out after their first year without completing their certificate or degree programs, according to a new analysis released today by the American Institutes for Research (AIR).” (Press Release, “Community College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Nearly $4 Billion,” American Institute For Research <> , 10/20/11)
  • Almost $3 Billion Appropriated By State And Local Governments.
  • More Than $240 Million On State Grants To Students.
  • About $660 Million In Federal Student Grants.
  • A Total Of $3.85 Billion In Federal, State, And Local Appropriations And Grants.
(Press Release, “Community College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Nearly $4 Billion,” American Institute For Research <> , 10/20/11)

“For The 2008/2009 Academic Year...Nearly $1 Billion Of Taxpayer Money Was Spent On First-Year, Full-Time Students Who Dropped Out, About 35 Percent More Than Five Years Earlier. (Press Release, “Community College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Nearly $4 Billion,” American Institute For Research <> , 10/20/11)

“[T]his Report Shows That Something That Seems So Inexpensive Can In Fact Be Very Costly, Once We Take Into Account The Low Levels Of Student Success.” (Mark Schneider, “The Hidden Costs Of Community Colleges,” American Institutes For Research <> , 10/11)

Mark Schneider, Vice President Of AIR And Author Of Report: “Taxpayers are investing billions of dollars to support students who never complete their first year...And these students are paying tuition, borrowing money, and taking time away from work to pursue certificates or degrees they aren’t getting.” (Press Release, “Community College Dropouts Cost Taxpayers Nearly $4 Billion,” American Institute For Research <> , 10/20/11)

FLASHBACK: Graduation Rate Comparison According To DOE:

Private Colleges & Universities Have Over Double The Graduation Rate For Two-Year Institutions, Nearly Triple That Of Public Institutions [Community Colleges].

Public Institutions: 20.6%
Not-For-Profit Institutions: 48.2%
For-Profit Institutions: 57.7%

(NCES Digest Of Education Statistics, Table 341 <> , 2010)

Student Veterans of America website:Statement on For-Profit Higher Education Institutions

Student Veterans of America website
Posted by Michael Dakduk

Because of the continuing controversy surrounding the conduct of for-profit institutions of higher education, Student Veterans of America would like to make the following positions clear. The Board of Directors has established that:

   1. In the strongest terms, Student Veterans of America condemns the practice of recruiting veterans and military Service members simply to receive their earned educational benefits.

   2. Student Veterans of America recognizes that there are for-profit institutions of higher education that provide excellent education to student veterans, and have not engaged in any deceptive practices.

   3. Student Veterans of America strongly supports changes to the Higher Education Opportunity Act to include VA GI Bill Benefits and military Tuition Assistance benefits as regular federal support to higher education and hence part of the 90 percent of the so called, “90/10 rule” thus removing a financial incentive to recruit veterans and military personnel.

   4. Currently, Student Veterans of America does not have a position on the enactment of “gainful employment” provisions on for-profit institutions without further research being conducted, especially in light of our struggling economy and already high unemployment rates. It is in the interest of every institution of higher learning to take an active role in the career development of their students.

   5. Student Veterans of America will continue to strongly support student veterans and SVA chapters at any type of educational institutions, including for-profits, provided they are treated fairly and were admitted based on their ability to perform in the classroom.

   6. Student Veterans of America will continue to support individual student veterans who have been or are being mistreated at any institution of higher education through mediation and advocacy.

   7. Student Veterans of America highly recommends that all institutes of higher learning examine their retention and drop out rates, especially among veterans and military Service members, and if they are outside national norms, make immediate changes to better support these important populations.

   8. Student Veterans of America respectfully requests that the Department of Education carefully examine accreditation bodies to ensure that the highest standards are met before an institution’s accreditation is granted or renewed.  Further, we ask that confusing or misleading terminologies such as “national accreditation” be publicly clarified or removed.

   9. Student Veterans of America respectfully requests that the Department of Education establish clear guidelines regarding the attainment of college credits, licenses and accreditations, to ensure maximum value, professional development, and transferability is obtained by any student attending any class at any accredited institution.

  10. Student Veterans of America respectfully requests that the Departments of Veterans Affairs and Defense immediately investigate any claim of impropriety made by a veteran or Service member at any school.

  11. Student Veterans of America will not accept donations or grants from for-profit educational institutions. However, for-profit educational institutions may participate in SVA sponsored or affiliated career fairs as employers. They will be charged the same registration fees as any other employer.

Direct link to article:

Guidance for APSCU Members -- The Misrepresentation Rule and Third- Party Vendors

TO: APSCU Members

FROM: APSCU Student Recruitment Task Force - Jim Hutton, Mitch Talenfeld, Peter
Leyton, Dave Wengel, David Meiling, Erin Fitzgerald, Gregory O`Brien, Jason
Pistillo, John Birmingham, Ken Horne, Mark Harris, Roger Swartzwelder, Steven
R. Isaac, Bob Cohen, Katherine Brodie

CC: Art Keiser, Chairman

DATE: October 11, 2011

RE: Guidance for APSCU Members -- The Misrepresentation Rule and Third-
Party Vendors.

This memo transmits the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (“APSCU”) Student Recruitment Task Force (“Task Force”), Guidance for APSCU Members -- The Misrepresentation Rule and Third-Party Vendors. This guidance document concerns the U.S. Department of Education’s (“ED”) misrepresentation rule, which is one of several requirements for institutional eligibility to participate in title IV programs (“Title IV Programs”) under the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended (“HEA”), and certain third-party vendors (“Third-Party Vendors”). This guidance document is limited to general explanations of compliance responsibilities and potential liabilities under the misrepresentation rule and general guidance
related to advertising and marketing activities.

The APSCU Board of Directors requested that the Task Force develop a guidance document with regard to the regulatory risks that can be posed to members (“Institutions”) by the conduct of third-party vendors retained by Institutions for student recruitment services. The Task Force has developed the attached general guidance to assist Institutions with taking reasonable steps to help to reduce the risks that can be posed by the conduct of Third-Party Vendors, including inquiry (lead) generators, under the misrepresentation rule.

Institutions seeking to become or remain eligible to participate in Title IV Programs must be familiar with the misrepresentation rule. The HEA permits the ED to suspend or terminate from participation in Title IV Programs an institution that engages in “substantial misrepresentation of the nature of its educational program, its financial charges, or the employability of its graduates.” Effective July 1, 2011, new regulations intended to improve the integrity in Title IV Programs amend the requirements for Institutional Eligibility under the HEA related to, among many areas, misrepresentation to define more broadly the nature of such misrepresentations and expand the sanctions that the ED may impose for substantial misrepresentations. That term now includes
any false, erroneous or misleading statement that has the likelihood or tendency to deceive or
confuse without regard to materiality or intent.

Please click here to read the complete memo

Sun- Sentinel: Career colleges play key role in state education

Sun -Sentinel
By Kathy Mizereck and Brian Moran

We agree with your recent editorial that student loan defaults are a serious matter. But students default for many reasons. Those attending private-sector colleges and universities often start farther back in life's pack economically. Now, they must cope as harsh economic conditions constrain jobs and upward mobility.
We urge a variety of steps to bring down default rates, including student education about loans, borrowing obligations and effective budgeting; limiting lending amounts to costs related to tuition, books and fees; and full disclosure on the costs and potential rewards of pursuing a given career field.
While effective regulatory oversight is part of that solution, playing the blame game with the Commission for Independent Education is not. The commission has no authority regarding student loans, but does have a long-standing record of effective oversight. In the past three months alone, the commission has:
Conducted 131 visits to institutions to gauge compliance
Issued four notices of non-compliance to institutions that appeared to be operating illegally
Referred one institution to the Office of the Attorney General for unlicensed activity
Responded to 92 percent of student complaints within seven calendar days of receipt, with an average of 24 days to case closure
We are confident the economy will improve and default rates will decrease. Both federal laws as well as U.S. Department of Education-recognized accrediting agencies will continue to serve as a check on abuses. And common sense steps that institutions can take can go a long way to improving the situation now and in the future.

Direct link to article:,0,5023205.story#tugs_story_display
Kathy Mizereck is executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, and Brian Moran is interim president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

Orlando Sentinel: Focus on lending rules for students at all colleges

Orlando Sentinel
Letter to the Editor by Kathy Mizereck

An Orlando Sentinel editorial last month about the rising debt of college students who must borrow to obtain an education argues for more oversight of for-profit colleges.

Additional red tape does not represent a solution to an issue prevalent at all colleges — not just career colleges.

Part of the bigger picture includes the fact that the U.S. Department of Education gets back 95 cents of every dollar it loans, plus interest. The lender, based on student qualifications, determines the amount of loans.

Students at career colleges usually have little or no family contribution to their education and, thus, tend to borrow more, regardless of the cost of the program. We counsel students about debt, but have no control over ultimate spending.

In Florida, more than 370,000 students annually choose to attend career colleges or train for jobs – a population that would cost the state university system an estimated $1.6 billion to educate. Further, career colleges receive no direct taxpayer support, but pay $131 million in local, state and federal taxes.

Because we do not take a state subsidy, the average tuition at Florida career colleges is higher than that of public schools, but is still about half that at private, nonprofit institutions. Most of our students are hardworking adults who hold jobs and support families. Many of our students qualify for and borrow more.

We believe lending rules must be addressed for all institutions and implemented evenly across-the-board so all providers of higher education can focus on serving students.

Kathy Mizereck Executive director, Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges

National Legal and Policy Center: Is Justice Dept. Covering Short-Seller Tracks in For-Profit College Scheme?

National Legal and Policy Center

Submitted by Ken Boehm

Beginning in 2009, the Department of Education -- mightily aided by Senator Tom Harkin's HELP Committee and a coterie of Wall Street short sellers -- laid siege to the for-profit college sector in a knock-down, drag-out battle to the finish. Their strategic objective was to seriously hobble the profitability of career schools that had devised a competitive, career pathway for predominantly at-risk, low-income, non-traditional and minority students. On June 2, in the infamous Battle of the Beltway, the Department issued its (you should excuse the expression) 'Gainful Employment' rule, which was heralded as a major blow to career schools, whose recruitment rates have since dropped precipitously.

For anyone who viewed 'Gainful Employment' as an honest effort to address the educational needs of students preparing to enter the workforce at the worst moment since 1930, the latest salvo by the Justice Department will dispel that wishful thinking.

With a one-two punch, the Justice Department has opened a new battlefront against for-profit colleges by joining onto a whistleblower (qui tam) lawsuit, which seeks $11 billion in damages and claims that these schools broke federal laws in their admissions practices, a charge which the schools vigorously deny.

The Wall Street Journal offered a stinging editorial, pointing to the hypocrisy and abuse of power exhibited by the Justice Department and the dubious motives of trial lawyers now piling onto the lawsuit from their respective states:

   "...the new activism comes in the wake of other Administration broadsides against the for-profit industry....David Hickton, the U.S. Attorney for the Western District of PA, who is handling the suit,...offered a tutorial on the basics of filing qui tam lawsuits. The event included helpful illustrations of chests full of gold. Under a section headlined "Victori Spolia," the materials informed lawyers that plaintiffs take 15% to 30% of any money recovered while the lawyers work on contingency fees. In 2010, those legal fees worked out to $385,167,574, up from $258,790,518 in 2009.Yeehaw, boys."

Victoria Spolia, indeed! We must seriously question an administration that has waged war on (among other things) for-profit schools in the guise of a "new activism." The assualt on for-profit education was planned and financed by Wall Street short sellers. Instead of doing its job and investigating who inside the Education Department was part of the scheme, Eric Holder's Justice Department is now covering tracks for the shorts.


Sun-Sentinel: Deeper problem for student debt than oversight

By Kathy Mizereck

Responding to a rise in debt incurred by college students who must borrow to obtain an education, your editorial (Aug. 27) argues the only answer to reducing the debt level and the corresponding default rate on those loans is more oversight.

Additional red tape does not represent a solution to an issue prevalent at all colleges — not just career colleges.

Part of the bigger picture includes the fact that the U.S. Department of Education gets back 95 cents of every dollar it loans, plus interest. The lender, based on student qualifications, determines the amount of loans.

Students at career colleges usually have little or no family contribution to their education and, thus, tend to borrow more regardless of the cost of the program. We counsel students about debt, but have no control over ultimate spending.

In Florida, more than 370,000 students annually chose to attend career colleges or train for new jobs — a population that would cost the state university system an estimated $1.6 billion to educate. Further, career colleges receive no direct taxpayer support, but pay $131 million in local, state and federal taxes.

Because we do not take a state subsidy, the average tuition at Florida career colleges is higher than that of public schools, but is still about half that at private, nonprofit institutions.

Most of our students are hardworking adults who hold jobs and support a family. Many of our students qualify for and borrow more.

We believe that lending rules must be addressed for all institutions and implemented evenly across the board so all providers of higher education can focus on serving students.

Kathy Mizereck is the executive director of Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges in Tallahassee.

Direct link to article:

Sunshine State News: RPOF Chairman Dave Bitner Praised for Courage, Professionalism

Sunshine State News
By:  Kenric Ward

Bitner relocated to Southwest Florida and served for many years as the general manager of the Port Charlotte-based Charlotte Sun-Herald.

“Dave came to work with the free weekly when we had only four employees,” said Derek Dunn-Rankin, chairman of the Suncoast Media Group. “He was the key player in building it into a significant daily newspaper.”

In 1990, Bitner sold his interest in the newspaper and joined Wendy in starting Sun Specialties, a provider of company promotional products and business gifts. In 1992, he was elected as a state representative from District 71.

As a lawmaker, Bitner helped pass tort reform bills, stricter penalties for criminals, and tax cuts.

One of his key legislative accomplishments was sponsoring Florida’s “name change” law, ensuring the record of prisoners incarcerated under one name and released under another reflected their complete criminal record.

In Charlotte County, Bitner remained active as president of the Charlotte County Cultural Center, president of the Charlotte County Chamber of Commerce and as a member of the Charlotte County chapter of Big Brothers & Big Sisters and the YMCA. He was also involved in local high school booster programs.

During his first two terms in the Florida House, Bitner served in the minority, but helped the Republican Party gain the majority in the Florida House in his third and fourth terms under Speakers Daniel Webster and John Thrasher.

In 1994, Bitner was honored by the Florida Homebuilders Association as “Legislator of the Year.” The Florida Economic Development Council followed suit, naming him "Legislator of the Year" in 1997.

He was also recognized by the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges as an “Outstanding Legislator” and by the University of Florida for his “Dedication, Leadership and Support of Higher Education.”

In 2000, Bitner was asked by then-Gov. Jeb Bush to travel the state and campaign for "George W. Bush for President." Throughout the campaign, Bitner traveled across Florida to knock on doors, attend rallies and make phone calls, playing a critical role as a liaison between the Bush campaign and the 67 Republican Executive Committee members throughout Florida.

Following his tenure as a state representative, Bitner, joined by Wendy, relocated to the Tallahassee area and founded the government consulting firm Bitner & Associates.

While Bitner’s love for politics drove him to serve as a lawmaker, baseball was his second passion. While at Bitner & Associates, he represented major league teams, including his beloved Baltimore Orioles.

Bitner is credited with helping keep several major league baseball teams in Florida for spring training and also helping to lure the Tampa Bay Rays to his former home of Port Charlotte for spring training in 2008.

Since leaving the statehouse, Bitner remained active in Republican Party politics as a Jefferson County precinct committeeman and a member of the Jefferson County Republican Executive Committee.

During his brief tenure as RPOF chairman, Bitner traveled the state extensively, meeting with local Republican clubs and helping to unify the party. He also worked to honor Florida’s nearly 250,000 military veterans through the “Greatest Generation Tour” across Florida.

In addition to Wendy, his wife of 20 years, he is survived by a daughter, Jennifer Blackburn of North Port; three sisters, Debbie Poff of Sarasota, Darlene Muse of Winter Haven and Dawn Lewis of Hagerstown; a brother, Don Bitner of Tallahassee; mother-in-law, Sandie Checchia  of Port Charlotte and father-in-law, Damian (Lisa) Wojdula of Englewood; brother-in-law, Steven Wojdula of Venice; grandchildren, Kelly Plueger, Dylan Hixson, Amanda Blackburn and Bob Blackburn; and a great grandson, Phoenix Plueger.

Service is pending.

In lieu of flowers, the family suggests contributions to JOY (Jefferson Outreach for Youth Inc.), P.O. Box 206, Lloyd, FL 32337. Friends may visit online at to sign the memory book and extend condolences to the family. Arrangements are under the direction of Roberson Funeral Home & Crematory, Port Charlotte Chapel.

Contact Kenric Ward at or (772) 801-5341.

Statement from RPOF Vice Chairman Lenny Curry | Republican Party of Florida

Statement from RPOF Vice Chairman Lenny Curry Republican Party of Florida

With sadness and a heavy heart, I must report that Florida has lost a great leader and public servant. Today, the Republican Party of Florida’s Chairman Dave Bitner lost his courageous battle with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS).
It has been the honor of a lifetime to work by Chairman Bitner’s side. Not only was Dave a born leader, he was an exemplary man in every sense. In honor of his example, I am committed to ensure that the Republican Party of Florida continues its tradition of service to our beloved state.
I ask all Floridians to join me in offering our thoughts and prayers for Dave and his remarkable wife Wendy. Through Dave’s battle with ALS, I watched as Wendy was the embodiment of love and compassion. I pray that Dave enjoy the peace that comes from our God, and that Wendy feel God’s love and strength in this time of grief.

Jacksonville Business Journal: High demand for ‘middle-skilled’ jobsdriving education

Jacksonville Business Journal

by Amy Wimmer Schwarb

When Marisol Agloro lost her job as the office manager at a real estate company in 2008 — just as it was becoming clear that the housing market’s burst bubble was taking the rest of the economy down with it — she wasn’t too worried at first.

The real estate job had been a departure for her anyway, and she figured she could return to working on the business side of a hospital. After all, she had a four-year degree in health services administration from the University of Central Florida and had worked in the field for six years before taking the real estate job.
Agloro looked for months for a position that used her degree and experience. And as her confidence waned, she began rethinking her options.

“It was taking me forever to find anything, so that’s when I decided to go back to school for nursing,” Agloro says. “That was what I had wanted to do a long, long time ago, and I thought that would be a
better career for me.”

Eighteen months after starting training at Florida State College of Jacksonville, Agloro was a registered nurse with a job. She now works the night shift at St. Vincent’s Hospital, and with her career path laid out before her, she has already established her next goal: moving to the day shift.

Across the United States, the loss of manufacturing jobs has led some observers of the economy to opine that the American middle class is shrinking, with manufacturing jobs replaced by growth in
industries that require extensive higher education. At the other end of the spectrum are service-oriented positions that require nothing more than a high school diploma.

“There is a perception that going to college is the highest expression of success,” said Candace Moody, vice president of communications at WorkSource, a federally funded program that connects Northeast Florida workers with training and jobs. “But actually, the demand for four-year and beyond degrees is shrinking. The growing swath of jobs is in those ‘middle jobs.’ ”

The difference, of course, is that the type of jobs available for those who have an associate degree, a training certification or some college — but not a bachelor’s degree — are different than they were 20 years ago. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment in the manufacturing sector has been on the decline since hitting its peak in 1979, but the health care and computer fields continue to grow.

In other words, the middle class isn’t shrinking; it’s just changing. “There’s been a lot of emphasis on bachelor’s degrees because if Florida wants to remake its economy, if it wants to be less dependent
on housing and tourism, you have to look for industries that are clean and offer high-skilled types of jobs,” said Kathy Mizereck, executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools
and Colleges, which represents Florida’s 900 private higher education institutions. “Many of those are in science, energy, mathematics. But even in those environments, you also have to have a host of
technicians available to make any of those industries come to Florida.”

A study done in 2007 by The Urban Institute in Washington, D.C., noted that while the need for these “middle-skills” employees has decreased over the past two decades, they still comprise about half
of all American jobs. Additionally, some job opportunities in this sector increased dramatically. Health technician jobs numbered 400,000 in 1986 and 1 million in 2006.

One of the study’s authors, Harry J. Holzer of Georgetown University, appeared before the Senate Joint Economic Committee this summer. Holzer explained that too often, the skills Americans have do not match the needs of employers, partly because of a lack of communication between the education and business sectors. As an example, Holzer points to the manufacturing industry. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, even this struggling sector had a high ratio of vacancies to new hires, indicating that employers are having difficulty finding people qualified for the jobs. “Too many students obtain credentials that are not highly rewarded in the labor market,” Holzer told the panel. “At least partly, this is because our education and workforce systems largely operate in isolation from one another, with too few students gaining access to
career counseling and other employment services. Not all workers can attend or succeed in college, and many need other forms of job training that prepare them for good-paying occupations and sectors.”
WorkSource tries to bridge the gap between education and business, helping fill employers’ needs. Beyond investing in qualified students such as Agloro, WorkSource partners with local businesses to retrain
workers — helping to keep those businesses in Northeast Florida rather than risk them relocating to areas with more skilled workers. “Our job is to help people understand that education can be a series
of training steps,” Moody said. “Graduating from high school is a moral imperative for our children. Beyond that, you can get some post-secondary education in an area that provides opportunities.
“One of the reasons health care is such a priority for us is because it does offer those opportunities,” Moody said, explaining that about 70 percent of the students WorkSource helps right now are planning
careers in the health field. “You can work in the field for a while, and once you’ve decided which direction you are interested in going, you can seek more training.”

When Florida State College studied which of its graduates were earning the most money, Moody said, it discovered that those who earned an insurance certificate — a training that takes just a few months — had the highest income potential. And Mizereck noted that even jobs that might be considered oldschool
can be needed and vital in a particular economy. The 62-yearold Tulsa Welding School in Jacksonville, for instance, fills an important need.“Welding sounds like something that’s old and no one’s doing
anymore,” Mizereck said. But actually, in a port city, it’s very important.”

Agloro worked through WorkSource to get funding for school at Florida State College. And the program came with something else, too: some personal guidance that helped her with interview skills.
She found a nursing job fairly quickly and easily, earning $22 an hour and fulfilling a childhood dream that she had abandoned in college. “At UCF, I had a little bit of doubt about myself that I could do it, so I
kind of backed off it,” Agloro said. “But now I’m doing it — and I was really, really prepared for this job.”
And Agloro’s experience isn’t unusual, Mizereck said. Programs that tie the graduates they’re producing to the needs of the community successfully place students in jobs. “The proof’s in the pudding,” Mizereck said, “and these students are going to work.”

Career College Central Blog: 'For-Profit' Schools: The Untold Story

Career College Central Blog

By Kevin Kuzma, Online Editor

The story is a good one and, to this point, it's largely gone untold.

The main characters are buried by tremendous odds, caused either by circumstance, unfortunate decision making, or both. Wanting nothing more than to make decent lives for themselves, they decide to find a way out from waiting tables, tending bar, and sweeping up. But first they have to make their way through a dark tunnel of personal struggle and, sometimes, fear. At the risk of spoiling the ending, somehow, they find the strength to make something of a life that sometimes not even their families believe in.

This story line, of course, applies to most the students attending the programs at your schools. I know from having visited with a number of career college students. The majority have overcome enormous obstacles -- physical and verbal abuse, abandonment, substance issues, tragedy, single parenthood, dead-end careers, and more -- to become college graduates. And yet, most schools do not realize what a treasure trove their stories truly are.

Instead, it’s been the traditional media shaping the perception of career colleges over the years with little intervention on the sector’s part. Journalists use the term “for-profit” to label schools as sheer profit motivated, though educators throughout the sector would prefer different terminology and despite the fact that all institutions of higher learning must turn a profit or fold. The last 18 months, though, have been extraordinary for the level of vehemence and consistency. Hit after hit, the sector has taken it on the chin.

The media has taken its cues from politicians who are admittedly unknowledgeable about the mission of career colleges, how they operate or their impact on the American labor force. For the longest time, it seemed the overly negative coverage was making little impact on current and potential students, but we saw this week that the impact has been substantial.

Harris Interactive published the results of its poll of 2,183 adults surveyed online between July 11 and 18, 2011.  According to The Harris Poll, more than half of Americans (57%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities do not care how many of their students graduate, only how many enroll and pay tuition. But, at the same time, a similar number (55%) agree that for-profit colleges/universities serve an important need.

A press release posted by the organization on PR Newswire noted that there are a “large number of U.S. adults who say they are not sure about (career) schools which means there is still a learning curve these colleges and universities have to climb. And, because of this sense of the unknown, what Americans may learn about the schools is what they see in the media regarding the federal government's scrutiny of them. The schools need to be proactive in pushing the message of the important need they fulfill to help counter this.”

While it’s been talked about and considered many times over the years, to my knowledge, there has never been an organized movement among the career college sector to end the negative publicity that takes a toll on these institutions or an attempt to educate the sources behind it. Instead, career colleges have kept low profiles, quietly refuting the charges against them or writing futile letters to the editor after devastating remarks have already appeared in prominent news publications.

With the onslaught of negative news involving the “gainful employment” rule, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) has put up a tremendous lobbying effort, organized student rallies, and filed lawsuits that have attracted headlines. But an overarching strategy has not materialized.

As a result of the current administration’s push together with the Department of Education, almost all news about career colleges today is negative. Given such a pervasively toxic environment nationally and in several states throughout the country, it seems that only a strategic public relations campaign can shed a different light on career-training providers.

Students are a commodity that can tell firsthand about the experience inside a career college classroom and, perhaps more importantly, afterward, as a sustainably employed career person in their respective field. Their stories alone could the centerpiece to a straightforward PR campaign that explains what role career colleges play in changing lives and shaping America.

But is it too late for a PR effort to do any good? I posted a discussion item on the Career College Central LinkedIn page asking whether or not the sector should launch a national PR campaign, and there is a sentiment that a sector-wide PR strategy should have been in motion long before the current rash of negative publicity.

Was there a better time to start the PR push, say, five years ago when career colleges and online schools were at the pinnacle of success? Then, it might have seemed unnecessary to some and a waste of resources. In launching a concerted PR campaign now, would the effort seem reactionary and insincere in its actions?

Probably. But the sector is losing ground everyday as it is. If not now, then when? The key involves the messaging. There is still a genuine story to be told – and it shouldn’t come from executives or even educators. Successful students have to line up and shout the story as loud as they can. Until then, it’s the Obamas, Harkins, Duncans who will tell the story directly in the ear of reporters who’ve never stepped inside your schools. Some believe the message needs to be orchestrated by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities. Others will tell you it’s the schools themselves that should be helping students tell these stories and that APSCU should represent the sector on Capitol Hill.

I see it this way: There’s a storybook sitting on a table and inside it is a tale that’s stunning for its sheer capability to change perspectives.  Someone needs to pick it up and hand it to the unlikeliest of readers.

Kevin Kuzma

PR Web: Anthem College Instructor Receives Top Award


Anthem's Jeff Walters Named FAPSC Faculty Member of the Year

Jeff Walters, an instructor for Anthem College-Orlando, received top honors from the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC), which named him Faculty Member of the Year.

Walters teaches in Anthem College’s Basic X-ray Machine Operator and X-Ray Technician programs.

“Jeff Walter’s day doesn’t begin and end with his classes,” says Kathy Mizereck, executive director of FAPSC. “This man cares and it shows. He goes the extra mile.”

“He has assisted a student with funeral arrangements for his mother. He identified vision impairment in a student and helped obtain funds to pay for glasses. He works late to tutor. He has a consistent retention record of more than ninety percent of his students.”

Anthem College-Orlando offers hands-on training in several healthcare fields and in Computer Networking & Security. In addition to the Basic X-ray Machine Operator and X-Ray Technician program, it also offers education and training in Dental Assistant, Medical Assistant, Medical Billing & Coding, Pharmacy Technician, and Surgical Technologist. Programs prepare students to compete for entry-level positions in their chosen fields.

FAPSC is a statewide organization that represents more than 200 career-oriented schools. It works on behalf of all of Florida’s degree-granting and non-granting career schools and colleges. FAPSC members are licensed by the state and educate and prepare more than 379,000 students each year for employment in more than 200 occupational fields.

About Anthem College-Orlando
Originally established in 1998, Anthem College-Orlando is part of Anthem Education Group (AEG), a Phoenix, Arizona-based family of schools and colleges that provides career-focused training and education programs at 23 accredited institutions in 15 states as well as online. The AEG family of schools includes Anthem College, Anthem College Online, Anthem Career College, Anthem Institute, Morrison University, and The Bryman School of Arizona. For more information, visit

For more information about our graduation rates, the median debt of students who completed the program, and other important information, please visit our website at

# # # Scott explores changes in higher education

By Denise-Marie Balona, Orlando Sentinel

Gov. Rick Scott is exploring dramatic higher-education reforms that are similar to those already under way in Florida's public school districts.

Patterned after reforms being championed by Texas Gov. Rick Perry, who recently announced he's running for president, Scott is looking at changing the way professors are paid and moving toward a merit-pay system with limits on tenure.

Texas has been debating such changes to save money and bolster professor productivity — going so far as to consider tying professor pay to how many students they teach and how much research money they bring in.

Instructors would get annual bonuses as high as $10,000 a class if they rated highly on student satisfaction surveys. Even the assignment of faculty offices and parking spaces would be based on their performance.

Such reforms were designed to move Texas colleges toward more of a business model in which students are viewed as consumers purchasing a product — a college degree.

While the proposals have made the Lone Star State a lightening rod in higher-education circles nationwide, Scott said at least some of the ideas might be a good fit for Florida too.

Earlier this year, Florida lawmakers decided to abolish tenure for new grade-school teachers and start paying them based mostly on children's academic performance. College faculty in Florida have warned that those changes would pave the way for similar changes in higher education.

As students and staff returned to classes Monday for the start of the fall semester at most state universities, several lawmakers and college officials said they were open to at least discussing the controversial ideas, which would also impact how college are funded and accredited.

Scott has been quietly promoting the ideas among candidates he's considering appointing to college boards of trustees. He said he has been sharing copies of a report on which the Texas proposals are based — the "Seven Breakthrough Solutions" written by the Texas Public Policy Foundation, a conservative think tank.

"It does get the conversation going," Scott told the Orlando Sentinel recently, although he wouldn't discuss a timetable.

Tom Auxter, president of United Faculty of Florida, the state's faculty union, said the plan is alarming. Florida public universities would become diploma mills with professors taking in as many students as they could, he said.

He worries that some of the state's most talented and prestigious faculty, who sometimes have small classes that work on specialized projects, would leave.

"People are just mortified by it," Auxter said. "The devil is alive and well in those details."

The Texas report also recommends that colleges provide students with "learning contracts" that specifically disclose information about their degree programs, including graduation rates, class sizes and expected starting salaries for their majors.

State Rep. Marlene O'Toole, who's in charge of the House's higher education budget committee, said she expects to learn more about the plan in the coming weeks. Legislative committees will begin meeting next month in preparation for the new legislative session, which begins Jan. 10.

"I'm open for all ideas," said O'Toole, R-Lady Lake. "I think we need to be."

State Sen. Thad Altman, a Brevard County Republican and member of the Senate's higher-education budget committee, is also eager to learn more. He's concerned, though, about any plan to pay professors based on class sizes.

It's tough, he said, to quantify the value of small group instruction.

"We're not manufacturing widgets here — we're trying to give our students a world-class education," he said.

It remains to be seen whether such proposals would catch on in Florida. Just months ago, the state Legislature dropped a plan to ban tenure in state colleges and community colleges after a public outcry from the colleges' presidents.

Scott said he's not sure all the proposals being weighed in Texas would work here. He also couldn't say which, if any, of them he'll push the Florida Legislature to adopt.

He said he's still seeking feedback.

Meanwhile, college leaders elsewhere will be watching to see if Florida follows Texas' lead. Joni Finney, director of the Institute for Research in Higher Education at the University of Pennsylvania, said all states are struggling with the twin challenges of rising enrollment and budget cuts while also working to bolster professor productivity.

Finney said Texas has raised ideas worth discussing. But the governor, she said, shouldn't be butting into college management.

"That's the problem with what Perry is doing — rather than provide the incentives for colleges and universities to reform on their own … his strategy is, 'Here's how we're going to do it,' " she said.

Texas A&M, where Perry graduated, was the first university to road-test one of the Texas proposals. The university came under fire after it posted a spreadsheet online comparing faculty pay against the income they generated either through tuition or research funding.

The move prompted a letter late last year from the Association of American Universities, urging Texas A&M officials to resist "these ill-conceived calls for 'reform.'"

Staff writer Leslie Postal contributed to this report. or 407-420-5470.

Copyright © 2011, Orlando Sentinel

South Florida Business Journal: Florida college dropout rate causes $151M loss

South Florida Business Journal

August 22, 2011

Florida's college dropout rate resulted in a state loss of $132 million in earnings income and $19 million in federal taxes in 2010, according to a new analysis by the American Institutes for Research .

Florida's total revenue loss ranked seventh nationally. California lost the most revenue ($464 million), followed by New York ($436 million), Texas ($392 million), Pennsylvania ($217 million) and Illinois ($203 million).

The AIR study examined the more than 1.1 million full-time students who entered college in 2002 seeking bachelor's degrees. Of that total, almost 500,000 did not graduate within six years, costing a combined $4.5 billion in lost income and federal and state income taxes nationwide.

“These findings represent just one year and one graduating class. Therefore, the overall costs of low graduation rates are much higher since these losses accumulate year after year,” American Institutes for Research VP and co-author of the study Mark Schneider said in a release.

To generate these estimates, AIR researchers used data from the U.S. Department of Education’s Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System, Census reports of income levels, the 2010 federal tax rate schedule, and information from The Tax Foundation. 

American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research: Obama's College Confusion President attacks schools that can fulfill his higher-ed goals

By Frederick M. Hess  |  The Daily

President Obama is passionately committed to improving higher education, but seems mightily confused about how he plans to do so.

Putting a fine point on his dilemma, just last week Obama's Justice Department filed a multibillion-dollar fraud suit against the Education Management Corp., the nation's second-largest for-profit college company, charging that it was not eligible for the $11 billion in state and federal aid. For the first time ever, the federal government sued a company based on claims that it violated federal law by paying recruiters based on students enrolled.

On one hand, the president has told Congress, "Every American will need to get more than a high school diploma." This calls for getting more students into post-secondary education.

On the other hand, there's the EMC lawsuit, the Department of Education's push for "gainful employment" regulation that threatens to stifle for-profit institutions whose graduates don't earn enough, and the administration's public relations offensive against for-profit providers. All of these moves seemingly have targeted those colleges and programs that have fueled the growth in undergraduate enrollment during the past decade.

Between 2000 and 2009, for-profit institutions increased enrollment by 300 percent, while public colleges and universities grew by 27 percent. For-profits have rapidly grown capacity and customized services for nontraditional students, even as public colleges and universities have shown little appetite for revamping established routines.

Reflecting the president's confused stance, Obama ally and Senate education committee chairman Tom Harkin has blasted for-profit growth, charging, "The vast majority of for-profit schools have prioritized growth over education … So it should not surprise us that educating students is taking a backseat to just getting more bodies in the door."

Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has voiced concerns that too many students are enrolling in for-profit colleges or taking loans to pursue degrees they won't finish.

Duncan's stance gives these colleges good reason to start getting much pickier about whom they serve. This is why some operators are starting to express more interest in turning away students who look like bad risks--you know, like applicants with spotty work histories, or those from communities with lousy labor markets.

One reason the for-profits don't post great statistics is that they serve a nontraditional population, made up disproportionately of students lacking the academic credentials sought by four-year institutions. For instance, black and Hispanic students make up 28 percent of undergraduates nationally, but represent nearly half of students in the for-profit sector. Fifty-four percent of students in for-profit two-year colleges are classified as "high-risk," compared to 36 percent in traditional community colleges.

Nonetheless, despite Harkin's claims, for-profits on the whole appear to be serving needy students relatively well. U.S. Department of Education data show that graduates of private-sector college programs that last two years or less report a 50 percent increase in annual incomes, from about $14,700 before enrollment to $22,500 after graduation.

Perhaps students should just go to public community college instead, avoiding the need for for-profits. Unfortunately, where for-profits are growing like kudzu, community colleges are turning away students. In California, for instance, the community college system turned away 140,000 potential students this year.

Why would financially pressed community colleges turn away students, given that more students bring more dollars? After all, the Department of Justice fears that for-profits are pursuing students too aggressively. However, while community colleges are often thought to be cheap, they're only cheap for the students--not taxpayers. California's community colleges cost students $1,080 per year, but they also cost the state another $5,000 in subsidies. When those state subsidies aren't forthcoming, community colleges slam the doors on would-be students.

It's the for-profits that have a selfish, practical incentive to find ways to add students, even those with families, obligations and unpredictable schedules. Of course, this aggressive competition can result in unseemly, unsavory or outright fraudulent behavior--but you'd think a president championing post-secondary access would be a lot less willing to toss out the baby along with the bathwater.

Obama's current stance amounts to an unfortunate assault on the only institutions eager to help fulfill his grand ambitions. If you've ever tried to drive a car with one foot on the gas and one foot on the brake, you have an idea of the problem with the president's higher education agenda.

Frederick M. Hess is a resident scholar and director of Education Policy Studies at AEI.

South Florida Business Journal: Critical Conversations: Education

South Florida Business Journal

Budget cuts drive schools’ need for entrepreneurial approach

Kevin Gale, Editor In Chief

Tight budgets are prompting public schools to get more creative, providing business opportunities for private schools, our Critical Conversation panelists say.
Tests scores in public schools are showing progress, but they explained how many students are still falling short of being prepared for college or to make a career choice.
The discussion is part of the Business Journal’s ongoing Critical Conversations series, which has covered topics including health care, banking, manufacturing and the economy.

What follows is an edited transcript of the discussion, which was moderated by senior reporter Brian Bandell.

Q: What is the biggest issue and challenges for your institution?

A: Cecil Kidd, Pembroke Pines campus president, Keiser University: The biggest challenge for all of us is funding issues – finding resources for students to attend. That’s not only their tuition, but working adults are trying to maintain their job and take care of their families.

D. Michael Fields, dean and professor of marketing, Nova Southeastern University ’s H. Wayne Huizenga School of Business and Entrepreneurship: Responding to a changing corporate marketplace – the fact that industry is more demanding in the skill sets they want students to have and making sure we better meet those expectations.

J. David Armstrong, president, Broward College : Having enough facilities to accommodate all the students who want to go to Broward College. I’ve been here four years and enrollment is up 30 percent. Our penetration is much less than Miami-Dade and the state average, but we have the highest utilization rate of any of our state institutions. In our downtown Fort Lauderdale center, we have classes that start at 6:30 a.m. [Days after the panel discussion, BC said it might need to tear down the center to build a more modern facility.]

Kathy Mizereck, executive director, Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges: Making the most efficient and effective use of the resources out there – state, federal, local, whatever – to make sure students have access to higher education.

Roberto C. Blanch, chairman, Mater Academy, and attorney, Siegfried Rivera Lenrer De La Torre & Sobel, P.A.: Funding is No. 1. In addition, we have the means and ability to locate some facilities, but we run into roadblocks – be it neighbors that don’t want schools in their backyard or some political or government resistance.

Jeffrey J. Hernandez, CEO, National Academic Educational Partners: Developing the leadership and the instructional staff that is going to be preparing students for postsecondary education. The way we were taught is not the way students need to be prepared and taught these days.

Amy Padolf, director of education, Fairchild Tropical Botanic Garden: Funding challenges and space challenges. We sit on 83 acres, but most of that is a botanic garden. We are building a science village. [A news release says Fairchild’s five-year vision is to support the Science Village with 10 Ph.D. scientists, 20 Ph.D. students and 40 undergraduate research students.

Q: The Legislature has been cutting funding for education. Has the quality of schools suffered as a result?

A: Fields: I think the running joke is state institutions are going from being state supported to state assisted to state located. It is forcing state institutions to act more like private institutions. They have to be more concerned about endowments and making sure there is a reason to drive a certain program.

Armstrong: I think our quality continues to rise. Our state universities and colleges, like Broward College, are measured in so many different ways, such as SAT scores of freshmen, number of books in the library and endowment. Harvard and the usual ones tend to pop up high on the quality list. We measure by how well we are able to prepare students to assume a career.
We have had to become more entrepreneurial to backfill some of the cuts. So you see UF coming into the community with an executive MBA program. As state funding is cut, it limits the opportunities for STEM [science, technology, engineering, math] programs at universities or other opportunities. We have a list of programs that we’d like to start to help our local businesses.

Kidd: Private-sector schools can fill those voids. We just built a 78,000-square-foot campus off I-75 in Pembroke Pines, and opened a newly relocated facility in Miami. We have the ability to raise private funds, now that we are a not-for-profit.

Mizereck: Our members use private capital to build, lease or buy space and staff, equip it and open programs. Because they are not state supported, they are not as affected by cuts. Our students get financial aid, so we try to stay vigilant.
The universities are beginning to be entrepreneurial and creative. One of the things the University of Florida has done is create a new spring-summer academic year. Students enroll and go in spring and summer, but they won’t be there in the fall. It’s a way to stretch resources better.

Blanch: As far as our schools go, I don’t think there has been a negative impact on quality of education measured by test stores, graduation rates and getting into colleges. But I am worried about how many more cuts you can take and run a good program that assists the kids.

Hernandez: I think, by nature, educators always do more with less. Our tests scores across Florida continue to increase, but the funding has been reduced in all districts. I think we are reaching the point where we have gone as far as we can to streamline things for students. It could cut into opportunities to enrich their academic programs.
More students have to take remediation when they reach college. Closing the achievement gap in high schools is expensive.

Padolf: We have the opportunity to act and help in these situations. At the undergraduate and graduate levels, we offer opportunities such as interacting with our scientists or doing postsecondary education work with scientists in our garden.
We created the Fairchild Challenge for environmental education based on STEM learning [a concept championed by President Barack Obama]. It allows schools to add to what they are doing. We had students create concepts for LEED-certified classrooms – they did drawings and specifications. There are performing arts, debate and culinary experiences.
We are working with universities to offer internship and resident assistantships. This year, we have one of our partnerships with the FDA and FIU. Students work with scientists and botanists to learn more about these subjects so they are more focused when they go off to college.

Hernandez: This education funding [situation] has asked educators to think outside of the box. I work with Mater and they have started a virtual school. They can’t provide the level of instruction they used to provide in the classroom, with the same teacher/student ratio. In the past, you could have five students taking Advanced Placement physics. You can’t maintain that.

Q: Does the funding situation sometimes penalize these high-achieving students?
Blanch: You are right, and I think the legislators are the ones who have to answer that. They are the ones who have to find a way to not undercut education funding – and I am calling them out.

Kidd: We need to be creative as educators, and not be stuck in the previous century. Think about airplanes and engineering. In World War II, they had to build the airplane and fly it to see if it would fly. Today, it’s all designed by computer. When it hits the runway, it can fly.
Can you teach students to do the engineering virtually? Absolutely. There are some who believe 20 years from now we will see very little brick-and-mortar education. We can’t even build enough buildings fast enough to accommodate demand. Our online program is growing rapidly, and it’s about access.
Hernandez: I’m optimistic about online, and we are proponents of that. My message is that the innovative thinking you are alluding to should not come as a response to the undercutting. We, as educators, have that obligation, irrespective of budget cuts.

Kidd: It takes money to roll out online.

Mizereck: I think the lack of resources have forced people to accelerate some programs. Advanced Placement has been a long-time problem. A small school may have only one AP student in chemistry. You try to provide differentiated curriculum. More of us are seeing those situations.
Hernandez: Educators will always do more with less because it’s about the kids. Despite the beatings we take every year, as educators, we continue to do our jobs. Scores are up amid one of the worst years in budgetary history.

Padolf: There needs to be a happy balance between online and the experience. There is an important piece that is missing: problem solving and critical thinking.

Q: Is there a disconnect in South Florida between the skills employers are looking for and skill sets universities are able to teach?

Kidd: At our university, there is not. We employ advisory committees in each of our disciplines. We work closely with the business community. We call ourselves Florida’s statewide career institution for a reason.
Thirty years ago, if you came out with a degree, you had many mid-management opportunities. Today, employers need to get people up and running quickly, and they need them with specific skills sets.

Fields: I think we have to respond more quickly to marketplace needs and employment needs. We did research and asked the major employers, ‘If there was one new skill set, what would it be?’ These companies filled in the blanks, and that has driven our response. We are very involved with marketplace-based education and driving value more quickly.
Fifty to 70 percent of CEOs are saying in surveys that they are doing no or limited hiring next year. Not only are the typical outlets not hiring, but there is this tremendous backlog of displaced professionals who are willing to take entry-level wages to get a job and get benefits. The last thing we all want, as educators, is to have our graduates come out and not be able to find jobs.

Armstrong: [At] the Fort Lauderdale Alliance, we do hear there are gaps. There are potentially lost opportunities if our universities and colleges don’t have the funding to start up or enhance programs, such as in technology, biotechnology or science. What happens then is Research in Motion, or one of the networking or IT companies, has to reach out to the Northeast or the West Coast to attract Ph.D. software engineers to fill the gaps they have.
We are hosting roundtables with businesses to ask: What are those emerging trends? What are the gaps? Where can we, as colleges, work to create a track and support you?

Mizereck: I don’t think programs and institutions focused on careers have a skill gap because they are constantly checking. It’s their mission.
More generally, there are some programs that don’t prepare students for jobs. Some may choose a program that they are passionate about.

Armstrong: A lot of students have bachelor’s degrees in psychology, and they make very good waiters. Then we get yelled at in Tallahassee. Some do go on to get advanced degrees and become clinical psychologists.
You see things like ‘time to degree’ legislation. The state will only pay for a certain number of hours, and then they are going to start charging more.
Students are becoming smarter consumers: What is this going to do to me? What is this going to do to me if I rack up a lot of debt?
We try to discourage them from using debt at all. We try to encourage them to get merit aid. We try to give them Personal Finance 101 and tell them the government will track you down to your grave to get repayment.
Hernandez: Students are growing up a lot faster, and they are making those decisions at a much younger age. I remember a lot of contemporaries when I was in school, and they didn’t have a clue what they wanted to do. And that persisted through college, and then it was ‘Sorry buddy, it’s too late.’

Mizereck: A second question that needs to be asked: To what degree should the taxpayer subsidize that choice? One of the discussions in the Legislature in the past is, if David wants to offer psychology on his campus, the student is going to have to pay full fare. That’s a legitimate policy discussion. That’s when people get very upset.
I used to work with K-12, and you don’t want to fight with the arts teachers. They believe there is a legitimate public interest served by the arts programs.

Padolf: The issue is we want students to find their interests before they get to the university – before they start spending their money and get into debt. We want to expose them to a lot off different things. We want to know what their interest is, but find opportunities within that interest. If they spend eight-plus hours a day at a job, they have to love it.
You want them not doing what I did – I was a psych major for a minute and a half, and a sociology major for a minute and a half, and I ended up with an undergraduate degree in rhetoric – so I have a B.S. in B.S.

Fields: NSU’s Fischler School has a National Institute for Educational Options. It’s designed to drive referendums that give students more choice and to know better what their options are and where they can go and what they can study.

Armstrong: There is a relatively new Junior Achievement facility on our north campus. For every fifth- and eighth-grader, we are trying to expose them to career opportunities – getting them to think about entrepreneurship and what it’s like to take out a bank account and pay for things. More could be done, but they are becoming more career savvy.

Q: Is the average Florida high school graduate prepared for college coursework?
Hernandez: A large majority of students graduating from all districts across the nation are taking remediation in reading and mathematics when they get to college.
Our work is changing because of the student population we are serving. We are getting students in 10th grade who speak no English, and when they graduate from the 12th grade, they are expected to be a proficient learner.

Blanch: Empirically, there is data that they are not ready. As educators, we need to answer that. As do parents. We have had a hard time at Mater with some parents who look at the rigorous demands placed on students, which we feel are needed to place them in college. Some parents say, ‘Don’t do that, not to my little baby.’

Mizereck: I don’t think there is such a thing as an average Florida high school graduate. Some take advantage of dual enrollment and AP. They are amazing and well prepared. Then, there are kids who are barely making it out of high school. Then, there is the big group in the middle. I don’t want to throw K-12 under the bus.
There are a lot of high school graduates who don’t know what they want to do. They try college a little and they don’t like. They go to work for a while and realize they don’t want to work at a minimum-wage job.
When that attitude or maturation occurs, they approach learning and studying differently.

Hernandez: Teaching in the absence of learning is just talking.

Mizereck: In kindergarten, 99 percent of the responsibility of learning is on the teacher. In high school, it’s 80 percent student and 20 percent teacher. A lot of teachers work their butts off, and there are kids who don’t pay attention.

Padolf: It’s important for us to be able to assess if students are getting it or not to make sure the way we are teaching is not just a memorization for an exam. So, they get it in multiple ways – not just through the textbook, but through experiential learning and technical learning. So students who may not be getting it one way can get it another way.

Armstrong: Here’s the good news: A lot of progress is being made; 25 to 30 percent of student in public and private high schools are getting a fabulous education and can succeed.
We know what is needed and we have teachers who know how to do it. Unfortunately, the majority of students beyond the 25 to 30 percent don’t get the access, don’t get the support. It’s a family issue or a lot of social issues in their community.
Policies implemented by the Legislature and government are starting to show progress. National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAPE) scores are trending in the right direction. Policy change, such as increasing math and science curriculum requirements as core requirements, is a challenge because we don’t have adequately prepared math and science teachers.

Fields: The more you are an open-access institution, the greater the need for remediation. You need to get those students up to speed and emotionally ready to be in college. If not, you need to help them exit the process – sometimes voluntarily and sometimes involuntarily.
You put an instructor in an impossible situation when there is such a wide variation. If you have great students, you are doing to do a disservice to them because the class has been dumbed down.

Kidd: About 60 percent of Keiser’s population is over 25. We are seeing a lot of students who weren’t ready to go into college in the first round. We are seeing more and more adult workers ready to take on a collegiate workload.

Fields: We have working professionals who made some poor choices in undergraduate degrees and come out with poor GPAs. That doesn’t prohibit them from pursuing a graduate program if they demonstrate that they are ready to step up.

Hernandez: I’m a very proud Floridian because our education program is very, very rigorous and robust in providing the students the preparation they need to move forward. Educators are held to a very high standard.
A prepared high school graduate four years ago might not be one now. We have to be very sensitive to that. I might need an intervention. Maybe the skills I acquired are not preparing me for the new expectation of the workforce. Our Florida Department of Education has created a venue of being aware of where public education is now.

Armstrong: Policies have been put in place. If funding is put in place and we can get trained teachers and implement these policies, I think five years from now the answer would be yes. The foundation is there. The framework is there.

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