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Scrutiny Takes Toll on For-Profit College Company - NYT

Posted

Specializes in Health Information Management.

Lately we've had several discussions in the Nursing News and General Discussion forums about for-profit institutions like Kaplan. Here's an in-depth story from today's edition of the New York Times detailing some of Kaplan's practices and the multiple lawsuits that have been filed against it by whistleblowers and former students. Kaplan, of course, offers a variety of different nursing programs.

I found the following details from the story to be of particular interest:

Kaplan, said Mr. Rosen, its chairman, is a model of higher education for the future, helping working adults-especially low-income and minority students-improve their lives.

"Kaplan is engaged in making the world a better place," he said.

...a training manual used by recruiters in Pittsburgh whose "profile" of Kaplan students listed markers like low self-esteem, reliance on public assistance, being fired, laid off, incarcerated, or physically or mentally abused. Melissa Mack, a Kaplan spokeswoman, said the manual had not been used since 2006.

....Kaplan Higher Education, for example, gets 91.5 percent of its revenue from the federal government, through Pell grants, Stafford loans, military and veterans benefits and other aid.

Thoughts?

not specific to nursing, but an interesting article about Kaplan, its ethically questionable practices, and how much $ it spends on lobbying:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/education/10kaplan.html?pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me

"But many current and former Kaplan employees and students ... believed the company was concerned most with getting students' financial aid, and that Kaplan's fast-growing revenues were based on recruiting students whose chances of succeeding were low.

They cite, for example, a training manual used by recruiters in Pittsburgh whose "profile" of Kaplan students listed markers like low self-esteem, reliance on public assistance, being fired, laid off, incarcerated, or physically or mentally abused."

The comments section is full of employers who mention dumping online college grads' resumes straight into the trash.

Thx for posting this. I have a friend that has just gotten enrolled in one of their programs......I sent her the info.

not specific to nursing, but an interesting article about Kaplan, its ethically questionable practices, and how much $ it spends on lobbying:

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/10/education/10kaplan.html?pagewanted=1&ref=general&src=me

"But many current and former Kaplan employees and students ... believed the company was concerned most with getting students' financial aid, and that Kaplan's fast-growing revenues were based on recruiting students whose chances of succeeding were low.

They cite, for example, a training manual used by recruiters in Pittsburgh whose "profile" of Kaplan students listed markers like low self-esteem, reliance on public assistance, being fired, laid off, incarcerated, or physically or mentally abused."

The comments section is full of employers who mention dumping online college grads' resumes straight into the trash.

TheCommuter, BSN, RN

Specializes in Case mgmt., rehab, (CRRN), LTC & psych. Has 15 years experience.

My feelings on for-profit education at vocational schools are mixed. While they do serve a purpose, a higher-quality end result can be obtained at a more reasonable price at most community colleges or state universities.

However, these types of schools are marketed to appeal to present-oriented, impulsive students who are into instant gratification: "I can't go to school for two, three, or four years." "The other schools require too much testing." "What are my options as I see them today?"

We will use a culinary arts degree as an example. While the local community college offers this degree at a very affordable cost, there are roadblocks that might hinder the underprepared student from getting to the end result in a reasonable amount of time. This student has failed the placement exam, so they must complete a handful of remedial (a.k.a. developmental) reading and math classes before they are even allowed to take English comp or college algebra. Remedial classes can add a year or more onto your studies, depending on how far behind your skills are. There might also be prerequisites that must be completed with a satisfactory grade such as food science, technical writing, or business applications. An unprepared student from a disadvantaged background might see these molehills as thunderous mountains and basically abandon the community college route.

However, the for-profit trade school is also offering a culinary arts degree without the red tape. For $10,000 more than it would cost at the local community college, this same underprepared student can start classes immediately with no remedial classes, prerequisites, entrance exams, and be able to finish in 12 months or less. What sounds more appealing to the person from the disadvantaged background? Years at a community college, or months at a trade school? "What are my options as I see them today?"

People wonder why anyone would choose this route, but all you need to do is walk one mile in the shoes of someone who views community colleges and universities as bureaucratic, foreign, and alien.

You are right of course, TheCommuter. It's a really difficult situation where you have potential students who don't really have the patience/understanding to get through the "traditional" system, and next door there's a slimy used-car salesman promising them $100,000 salaries and limitless opportunities right away. It's essentially the same problem as the housing/mortgage bubble. Instead of giving mortgages to people who will almost certainly default on them, we're giving student loans to people who will almost certainly default on them.

The description of how Kaplan views their students and what populations they recruit from were pretty jaw-dropping to me. The NYT article was the first I had seen that had that much detail. It's all pretty disgusting at this point - I really hope Congress can get some financial aid reform through that will shut down the worst of these predators.

You are right of course, TheCommuter. It's a really difficult situation where you have potential students who don't really have the patience/understanding to get through the "traditional" system, and next door there's a slimy used-car salesman promising them $100,000 salaries and limitless opportunities right away. It's essentially the same problem as the housing/mortgage bubble. Instead of giving mortgages to people who will almost certainly default on them, we're giving student loans to people who will almost certainly default on them.

The description of how Kaplan views their students and what populations they recruit from were pretty jaw-dropping to me. The NYT article was the first I had seen that had that much detail. It's all pretty disgusting at this point - I really hope Congress can get some financial aid reform through that will shut down the worst of these predators.

Several years ago, the newspaper in the nearest big city to me did a series of investigative articles on the local campus of a national proprietary tech/voc school -- the school involved offered high-tech/computer programs, not nursing (although that same chain has since started offering nursing programs in some locations around the country). The articles spelled out in detail that the school recruited and enrolled "students" who could not possibly be expected to do college-level academic work, and helped them apply for many thousands of $$$ in Federal student loans -- when the students flunked out, as many (most?) of them inevitably did, the school just pocketed the cash and laughed all the way to the bank. The students who did complete their programs and get their degrees or certificates found that local tech employers considered the school and their credentials a joke, and they were no more "employable" than they were before they enrolled at the school. And all of them were now many thousands of dollars in debt, and no more able to pay the loans back than they were before they went to the "school." It was really pathetic. The articles made clear that the school was little more than a scam to obtain Federal student loan $$$. Shortly after the articles were published, the "school" simply closed its doors and left town -- but the same chain is operating campuses in lots of other locations around the US.

geocachingRN

Specializes in Community & Mental Health, Sp Ed nursing. Has 3 years experience.

When myself and my husband were first considering nursing as a second career the director of the local community college thought that with our BS in science from a prestigious universitywe would be better off at Samuel Merritt, a very expensive school. Had we graduated with 90k each in debt and I couldn't imagine stomaching that. We waited two years on the wait list instead and breezed through the program that cost us 6k each. I'm a school nurse, a job I enjoy and couldn't have done if I had collected that much debt.

All I know is for the past several months the media has been saturated with adverts from for profit colleges.

You can't get away from them. Phoenix,Devry and the lot, especially those offering degrees in the "exciting fields of healthcare/nursing". All such of the later feature attractive well scrubbed and fresh faced young people (all wearing scrubs), talking about how the "love to help people"and looking forward to entering a "fast paced, exciting and rewarding career ..."

Now from the advert you would *think* these people are going to become nurses or some such, I mean afterall they are shown running around in scubs. However many of these degrees are in teck, administrative or assistant fields, and while needed (and this may sound harsh), it is hard to equate a sonogram tech with a RN.

Kind of makes one wish nurses (at least students) were still in whites and caps, at least then these schools couldn't confuse the issue.

Have to agree with "The Commuter", many people are lead down the primrose path by these schools, and emerge with a nice piece of paper,but find their prospects for employment grim.

diva_nurse

Has 9 years experience.

It's sad that low income students are taken advantage of. These student are trying to improve their standard of living and are getting screwed.

diva_nurse

Has 9 years experience.

My feelings on for-profit education at vocational schools are mixed. While they do serve a purpose, a higher-quality end result can be obtained at a more reasonable price at most community colleges or state universities.

However, these types of schools are marketed to appeal to present-oriented, impulsive students who are into instant gratification: "I can't go to school for two, three, or four years." "The other schools require too much testing." "What are my options as I see them today?"

We will use a culinary arts degree as an example. While the local community college offers this degree at a very affordable cost, there are roadblocks that might hinder the underprepared student from getting to the end result in a reasonable amount of time. This student has failed the placement exam, so they must complete a handful of remedial (a.k.a. developmental) reading and math classes before they are even allowed to take English comp or college algebra. Remedial classes can add a year or more onto your studies, depending on how far behind your skills are. There might also be prerequisites that must be completed with a satisfactory grade such as food science, technical writing, or business applications. An unprepared student from a disadvantaged background might see these molehills as thunderous mountains and basically abandon the community college route.

However, the for-profit trade school is also offering a culinary arts degree without the red tape. For $10,000 more than it would cost at the local community college, this same underprepared student can start classes immediately with no remedial classes, prerequisites, entrance exams, and be able to finish in 12 months or less. What sounds more appealing to the person from the disadvantaged background? Years at a community college, or months at a trade school? "What are my options as I see them today?"

People wonder why anyone would choose this route, but all you need to do is walk one mile in the shoes of someone who views community colleges and universities as bureaucratic, foreign, and alien.

So true

Zaphod, BSN, RN

Specializes in ICU-CCRN, CVICU, SRNA. Has 4 years experience.

Everyone is taken advantage off. These colleges suck the federal aid and know the students will never give it back. I say close Kaplan and all these other makeshift colleges..

redhead_NURSE98!, ADN, BSN

Specializes in Med/surg, Quality & Risk. Has 10 years experience.

Buyers should beware. If you have to pay exorbitant amounts of money to get into a particular program, you should seriously ask yourself if you belong in that program, and ask yourself if your future income will ever be enough to pay that money back to whoever you borrowed it from.

robby5313

Has 3 years experience.

I agree. If it is going to take you 2or 3 years to get into a non-profit institution, but you can immediately get into Kaplan.....ummmmm.....something is rotten in Denmark!

I really have mixed feelings on this. I don't think it's fair to pit it as "online" or "for-profits" vs "traditional" and "state" schools.

I have a good exxample. A friend of mine, was attening a community college for 4 semesters, doing pre-requsite courses for a LPN program, because she hadn't brushed up for the placement test, and this school only gave you one chance to take (which she didn't know at the time). Then when she is ready to apply for the actual program which starts June of every year (she was applying for 6/2011), her adviser says opps you have 3 more course to take before you can APPLY, not to mention the fact that when she did apply she would probably be waitlisted until the next year.

She was fed up. She picked up her two kids, moved in with her grandparent's an hour away, and sold her car to help with the costs of attending a private FOR-PROFIT vocational school over 10X the cost of LPN program at the community college. She passed a placement test (at this school you can take it as many times as you need to, but won't be admitted until you pass), passed it, and was admitted in September. She will graduate in October 2011. She goes to school Monday-Thursday from 7am-3pm. If anyone is late they are locked out of class, until the next class. You can't be late very many times, or your risk being dropped. They started with over 50, and are down to 24. And this program produces good nurses.

Her alternative would have had her stuck in the same position struggling as a CNA, until at least July of 2013. What choice would you have made?

With that said I can't believe people will discriminate based upon what college you attended. State schools don't always provided a better education at a better price, many times it is the exact opposite.

I think all schools should be weighed on it own, with the types of graduates it produces, no matter the cost or method.

And also, please let's remember to gain education does not always mean time in school.

With that said I can't believe people will discriminate based upon what college you attended. State schools don't always provided a better education at a better price, many times it is the exact opposite.

I think all schools should be weighed on it own, with the types of graduates it produces, no matter the cost or method.

I assure you that the people in nursing management, leadership, and hiring positions in a given area have a v. clear idea of what kind of graduates the schools in their area produce and which schools are known for turning out poorly prepared grads (regardless of what type of school it is), and "discrimination based upon what college you attended" happens every day in nursing all over the US. Now, if you move to another part of the country away from where you attended school, it may not matter if you attended a school with a bad reputation. But nursing is a pretty small, tightly-knit "club" and people in nursing in a particular area certainly do know what's going on in the nursing schools in their own area.

TDCHIM

Specializes in Health Information Management.

I definitely agree that the people considering enrolling in schools like Kaplan should be doing their homework. But what Kaplan is doing - targeting people who have been on public assistance, playing on people's poor self-esteem to rope them into expensive programs that have little or no chance of yielding jobs that will allow students to repay their burgeoning student loans - is despicable.

Kaplan, said Mr. Rosen, its chairman, is a model of higher education for the future, helping working adults — especially low-income and minority students — improve their lives.

“Kaplan is engaged in making the world a better place,” he said.

Fraud. Deceptive sales practices, including the suggestion that students simply don't have to pay back their loans. Actively targeting individuals who have a history of physical or mental abuse.

One prospective student with financial difficulties, the complaint said, was promised in writing that “in five years she would have a job in a hospital, a big house in Florida, enough money to go to Disney World with her family and a new Lexus.”

How does any of this add up to "engaging in making the world a better place"??? And how can the Graham family defend this? Kay Graham must be spinning in her grave.

They started with over 50, and are down to 24. And this program produces good nurses.

This is the basic problem of for-profits. It worked out great for people like your friend who made it through. But more than half her class failed out and owed 10X the cost of community college in loans. Loans they had no way of paying, because they weren't qualified to do anything ... because they failed out ... because they probably weren't really prepared to start school in the first place. So the school in this situation pocketed all that federal loan money and only had to deal with 50% of the students on its roster. In any arena besides education, that would be called fraud.

It's wonderful that your friend made it through the program, but her story typifies everything bad we have heard about for-profit schools. She was in a tight situation, impatient, and couldn't navigate the traditional academic bureaucracy (can't blame her!). She was easy pickings for a for-profit school, and the fact that she actually graduated with a meaningful degree makes her the exception and not the rule.

Edited to Add: I just realized your friend hasn't graduated yet? Dream_Nurse2b, you better hope she makes it through! Gotta have some way to pay off those loans!

Edited by coast2coast
Edited the second time for basic illiteracy

NRSKarenRN, BSN, RN

Specializes in Vents, Telemetry, Home Care, Home infusion. Has 44 years experience.

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