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For-profit college in California, USA, faces lawsuit from Attorney General for Systematic Deception of Students



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For-profit college in California, USA, faces lawsuit from Attorney General for Systematic Deception of Students


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2014/01/for-profit-college-in-california-usa.html



I am quite impressed by US governments' mechanisms and efforts to catch and punish higher education institutions engaged in fraud. Here's an October 2013 report of California Attorney General suing a for-profit college company for deceptive practices, "Major For-Profit College Chain Systematically Deceived Students: Attorney General", http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/10/corinthian-colleges-for-profit-lawsuit_n_4081000.html.

Some small extracts and notes from the article:

'California's attorney general filed a lawsuit Thursday accusing a for-profit college company of misrepresenting job placement rates, false advertising and other deceptive practices to lure low-income residents to take out student loans to attend its schools.'
...
The article quoted Kamala Harris, Attorney General, of California, USA, saying, "Corinthian College was serving not as an educator but as a predator of some of the most vulnerable people in our community".
...
The college company which is reported to operate over 100 campuses in North America as well as a few online programs, disputes the charges of the Attorney General.

--- end extracts and notes ---

I have not heard of any lawsuits of this sort at all, in India. I think fake colleges in India can get away with anything, even offer fake PhD degrees, without anybody really punishing them. At the most, the college owners will close down the college (and perhaps open another one with a different name).

Who is there to protect Indian students and their parents from getting trapped by similar fake colleges in India? Not only do they lose money and precious years of youth - just imagine the shock and disappointment the young student will have when he/she realises that his/her education is almost worthless. Perhaps some youth may never recover from such a horrific psychological blow. [BTW there are many good educational institutions in India, and, of course, USA has world class educational institutions. But there are some fakes too - that seems to be the inescapable reality of higher education today.]

India should have similar laws/mechanisms to punish fake colleges, which are rigorously implemented.

Monday, January 27, 2014


Some Serious Dangers of For-Profit Education Schools (Colleges) For Poor and Naive Students


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2014/01/some-serious-dangers-of-for-profit.html



A US based academic sent me the following recent article link, “I feel like I was set up to fail”: Inside a for-profit college nightmare, http://www.salon.com/2014/01/25/inside_story_of_a_for_profit_college_nightmare/.

I think the article highlights some serious dangers that for-profit education schools/colleges/systems have, especially for poor and naive students. While I am not saying that for-profit education systems should not be considered at all in India, I would like to humbly suggest to those who deal with education policy making to please go through the article (unless they have already done so) and put in appropriate safeguards in education policy to prevent such nightmarish scenarios for students in any for-profit education system in India.

Here are some points about the article:


  • The student (Jaqueta Cherry) seems to have been targeted and lured by the for-profit college by a promise of landing "a professional job working in computers".

  • She dropped out of the courses and now is saddled with thousands of dollars of federal student loan debt.

  • "For-profit schools use a business model that feasts on federal student aid." [Note: In the US, the term schools is many times used to refer to higher education colleges and universities too, which seems to be the case here.]

  • Leads i.e. info. about prospective students are sold by some firms specializing in "lead generation" which uses sophisticated techniques and algorithms to identify prospects from digital footprints on the Internet.

  • Very significant component of revenue of most for-profit schools come from US government aid.

  • California Attorney General Kamala Harris has filed a lawsuit against Corinthian Colleges Inc. (parent company of the university Jacqueta had enrolled in). From http://oag.ca.gov/system/files/attachments/press_releases/Complaint,%20filed%20stamped_0.pdf, (a 37 page document):

    • "CCI is selling these expensive programs to students throughout California, many of whom head single parent families and have annual incomes that are near the federal poverty line ($19,530 for a three-person household). CCI targets this demographic, which it describes in internal company documents as composed of "isolated," "impatient," individuals with ''low selfesteem," who have "few people in their lives who care about them" and who are "stuck" and "unable to see and plan well for future," through aggressive and persistent internet and telemarketing campaigns and through television ads on daytime shows like Jerry Springer and Maury Povich."

    • The lawsuit attempts to hold "CCI accountable for violating California law by misrepresenting job placement rates to students, misrepresenting job placement rates to investors, advertising for programs that it does not offer, ...".

A previous blog post, For-profit college in California, USA, faces lawsuit from Attorney General for Systematic Deception of Students, is related to this topic. 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

How Online Education challenge is shaking up US academia


Net url: http://eklavyasai.blogspot.in/2012/11/how-online-education-challenge-is.html



Last updated on November 28th 2012

I think there is tremendous pressure on top US university managements on this online education stuff. University of Virginia (UVA) top administrator, President Teresa Sullivan, was fired and then re-hired amidst a lot of UVA community protests and tremendous media coverage in June 2012. It seems her lack of big initiative for online education was one of the main reasons behind her being fired.



NYTimes article, 'Anatomy of a campus coup', http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/16/magazine/teresa-sullivan-uva-ouster.html?pagewanted=all&_r=0, is an absolutely fascinating article on Teresa Sullivan's ouster and then reinstatement. The article touches upon many things including:

    1. Funds crunch for UVA as state government reduced funding. Alumni network helped by contributing to endowment. UVA has a $ 2.5 Billion budget [At Rs. 55 for 1 US $ that comes to Rs. 13,750 Crores].

    2. UVA Board seats are allotted by State government/Governor.

    3. UVA Board head, Helen Dragas, a real estate developer, was strongly influenced by Harvard Professor, Clayton M. Christensen's book, "The Innovative University", http://www.theinnovativeuniversity.com/. [From http://www.theinnovativeuniversity.com/proj/the-promise-of-online-learning/: “The Innovative University” shows how online technology makes a college or university vastly more attractive to a wide subset of students. It gives many people a second chance at learning – i.e. those who cannot afford a traditional college education, those who do not have the flexibility to take part in a full plate of coursework, and late bloomers or dropouts who have fallen behind and now have the chance to catch up.]

    4. Dragas said, “Higher education is one of the last sectors of the economy to undergo this kind of systemic restructuring". [I presume she meant systemic restructuring being forced by embrace of disruptive new technologies like online education]

    5. UVA Board fires President Teresa Sullivan (though it is couched in different language). Helen Dragas who headed the UVA board justified decision of ouster specifically mentioning that UVA was falling behind in development of online courses, "a potentially transformative innovation". [The email dated June 10th 2012 from Helen Dragas and another person announcing President Sullivan's stepping down: http://news.virginia.edu/node/18788?id=18788]

    6. Message from Teresa Sullivan to the Board of Visitors on stepping down dated June 18th 2012:  http://www.virginia.edu/president/speeches/12/message120618.html. A telling extract from the above message about her views of online education: "There is room for carefully implemented online learning in selected fields, but online instruction is no panacea. It is surprisingly expensive, has limited revenue potential, and unless carefully managed, can undermine the quality of instruction."

    7. Message from Teresa Sullivan after being reinstated due to outcry in campus and media leading to state Governor stepping into the matter, dated June 26th 2012: http://www.virginia.edu/president/speeches/12/message120626.html

    8. After her reinstatement Teresa Sullivan announced a partnership with Coursera but used cautious words about its future.

This set of article and messages involving the President of one of the top public universities in the USA and one which is within the first 25 top national universities of the USA, http://www.virginia.edu/Facts/Glance_Rankings.html, clearly shows that online education is a very hyped-up buzzword. Teresa Sullivan's views on online education seem to be solidly sensible especially for a public school with fund constraints (as against an MIT or Harvard with massive endowment I believe). But her Board wanted more from her! I think it truly has been a great victory for academic sensibility that she was reinstated due to public outcry.

A couple of relevant videos which shows the humans behind the drama as well as the human aspects of it:



  • U.Va. Board of Visitors reinstates Teresa Sullivan as President, June 26th 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r1wuDVuA824, 26 min, 11 sec.

  • President Sullivan Addresses Supporters on the Lawn (after the above reinstatement meeting), http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zTVIUSolPk8, 15 min, 58 sec.

A video which shows her supporters at the time she stepped down as President: 



  • Teresa Sullivan Addresses Rally Crowd after stepping down as President on June 18th 2012, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m2Ny-50XPVc, 2 min, 33 sec. 

I must also mention that I believe online education is rapidly coming of age. I mean, it may be a matter of just a few years before it reaches stability in terms of large percentage of enrolled students completing courses, getting credit/certification and even degrees, market giving feedback on knowledge level of such students and how employable they are, and revenue stream for online education providers.

Some further thoughts on this matter.

I had a mail exchange on this matter with a friend that made me drill a little deeper into the matter. Thought I can share that on this post.

In the Board of Visitors meeting on June 26th 2012 (video link given earlier) a senior person of the board specifically apologizes for due process not having been followed in the decision to ask Sullivan to resign. He also states something to the effect that if due process had been followed for her removal then such issues would not have cropped up in the first place

Here's the UVA Board of Visitors (BOV) web page and here's the UVA BOV manual. From the UVA BOV manual, Page 49-50, "The board shall be charged with the care and preservation of all property belonging to the University. They shall appoint a president, with such duties as may be prescribed by the board, and who shall have supreme administrative direction under the authority of the board over all the schools, colleges and branches of the University wherever located, and they shall appoint as many professors as they deem proper, and, with the assent of two-thirds of the whole number of visitors, may remove such president or any professor."

So where the rector, Helen Dragas, committed a "due process" mistake was to not convene a meeting of the board, raise the issue of asking the President to resign due to clearly specified reasons, put it to vote and get two-thirds of BOV support for it. Not all BOV members supported Dragas as could be seen from the BOV meeting video mentioned earlier, and it seems that such a motion would have had vigorous debate with the possibility of Sullivan being given a fair chance to present her side to the Board of Visitors. Instead it was, as the NYT article put it, a "campus coup" by the rector in getting the President to resign. 

Regarding Dragas and others' concern about UVA falling behind other top USA universities in the area of online education, it seems that clear directives were not given to the President about online education efforts by the Board of Visitors. Teresa Sullivan's messages clearly show her side of the story (far more eloquently than the NYT article). No wonder she was able to get so much support from the UVA community and the media which led to her reinstatement.



Indian Situation

In India autonomy of academia is a very important matter which limits government and funding agencies power to manipulate academic processes (including selection of teaching staff) of large public universities (small private universities are a different matter).

It is quite decent in terms of official procedure, I think. A Vice-Chancellor (VC) is the top executive officer of a university and gets appointed for a term (typically 3 to 5 years). For large public universities the government is typically involved in selection & appointment of the VC. The paper, "Appointment of Vice-Chancellors: Rules, Procedures and Intentions", http://www.aserf.org.in/presentations/vcpaper.pdf, gives an interesting bird's eye view picture.

Removal of a VC of a big university is a major issue affecting the public of the area in which the university is based. So, it seems to me, due process is important. If a VC is dismissed the VC may be able to approach the High Court to question his/her dismissal and even get it reversed if due process has not been followed.


Please note that the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported License (CC-BY) does *not* apply to this post.

Friday, November 16, 2012



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