“If we don’t give them the ratings, they’ll go to Moody’s right down the block.”

Mark Baum’s discovery of ratings agency fraud – a small but important part of the comprehensive fraud that was America’s mortgage business fourteen years ago – is one of many great scenes from the film The Big Short. But the dirty for-profit ed business (this blog has spent years covering it – click on the categories at the bottom of this post) goes ratings fraud one step further: It issues glowing accreditations/ratings for entities that don’t even exist.

Group that approved South Dakota

College without students rebuked,

May lose access to federal money

goes the headline; and it’s like that old saying: A School Without Students is Like a Day Without Federal Money… Except that with the love and support of the Trump presidency, this agency is still in business.

I mean, the Biden Ed Dept seems to have voted to shut it down, but there are appeals aplenty available to the accreditor, and meanwhile its bright golden approval insignia continues to emblazon the web pages of sixty other fly by nights.

In its defense, this outfit protested that just because Reagan National University lacked not only students but instructional materials, the place (a closed office in a strip mall) was highly approvable because any school can lack the administrative staff to show a visitor a textbook or a student.

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Interestingly, there are also some non-profit universities whose student populations are dwindling to nothing. Chicago State University, a perennial object of fascination on this blog, “has lost nearly 60 percent of its enrollment since 2010, plummeting from 7,354 students to 2,964.” Assuming its basic approach of staggering financial scandal, constant leadership turnover, and a quality of instruction you’d expect from a school where no one in her right mind would teach, remains stable, CSU can expect to be pretty much where Reagan National is in a few years.

People Who Need People

Recent efforts to try online education have shown that [weaker] students are the ones who most need a teacher or professor in the classroom to help them, said [Janet] Napolitano…

The president of the University of California says the obvious: In almost any form, online ed ain’t much good. It’s especially pointless (and expensive) for the people the for-profit tax syphons go after most aggressively: Those most in need of a good in-person education. Our most vulnerable, most badly-served, remedial students.

But Napolitano goes beyond this.

The courses are also proving difficult for those trying to meet lower-division college requirements. Online courses may indeed prove to be useful, she said, but more as a way to augment upper-division work for students who are already deeply engaged in their subject matter.

And franchement, if you’re deeply engaged in a subject, you’ll just feel insulted by the online treatment. By definition there’s no intensity, so real interaction, no subtlety, available in this format. That’s why in many courses almost everyone drops out:

[A] study released late last year by the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education showed that only about 4 percent of those who register for an online course at Penn complete it, even though the courses are free.

TRUMPED.

The New York Times reports.

Click-Click Credits on your way to Click-Thru U

The New York Times looks at high school online courses.

[A]round the country skeptics say online courses are a stealthy way to cut corners… The fastest growth has been in makeup courses for students who failed a regular class. Advocates say the courses let students who were bored or left behind learn at their own pace.

But even some proponents of online classes are dubious about makeup courses, also known as credit recovery — or, derisively, click-click credits — which high schools, especially those in high-poverty districts, use to increase graduation rates and avoid federal sanctions.

“I think many people see online courses as being a way of being able to remove a pain point, and that is, how are they going to increase their graduation rate?” said Liz Pape, president of the Virtual High School Global Consortium. If credit recovery were working, she said, the need for remedial classes in college would be declining — but the opposite is true.

The article points out what everyone has noticed about online college courses – Lots of people cheat their way through them. You can’t determine who’s actually taking the course. And it’s the rare air traffic controller (UD‘s name for faculty who teach online courses) with the time or inclination to catch plagiarism (the NYT article features an online student copying material from the web, something that many online students, high school as well as college, apparently do).

From click-click credits in high school to click-thru u — what a way to go.

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Update:

“The problem with distance learning is that we know we are trying to teach, but we don’t know if they are trying to learn,” said sociology Professor Allen Martin of the University of Texas-Tyler, an outspoken critic of online education.

The dropout rate is enormous, and there is an enormous amount of cheating that goes on. It just doesn’t work very well.”

Glenn Greenwald, in Salon, on the For-Profit Fraud.

Kaplan [has a] sprawling network of for-profit “universities”

Scathing Online Schoolmarm dislikes quotation marks, but these work.

[The Washington Post, whose parent company owns Kaplan, is now] in the business of profiting off of lower-income students who pay for diplomas, often obtained via online classes… [C]orruption and abuses … pervade the for-profit education industry in general and Kaplan in particular (saddling poor people with debt in exchange for nothing of real value).

Since Kaplan gets virtually all of its money from federal dollars, it’s got to suck up to the government. Greenwald points out that this need doesn’t do much for claims of journalistic independence:

How can a company which is almost wholly dependent upon staying in the good graces of the U.S. Government possibly be expected to serve as a journalistic “watchdog” over that same Government? The very idea is absurd.

College Inc.

Frontline‘s special on for-profit colleges appears May 4.

Here’s a review.

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You can watch it here. Thanks, Bill.

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