‘Every university has admission standards and Trump University was no exception. The playbook spells out the one essential qualification in caps: “ALL PAYMENTS MUST BE RECEIVED IN FULL.” ‘

The saga of Trump tromps on. The American for-profit university par excellence.

The storied history of Trump U marches on as its king…

sues New York’s Attorney General for…




How Awkward for Berkeley. How Awkward for Senator Feinstein.

And how tragic for America. The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, in filing suit today against one of the country’s many tax syphons (put the phrase tax syphons in my search function for previous posts), calls the exploitation of America’s poor by for-profit colleges like ITT “truly an American tragedy.”

The federal Consumer Financial Protection Bureau this morning filed a civil lawsuit against for-profit college company ITT Educational Services, seeking restitution to students allegedly harmed by ITT’s private loan programs, a civil fine, and an injunction against the company.

Senator Feinstein’s husband, Richard Blum, has been a big investor in ITT. Which is… Okay, that’s her business, you might say, though UD would say that it represents at least an embarrassment … But the real scandal here comes from the fact that Blum is a University of California regent who presumably had something to do with that university itself investing in ITT. From a 2010 article in the Berkeley Daily Planet:

Blum’s firm, Blum Capital Partners, has been the dominant shareholder in two of the nation’s largest for-profit universities, Career Education Corporation and ITT Educational Services, Inc. The San Francisco-based firm’s combined holdings in the two chain schools is currently $923 million — nearly a billion dollars. As Blum’s ownership stake enlarged, UC investment managers shadowed him, ultimately investing $53 million of public funds into the two educational corporations.

The regents’ conflict-of-interest policy requires them to “avoid the potential for and the appearance of conflicts of interest with respect to the selection of individual investments … public officials shall not make, participate in making, or influence a governmental decision in which the official has a conflict of interest.” And the California Political Reform Act of 1974 provides civil and criminal penalties for officials who ignore conflicts of interest — as UC makes clear in ethics training presentations specifically created for university officials. The Board of Regents, however, is self-policing and it tolerates situations that cause others concern.

John M. Simpson of Consumer Watchdog, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization in Santa Monica, California, comments: “It is hugely inappropriate for the University of California to invest in for-profit colleges when it should be promoting public education. And something stinks when university investments end up in companies largely controlled by a regent. To the average fellow on the street, this would seem to be a conflict of interest. It is up to Mr. Blum and the UC treasurer to explain how it could not be a conflict of interest.”

Shades of Yeshiva University under the management of Bernie Madoff and Ezra Merkin! … Well, that university investment strategy ended badly, and I think Berkeley’s is about to come to grief too… But … look. You don’t need to be Thomas Frank to be sickened by the cynicism of America’s greatest public university getting rich off the backs of America’s most vulnerable student population…

Especially since it’s not only Berkeley. There’s Columbia University, already famous for its business dean’s starring performance in Inside Job. Columbia’s president, Lee Bollinger, sits on the board of the company that owns Kaplan. Students there were so disgusted by this that they started a petition calling for him to leave the board. The language of their petition pithily summarized the American for-profit ed business model:

Kaplan exploits the poor, the vulnerable, and the taxpayer to enrich itself.

In announcing the suit, the CFPB said this was just the beginning of a much wider action against the whole scummy industry. UD is skeptical. It has been scummy — reeking to high heaven, in fact – for a couple of decades, and no one with any power to really kill it off seems to have cared. That’s the American tragedy.

Tales from the Tax Syphons (A University Diaries Series)

It was the electronic monitor around a student’s ankle that first gave Kelli J. Amaya serious doubts about the Harris School of Business.

The young man with the monitor was studying to be a pharmacy technician, and Ms. Amaya, who worked at Harris, a for-profit chain of trade schools, knew that the most widely recognized certification for pharmacy technicians excludes anyone convicted of a felony or even a low-level drug offense.

But the student received federal financial aid, and for the school to keep collecting it, he had to remain in the program and complete an internship. So Ms. Amaya said she was told to find him an internship, even if that meant deceiving the employer.

“I saw students who never should have been there, students with whopping gaps in learning abilities and major psychiatric problems who were just not capable of doing the work,” said Ms. Amaya, an administrator at Harris’s Linwood campus, and then at its Wilmington, Del., campus, from 2009 to 2011. “The bosses were always like, ‘Stop asking why they’re enrolled, just get them to graduation however you can.’ ”

Fredrik deBoer on Online College Education.

I’ve tried all number of ways to [educate my writing students] outside of class meetings – marking papers extensively, using Track Changes, real-time online collaboration– and it never, ever works. Most them don’t look, and most of them don’t care, unless there’s the basic human accountability of sitting down with them at a table and going through the changes together. That’s how I drag them to the skills they want.

… [With the move to online education,] not only will we be erasing the very notion of individual instructor attention, we’ll be particularly targeting the most vulnerable, most difficult to educate students, the ones who now either never make it to college or drop out at huge rates. This is the perfect expression of an educational discourse that has no connection to the reality of what most schooling is like for most students.

… I’m dedicated to the task of getting as many marginal students in and through as possible, and I think that’s an absolute moral need for our colleges and our society. But … online models are precisely the opposite of what’s likely to work.

… We can build a vast edifice of online higher education where, as happens with for-profit online schools now, we all agree to juke the stats, grading and graduating students who lack even basic skills, and degrading the very notion of higher education. That’s an option.


UD would add two things to this.

1. It’s not merely the “basic human accountability” that only takes place face to face; it’s students witnessing and talking to, week after week, a human being they respect being serious about something. Wanting in some sense to be like your professor is not a contemptible desire; on the contrary, many people who become serious, reflective citizens probably got there in part through having been inspired by engagement with a serious, reflective teacher. Remember what Tony Judt wrote about one of his professors, who

broke through my well-armored adolescent Marxism and first introduced me to the challenges of intellectual history. He managed this by the simple device of listening very intently to everything I said, taking it with extraordinary seriousness on its own terms, and then picking it gently and firmly apart in a way that I could both accept and respect. That is teaching.

Which leads me to my second thing:

2. What good professors are ultimately serious about is their students. That is, this human mutual accountability or whatever you want to call it goes both ways. In the classroom, you are looking at me, and I am looking at you. I am looking at you as a young, smart, promising human being wanting to clarify aspects of human life. This sight moves me; and I want not only to talk to you about human complexities but to exhibit to you what one older person (me) who has had a reasonably disciplined exposure to some of those complexities looks like, sounds like, acts like. I want to do exactly what Judt’s professor did: Listen with great care to what you say and how you say it; and then analyze what you have said in a way that maybe moves you forward in your relationship to it. Maybe makes you less emotional, more analytically neutral; maybe makes you aware that other people before you have formulated things in a way similar to yours, but somewhat more nuanced, etc., etc. That is teaching.

“The industry fundamentals have deteriorated.”

What - you mean like this? You mean the raiders of the lost American college student are beginning to deteriorate?

You mean - like this?

You cursed wave of state probes by attorneys general and the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau! Look what you’ve done to my Goldman Sachs-backed tax-syphoning scheme! I’m melting! I’m melting! What a world! Who would have thought that a good little government like you could destroy my beautiful wickedness…

For-Profit Online University…

… a grand new American tradition.

“Having a camera watch you, and software keep track of your mouse clicks, that does smack of Big Brother,” he said. “But it doesn’t seem any worse than an instructor at the front constantly looking at you, and it may even be more efficient.”

Yes, test taking in the era of online courses is just like being in a classroom with a professor on exam day. Only the person quoted in my headline forgot to fill in the online anti-cheating picture:

Having a camera watch you;

having software track all of your mouse clicks;

having eye-tracking devices follow all of your eye movements;

having someone fingerprint you; and

having to answer a series of personal questions before you can begin writing.


And the good news is that as cheating becomes big business (there are now firms that will simply take entire courses for you; I gotta believe there’s money to be made in faking the work of the online professor, so she fills up her semester’s roster of courses while snorkeling in Cancun — I remind you that I can already outsource all my grading), anti-cheating technologies continue to evolve. We’ve rigged up the eye and the hand… surely our authentication techniques can become more … intimate. I mean, not just in the sense of asking probing questions, but… probing other body parts…

And yes, it’s really impossible to detect any difference – though this does rather smack of Big Brother – between this 1984 scenario and the totalitarian nightmare I lay on my students at the end of every semester, while I sit in the front of the room during the time that they write their final exam…

Although… here’s one difference! Students are permitted to approach me in all my Stalinist splendor — IF THEY DARE — and ask how to spell words or ask to be reminded of the full names of characters or whatever… And I guess it’s that whole he loved Big Brother thing, because they DO approach me… THEY DO NOT SEEM TO FEAR THE CRUSHING REPRESSION I AM CAPABLE OF UNLEASHING UPON THEM …

Yes, there’s no doubting it. Getting your body rigged up, getting fingerprinted, getting tracked, and getting surveilled by a camera inches from your mug is not only an ideal scenario for the act of independent thought that constitutes education, but is in fact superior to face to face. Game, set, and match.


And why would our students complain? After all, this is their world:

I called Kevin Haggerty, a criminologist at the University of Alberta, to learn about “surveillance creep,” the gradual expansion of the zone of scrutiny. We started, he explained, by electronically tracking the dangerous and the vulnerable — inmates, terrorists, Alzheimer’s patients, pets, and our own children — and we’ve wound up putting radio-frequency chips in students’ and employees’ IDs. Haggerty and I didn’t discuss the pernicious activities of the National Security Agency, which evolved over the same period of time, but the scariest endpoint of surveillance creep, it seems to me, will have been reached when the government’s yottabyte farms no longer strike us as sinister or illegal.

And there’s another, possibly even more insidious, consequence of eavesdropping on our offspring. It sends the message that nothing and no one is to be trusted: not them, not us, and especially not the rest of the world. This is no way to live, but it is a way to destroy the bonds of mutual toleration that our children will need to keep our democracy limping along.

“[A Senate investigation found] in 2012 that an online degree from the University of Phoenix cost six times more than a comparable degree from the Maricopa Community College system and that the university’s founder, John Sperling, was paid $8.6 million in 2009, 13 times more than the president of the University of Arizona. That year, Apollo spent $892 per student on instruction, $2,225 per student on marketing, and $2,535 per student went to company profit, a Senate report found. Even as his university foundered, Sperling retired as chairman of Apollo’s board of directors in December with a $5 million bonus and a $70,000 monthly annuity. Since July, other top executives with the company have acquired more than 300,000 additional shares of Apollo stock, but they have also sold about $1.3 million worth in that time, according to SEC records. Last month, for example, Apollo’s CEO, Greg Cappelli, sold $223,000 worth of stock, a small fraction of his disclosed holdings.”

If you can work up any tears over Phoenix cutting thousands of jobs you’ll cry at anything.

The proper response is good riddance.

UD‘s faith in scams remains strong; she’s sure some other outfit will figure out how to take billions of our tax dollars in order not to educate Americans. Perhaps Phoenix itself will regroup to scam another day. But for the moment, what good news.

But speaking of reputations…

… as I do here, there are educational institutions in America that do have pretty universally bad reputations, and these are the for-profits. When a legitimate secondary school or university proposes cooperating with a for-profit, its faculty and students (as in this latest case) often scream NO. Why?

[F]or-profit colleges received $32 billion from the US government in student aid in the 2009-10 academic year. They also charge far higher tuition fees than comparable state universities. Yet they spend much less per student on instruction. Indeed, they typically spend a lot more on marketing their courses than they do on teaching them. This may explain why the majority of students on their degree programmes drop out long before they graduate. In 2008-09 the median length of study for a student at a for-profit university was just four months. The inference is that for-profit universities recruit anyone who is eligible for Federal funds but care little about what happens to them afterwards.

The cynicism and nothingness of the for-profits is now a matter of public knowledge. No one who actually takes education seriously wants to be cheapened by association with these money-grubbers.

“[E]arly in the new semester, [a student in the class] said, “it came to [the professor's] attention that people were either passing the quizzes to their friends or just grading their own. She addressed it in class — she was basically like, this hurts my feelings, how can we fix this?”

This hurts my feelings?

This hurts my feelings?

This is a woman (an English professor at Barnard College, whose class is notorious for massive cheating) whose children have ballsy Daniel Ellsberg’s DNA coursing through their veins (she’s married to Ellsberg’s son). And she’s pathetically announcing to her large audience that it has hurt her feelings??

I’m not saying she should handle the problem this way, and produce a viral YouTube revealing to the world that she is an ass (the professor in the YouTube got his exam questions out of a book – too lazy to write his own – and thereby made it supersimple for students to get the questions in advance). I’m saying that having shown yourself a sap by your grading method (Ellsberg asked students to grade themselves), you don’t double down on the sap by making it clear that your emotional frailty will guarantee that you’ll just move from one way of being manipulated by your class to another.

In the Barnard case as in the ranting biz school professor’s case, the instructors were too lazy or too fragile or whatever to run cheating-aversive courses (I don’t say cheating-free, since it’s always possible that even in the best-run course some students will cheat). Instead of doing obvious things – writing questions students won’t be able with little effort to find in a book; not asking students to grade themselves; not allowing smartphones in class – these professors virtually welcomed their students into the world of naughty.

Even worse is the way such people tend to respond to the revelation of cheating. Of course both must have known it had been going on for years; neither one is stupid. They just let it continue until it got so bad they got pissed off (the guy) or until some poor honest soul in the class told them about it and forced some form of response (Ellsberg).

What they tend to do is get all police state about it. Ellsberg went from hippie to Kim Jong-un in no seconds flat, installing her students in device-free isolation chambers overseen by high-ranking administrators and administering there a big ol’ scary exam on which most of her students’ grade depended.


Here’s UD‘s take: If you are a cheating-enabler sort of professor — if you give take-home exams and shit like that, shit that guarantees cheating — own it. Be that thing. Get defensive when people call you on it and say it’s no one’s fucking business how you run your classes. Don’t get all schizodemento and hurl yourself from one extreme to another and hypocritically protest to the class how shocked and hurt you are. That’s what Sartre called being in bad faith. Not a good place to be.

It’s a happy day when the editorial staff of the Duke University newspaper…

… comes out in favor of a university-wide laptop in the classroom ban. If you’ve been reading this blog for any time at all, you know that UD has confidently awaited such a day, and that she trusts something similar will happen at other self-respecting campuses (Def. of self-respecting campuses: Places whose football stadium isn’t named after a prison). That is, UD has anticipated that the real energy in favor of serious bans will come not from professors, many of whom do ban them, but from students.

This is for obvious I’m all right, Jack, pull up the ladder reasons: What careth I, Professor X, if Professor Y’s students have a shitty classroom experience? I’ve worked out something good for my group.

But – as UD has told you repeatedly – this is a treacherously short-sighted POV. As the Duke editorial writers ask:

Why convene class if students are half-present, constantly disturbed by text messages, games and Facebook? … What is the point of holding class if people are not paying attention? This is not just about respect; it is also about the necessity of a physical college campus. The more time we spend on computers, the less important the on-campus college experience — which universities tout as a major benefit of an elite education — becomes.

If it helps you to think about this in terms of sports: Note current plummeting attendance at many university and professional stadiums. Why, why, why? Well, lots of traditional reasons (obscene drunks, long runs of losing games, outrageous ticket prices, passels of bad boys on the teams) PLUS a new one: The addition to many stadiums of vast Adzillatrons — screens that show you the game as it’s happening, and add constant massive shrieking advertisements. Fun! You’ve spent hundreds of dollars to be treated to a computer-generated as-it’s-happening rendition of the game while being held captive to wall to wall commercials. Where do I sign up for my $2,000 season tickets?… But it’s so much less fun with every game, ’cause I notice all the other people who used to sit with me and make it exciting to cheer are gone. They’re watching on their big screen in the respectable privacy of their own home…

And see it’s the same thing at universities. Why go there? It’s nicer to lie in bed and stare at your very own screen. And you get to that place, mentally, as a result of staring at screens in classrooms, just the way people get themselves home from the football game by staring at screens in the stadium.

Really dum-dum states, like Nevada, our very dumbest state, are planning more and bigger Adzillatrons at stadiums. A proposed $800 million new facility for UNLV features an Adzillatron that spans the entire stadium. Imagine sitting in your seat and being forced to watch the world’s biggest moving image of a three-tier McDonald’s burger oozing white sauce! Slurp!

The blood and guts of the tax siphons.

You probably don’t have the stomach for it.

Phoenix Descending

It’s way, way late in the game for this to be happening. But at least it’s happening. At least Phoenix and the other tax siphons might be put out of their scummy business.

It little profiteth…

… a scummy industry to have Obama in the White House again.

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