USA Today: Opposing view: Private-sector schools train U.S. workforce

USA Today

By Arthur Keiser

About a year ago, Steve Jobs told President Obama that the United States technology sector was in desperate need of skilled engineers. His solution: keep up with the demand by utilizing vocational schools to train more Americans.

    OUR VIEW: For-profit colleges are no answer to high tuition

Otherwise, he said, the United States will continue to outsource hundreds of thousands of jobs to China at a time when millions of Americans are still out of work.

Vocational colleges, also known as private-sector colleges and universities, emphasize a career-focused education in a way that prepares their students to compete in a 21st century global economy. They ready their students to fill the talent void Steve Jobs was talking about, and they do it in a way that takes into account the needs of the thousands of students who attend these schools every year.

A far cry from the one-size-fits-all approach of many public or non-profit higher education institutions, private sector schools offer flexible class scheduling, accelerated program completion plans and online courses — valuable tools in helping students, most being non-traditional, balance school, work, family and other responsibilities.

Private-sector colleges and universities have also played a critical role in educating health care professionals, one of the few job sectors that saw strong employment statistics during the recession and beyond. These schools educated nearly 40,000 nurses at the last official count in 2009-10. And with the steady influx of retiring Baby Boomers in need of health care services, these schools are producing the next generation of health care professionals ready to tend to the growing population of new retirees.

At a time when a post-secondary credential has become requisite for landing a job, private-sector colleges and universities are helping students gain the skills-based expertise that so many employers are seeking. More than ever, employers want to spend less time training new hires because resources are so scarce, making graduates of career-oriented schools so marketable.

And while millions of students continue to attend standard liberal arts colleges, a new generation of non-traditional students such as working adults, parents, military veterans and others are taking Steve Jobs' advice to heart by choosing to earn degrees at private-sector colleges and universities, and obtaining the skills and training they need to compete successfully.

Arthur Keiser is chairman of the board of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Thursday's letters to the editor: Scholarship options for students available

South Florida Sun-Sentinel

By Kathy Mizereck

Scholarship options for students available

We agree with the story of Jan. 18 that students looking for scholarship opportunities to attend college should be wary of any scholarship application that requires a fee.

We would like to let students know about scholarships available through our program. Again this year, the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges offering more than $1 million in scholarships to attend participating schools and there are no fees to apply.

These scholarships, available through the generosity of our member schools, range from $1,000 to $5,000 to full tuition in a variety of fields of study.

The deadline for this year's FAPSC scholarships is April 6. We strongly encourage any 2012 high school graduates or G.E.D. recipients to apply at or

Kathy Mizereck, Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, Tallahassee

Inside Higher Ed: Education Department Admits Flawed Data In Gainful Employment Analysis

Inside Higher Ed

By Paul Fain

WASHINGTON -- The Department of Education has acknowledged using flawed data in a study on the impact of race on student loan repayment rates, having omitted black students from its calculation. The analysis was conducted during the debate over gainful employment regulations, in response to complaints that the rules would hurt colleges that enroll relatively high percentages of minority students.

Department officials disclosed the error in a December court filing, which is part of the ongoing legal challenge to gainful employment by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the primary for-profit trade group. That lawsuit appears to have led to the mistake’s discovery.

The Obama administration designed the federal rules in an attempt to ensure that most programs at for-profit colleges and certificate and vocational programs at nonprofit institutions prepare students for "gainful employment." For programs to be eligible for federal financial aid, they must adhere to benchmarks related to student loan repayment and debt-to-income ratios.

The original analysis was included in the introduction section of the final rules, which were issued last June. It asserted that the “percentage of the students that are members of a minority group explains 1 percent of the total variance in repayment rates” at for-profit institutions. The low figure, the department concluded at the time, meant the racial composition of students was not a statistically significant contributor to how an institution stacks up on loan repayments. The percentage of lower-income students an institution enrolled was a better measure.

But by failing to count black students, the study understated the impact of race: the actual variance at for-profits is 20 percent over all, and 31 percent for four-year institutions, the department said in the December filing.

Eduardo Ochoa, the department’s assistant secretary for postsecondary education, described the mistake in that filing, but said accurate figures would have had no impact on the final regulations.

A subsequently corrected analysis “does not justify altering the regulations,” Ochoa said, because “factors other than student demographics account for the success or failure of institutional repayment rates.”

The for-profit association, however, said in a January court filing that the mistake is fundamental and validates concerns aired by scores of public commenters that for-profits were unfairly targeted by gainful employment regulations.

“The department’s error demolishes its decision to reject commenters’ concerns about the relationship between its regulations and race and educational opportunity,” the association said. “This error, by itself, requires that the regulations be vacated.”

Monday's Federal Register contained the department’s correction, which noted that the final regulations remain unchanged.

The Education Department had no comment on Tuesday.

The publicly acknowledged mistake is certain to fuel claims by for-profits and their advocates here that the sector is being picked on by lawmakers and politically motivated regulators. They point to what they see as a pattern of flawed data or other information being used by the department, the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions and, perhaps most notably, the Government Accountability Office.

Critics of for-profits, however, say the industry has pored over language in federal documents to look for procedural mistakes in an effort to undermine legitimate concerns about their practices.

Last April, the Education Department said it had made an error in tabulating draft loan default rates that reflected poorly on for-profits, having improperly included loans that defaulted up to three months after the three-year period that was being measured.

Ochoa, in his statement, said Pell recipient rates remain more significant in the corrected analysis. Minority enrollment and Pell rates “together explain 43 percent of the total variance,” he said, with Pell at 23 percent and minority enrollment at 20 percent.

However, the association said in its filing that the department’s revised figures show that race is a significant predictor of loan repayment rates. “The public policy consequences of the department’s error are clear -- schools that enroll a higher percentage of minority students are more likely to fail the department’s repayment test.”

Read more:

Scholarship Program from Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges Seeks Scholarship Applicants for 2012

CONTACT: Wanda Minick   
(850) 577-3139               
Scholarship Program from Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges Seeks Scholarship Applicants for 2012

Majority of funds available left untapped, online option makes applications easier for Florida high school graduates and G.E.D. recipients to apply

TALLAHASSEE, FL – Nov. 7, 2011 – The Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) has begun seeking applicants for more than $1 million in scholarships provided by member schools and colleges throughout the state.

For the third year, more than $1 million is being offered to high school graduates and G.E.D. recipients to further their education through the 2012 scholarship program. Last year, only 8 percent of available scholarships were awarded.

“We are fortunate that our schools and colleges provide these opportunities for students to further their education, however, in recent years, resources were left unused because candidates were not matched with scholarships,” Wanda Minick, FAPSC deputy director, said. “Students who do apply have a good chance of earning scholarships to help with higher education costs. Forty-two percent of applicants received scholarships last year,” she added. Entering its third decade, the program has become a signature program offered by FAPSC member schools.

Ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 to full tuition the scholarships can be used for programs ranging from short-term diplomas to four-year college degrees in a variety of programs including healthcare, cosmetology, computer information technology and culinary arts.

The 2012 FAPSC Scholarship Program is now accepting applications. Visit or to fill out an online application, find a list of participating institutions to contact directly, or e-mail us at

The deadline for high school seniors and G.E.D. recipients to submit their applications, essays and transcripts is April 6, 2012. 

The Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges works on behalf of Florida’s 360 degree granting and 550 non-degree granting career schools and colleges.  Licensed by the state, these schools educate and prepare over 379,000 students each year for employment in more than 200 occupational fields. For more information, visit
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APSCU: For-Profit-College Association Chooses Steve Gunderson as Its New Leader


By Goldie Blumenstyk

The for-profit-college trade association has named Steve Gunderson, a former Republican Congressman and until recently the head of the Council on Foundations, as its new president and chief executive.

The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities announced the appointment in an e-mail message to its members on Sunday.

At the foundations council, which he led from 2005 until July, Mr. Gunderson oversaw a diverse organization of 1,700 grant makers during a period of economic boom and struggle. As The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported earlier this year, during his tenure he was lauded for helping to reshape the orientation of the organization from its historic focus on member services to broader issues of the role of philanthropy in society. Yet some liberal critics have faulted his stewardship, saying the council showed insufficient leadership during the economic meltdown—for example, in never urging its members to step up giving to struggling nonprofits.

Mr. Gunderson replaces Harris S. Miller, who resigned in July amid criticism from some for-profit college leaders over his leadership style and tactics in response to intense public and political scrutiny of the sector for its low graduation rates and high rates of student-loan defaults. Several key leaders of the association, known as Apscu, have said privately that the group should have relied less on Mr. Miller as the face of the association and turned more to hiring statistics, employer polls, and other empirical data to rebut criticism of the for-profit-college industry.

Mr. Gunderson, who was a member of Congress from 1981 through 1996, starts February 1 at Apscu, representing an industry facing numerous challenges. Enrollments at many for-profit colleges have slowed and the political, regulatory, and legal scrutiny from federal and state officials shows little sign of letting up; a U.S. senator's hearing set for Monday in Chicago on how for-profit colleges recruit veterans is just the latest example.

The industry also faces grass-roots opposition, most notably from the politically active Service Employees International Union, which last week introduced a new campaign against for-profit colleges that it will publicize through a Web site called For-Profit U.

Time Magazine: Educational Financing For-Profit Schools: ‘Agile Predators’ or Just Business Savvy?

Time Magazine
By Kayla Webley | @kaylawebley 

Adding weight to the mounting pile of evidence against for-profit institutions, a new report from the National Bureau of Economic Research finds a grim future for students who attend for-profit schools.

The study, written by a trio of Harvard researchers, asked a fundamental question about the nature of the for-profit sector: Are these institutions “nimble critters” smartly capitalizing on the increased demand for college degrees by providing educational opportunities to students who would normally be shut out of higher education, or are they “agile predators” who target low-income and disadvantaged students in order to line their pockets with government money?

To find the answer, researchers compared the experiences of students who attend for-profit schools with peers of similar socioeconomic and demographic backgrounds who attend community colleges or other public or private non-profit institutions. What they found wasn’t pretty: Today, for-profit students account for 47% of all loan defaults. Indeed, one in four for-profit students will default on their loans within three years—as opposed to 8.7% of students at non-profit four-year institutions.

Why do so many for-profit students default on their loans? Well, to start, studies have shown low-income students enroll in for-profits at four times the rate of other students. Add to that the fact that they are charged more tuition than students at other comparable non-profit institutions—on average, $13,000 to $16,000 per year, nearly double the $8,000 charged by the average public, in-state four-year undergraduate institution—and it’s easy to see why they take on more student loans to begin with.

It gets worse. The researchers found that six years after they enter college, for-profit students are more likely to be unemployed—and to be unemployed for periods longer than three months. And, further, if they are able to find a job, students who attend for-profits make, on average, between $1,800 and $2,000 less annually than their peers who attended other institutions.

Despite such dismal outcomes for for-profit students, the study didn’t entirely write off these institutions, which range from institutions like the online University of Phoenix, which enrolled 532,000 students in the 2008-09 school year, to smaller certificate programs. Because these institutions provide training in a specific vocation or trade, they often provide a more direct route to a career than general education and liberal arts programs. They are highly-attuned to changes in the marketplace and are quick to respond by opening new schools, hire faculty and add programs in growing fields. As such, the industry is booming. For-profits are the fastest growing part of the U.S. higher education system, with enrollment increasing from just 18,333 in 1970 to 1.85 million in 2009.

The report also gives for-profit schools credit for educating a larger portion of minority, low-income, disadvantaged and older students than their peer institutions, and shows that they do a better job of retaining students through the first year and getting them to complete short-term certificate programs. That’s important: Minority and disadvantaged students often feel shut out of traditional colleges, and would-be students with families and full-time jobs often find it hard to attend traditional schools.

But by enrolling students more likely to need financial aid and charging them higher tuition prices, the report shows these schools guarantee themselves a disproportionally large share of federal student financial aid funding. For example, in the 2008-09 school year, despite enrolling only about 12% of all higher-education students, for-profits accounted for 26% of federal student loan disbursements and 24% of Pell grant disbursements.

The feds are aware of this disparity. Earlier this year the Senate launched an inquiry into the for-profit industry to determine whether taxpayer dollars were being funneled into private pockets at a fraudulent rate and the U.S. Department of Education finalized its “gainful employment” rule, meant to crack down on for-profits who load students with more debt than they can realistically repay.

Under the rule, every for-profit school has to meet one of three requirements in order to keep their federal financial aid: 1.) at least 35% of the school’s former students are repaying their loans; 2.) the estimated annual loan payment does not exceed 30% of the students’ discretionary income; or 3.) the estimated annual loan payment does not exceed 12% of the students’ total earnings. Colleges that fail all three metrics three times within four years will have their federal financial aid dollars cut.

Many critics argue that still more needs to be done to tame the industry. For-profit schools counter by saying they are being unfairly targeted while the government turns a blind eye to non-profit colleges and universities using similar practices. “Regulating for-profit colleges is tricky business,” the report concludes. “The challenge is to rein in the agile predators while not stifling the innovation of these nimble critters.”

Kayla Webley is a Staff Writer at TIME. Find her on Twitter at @kaylawebley, on Facebook or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.