So I’m looking at a typical institution of higher education, this one passing itself off as an art school, the Academy of Art University (AAU). Alas, higher education has fallen so far that “typical school” means “school focused on drawing in as many students in as possible, sucking them dry of their student loan money, and spitting them out.”
Former employees make it clear that the previous description was business as usual for AAU:
Mallory Lynch, a former admissions representative who resigned in February, says managers told her to woo students with success stories and avoid mentioning the dropout rate. She felt uncomfortable selling the school to people who were clearly unprepared (including an unemployed mother of four, those who couldn’t afford the $100 application fee or prospective online candidates who had no computers).
How do people that can’t afford college, nevertheless pay for it? Well, student loans of course. How do bogus institutions that charge ridiculous amounts of money for worthless degrees nevertheless get students to qualify for those student loans?
Accreditation assures that the school is legitimate. The government trusts the accreditor’s word that AAU is legitimate, so the government will send money to it. Trouble is, for the most part, accreditors trust the institution’s word that everything at the institution is legitimate. It’s why we have scandals going on at even our state schools that go on for well past a decade, without accreditation, or the government, ever catching on.
The accreditor in this case is the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, WASC, which has a (should-be-illegal) regional monopoly on accreditation. The only way AAU can get accredited is to satisfy WASC’s rules.
So, did AAU, a school with serious legal trouble for lack of integrity in recruiting, and actively deceiving students about its programs, satisfy the accreditation requirements? Of course it did:
Although WASC reaffirmed AAU’s accreditation for another seven years in July 2014, it issued a “formal notice of concern,”
–hey, if anyone wants to give me a billion dollars, 7 years of no oversight, and a ‘formal notice of concern,’ please use the contact form. It’s a great deal. It’s also the typical deal accreditation offers schools in exchange for lucrative accreditor fees.
So, as far as accreditation is concerned, AAU is just dandy, and won’t have to worry about accreditation again for a long time. Accreditation really is a license to plunder. There is no penalty for any violation of accreditation, as I’ve discussed before. “Formal notice of concern” is laughable—the school (or the family that owns it) has, at worst, six more years of plundering, then has to close up shop, if they feel like it. I’ve seen just about every act of fraud, incompetence, unprofessionalism, and outright theft go on at institutions, and never has an accreditor said “hey, that’s a problem, we’re not accrediting you anymore. Good luck getting students to pay tuition with their own money!”
Ok, there’s one violation I’ve never seen: failure to pay accreditor fees. Keep this in mind: if an accreditor doesn’t accredit the institution, the accreditor doesn’t get paid. This is just one of many conflicts of interest in accreditation.
The student loan scam is key to the corruption of higher education today. Accreditation is the gatekeeper, but the flood of student loan money has long since unlocked the gates. Accreditation is now so useless, so far removed from education, that the gates to corruption are now thrown wide open.
Allow me to demonstrate by looking at WASC’s own rules for accreditation and see that it could shut down AAU, and many other schools, just by being a legitimate regulator.
Let’s go to the very first thing WASC claims it does:
Assures a school community that the school’s purposes are appropriate and being accomplished through a viable education program — a trustworthy institution for student learning…
And, game over. AAU sucks in every student it can, tells the student he can be an artist even if he’s never drawn so much as a stick figure, and tells the student that he’ll get a high paying job with his degree from AAU. It doesn’t tell the student his chances of graduating are slim at best, and, in violation of federal law, refuses to release the data showing how likely graduates are to get a job that would pay off the student loan:
AAU also tracks job-placement statistics…but it doesn’t publish them despite the federal requirement to do so. A spokesperson for the Department of Education says schools that don’t comply with the rule may be cut off from federal student aid if violations are deemed “egregious.”
In what universe is this sort of behavior “trustworthy?” And yet the accreditor says the school is fine, and won’t have its accreditation reviewed again until 2021. Talk about a free ride…
Ok, “trustworthy” is in the eye of the beholder, I guess. Is there anything else in the accreditor’s rules that might be a problem?
Again, the ol’ “not meeting Federal requirements to release their data” means we’re done, again. This school should not be accredited, it’s not meeting its legal requirements.
Ok, maybe I’m just harping on violating law. Lots and lots of schools openly violate the law. Any other issues?
“…its commitment to successful student learning.“
The school’s online programs (and online is a big part of the school) have a 6%, six year graduation rate. A school committed to successful student learning would completely shut down those programs instead of continue to push for their growth through recruiting and online advertisement. As long as those programs are open, as long as the school continues to seek to expand them despite the solid track record of failure, the school is in violation of accreditation, and should not have accreditation.
Any other issues? Of course, it’s simple to just review the regulations to find yet another clear cut problem:
The institution must have a functioning governing Board responsible for the quality, integrity, and financial stability of the institution
As I mentioned in the previous post, the Poo Bah buys buildings for her personal ownership, and leases them to the school. Uh, can someone say “conflict of interest” here? The Poo Bah makes the ultimate decision regarding what buildings a school has, and how much is paid to rent them. Shady insider dealing is why many institutions (fully accredited institutions, I might add) are loaded down with construction projects, even as ever more coursework is moved online. A legitimate accreditor would be looking into those deals, and shutting the school down. Instead, WASC gave AAU a free pass. Again.
I could continue to go through the accreditor’s rules, but it’s pointless: the accreditor isn’t going to follow them, and, in exchange for accreditation fees, will continue to assert that AAU is a completely trustworthy institution that is honestly trying to offer legitimate education and help its students succeed, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
AAU is a private, for-profit institution, and something of a family business. I have no problem with that, but it’s very clear the primary business here is just plundering our citizens with the student loan scam. The Federal government is catching on to this scam, but even when it shuts down these schools, it leaves the students in debt. The Poo Bahs remain fabulously wealthy, keeping their golden parachutes as well as all the student loan loot they’ve plundered.