Showing posts with label Scott Jaschik. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Scott Jaschik. Show all posts

Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Iowa Wesleyan and Valparaiso Law School make brave decisions: “It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done"

“It is a far, far better thing that I do, than I have ever done." Who said that? I think it was some dead guy from the 19th century. Charles Dickens maybe?

Iowa Wesleyan University and Valparaiso Law School both made brave decisions this week, and I salute them for it. Valparaiso Law announced it is closing after negotiations to transfer the school to Middle Tennessee State University broke down. And the President of Iowa Wesleyan University, Steven E. Titus, posted a statement on the university web site candidly telling the campus community that the university faces a serious financial crisis and that the governing board is pondering the university's future.

These decisions must have been very hard for both institutions. President Titus acknowledged that publicizing Iowa Wesleyan's financial situation might hurt enrollment, which could hasten its demise. "But we decided it was the right thing to let people know what was going on," Titus said. "There is risk no matter what we do."

As for Valparaiso, the loss of its law school diminishes the reputation of the university as a whole, as a law school is generally seen as a prestige-enhancing program.

In my view, both institutions are facing the stark financial reality that many private colleges are facing, and they are facing it with courage. Let's first look at Valparaiso. 

There are far too many law schools in this country, and enrollments have been declining. As reported in Inside Higher Ed, law-school enrollments have sunk from a high of 52,000 to 37,000. 

The quality of students being admitted to law schools is also declining. As tracked by Law School Transparency, a nonprofit group that reports on law -school admissions, some law schools have admitted students with LSAT scores so low that half the entering class faces a very high risk of failing the bar.

Valparaiso is closing its law school,  which is certainly in the public interest. It is far better for Valparaiso to close than for it to lower its admissions standards just to enroll more students.

As for Iowa Wesleyan, the school has been discounting tuition to attract students; according to one report, it has discounted tuition by more than half.  At some point that practice raises ethical issues.  How can a college justify charging its least attractive students full price when the average price is less than half that amount?

And how does a college explain the discounts to the students who receive them? Some colleges have been showering first-year students with scholarships--athletic scholarships in particular.  But is it honest to give an incoming student a volleyball scholarship when the school doesn't even field a decent volleyball team?

No, Valparaiso and Iowa Western should be commended for their courage and their honesty. It was a far, far better thing they did than perhaps anything they've ever done.

References

Scott Jaschik. Iowa  Wesleyan could become the latest small college to close. Insider Higher Ed, November , 2018.

Emma Whitford. Valparaiso Law School will close following unsuccessful attempt to transfer to Middle Tennessee University. Inside Higher Ed, October 31, 2018.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Thomas Jefferson Law School won't admit new students next spring: Ask not for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for the legal profession

Thomas Jefferson School of Law (TJ) announced it will not admit new students to enroll this spring. Why?

Linda Keller, Thomas Jefferson's new dean, gave this explanation (which was probably drafted by a public relations person):
The Law School is committed to providing the best environment for our students. We've decided to forego the revenue that a spring entering class would provide because a proportionally smaller spring entering class might not provide the vibrant, collaborative atmosphere for our new students that is an essential part of the first-year law student experience.
My cynical interpretation of this cheery blather is that Thomas Jefferson didn't recruit enough students to make up a decent cohort for spring 2019. Indeed, TJ's student enrollment dropped from more than 400 in 2010 to less than 300 in 2017.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law should close--period. By almost any measure, the school is not producing lawyers who can find decent jobs in the legal profession. According to Law School Transparency, which reports important metrics for law schools, TJ's 2017 graduating class had an employment rate of only 21.3 percent. Graduates' under-employment rate was 42.3 percent.

Not a single 2017 graduate got a judicial clerkship, jobs that go to the most able law graduates. And none went to work for large law firms,  which generally pay the highest salaries.

And most shocking of all, TJ's 2014 entering class had a 2017 bar passage rate of only 26.5 percent! That's right, only a little more than one in four of TJ's 2017 graduates passed the bar.

Why do students enroll at a law school with such a dismal record? Is it cheaper than more prestigious schools? No, it is not. The non-discounted cost to get a law degree from Thomas Jefferson is $280,000! That's right, it costs more than a quarter of a million dollars to get a law degree from Thomas Jefferson, and only one out of four 2017 graduates passed the bar.

This country has too many law schools. There simply are not enough jobs for the newly minted attorneys coming out of the nation's lawyer factories. The American Bar Association, which accredits law schools, has done a poor job and allowed too many schools to operate. Based on their bar passage rates and poor job-placement rates, at least 20 schools should be shut down immediately.

Some of Thomas Jefferson's graduates sued the school awhile back for fraud, but TJ beat the wrap. But enrollment is dropping, bar pass rates are awful, and the time has come for TJ to close its doors.

Thomas Jefferson School of Law


References

Scott Jaschik. Thomas Jefferson Law Won't Admit Students for Spring. Inside Higher Ed, October 18, 2018.

Staci Zaretsky. Struggling Law School Will Not Accept New Students This Spring. Above the Law, October 17, 2018.

Staci Zaretsky. Verdict Reached in the Alaburda v. Thomas Jefferson Landmark Case Over Fraudulent Employment Statistics. Abovethelaw.com, March 24, 2016.




Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Bethune-Cookman University reports $17.8 million operating loss as administrators' salaries go up

Bethune-Cookman University, a Florida HBCU, reported an operating loss of $17.8 million in its most recent tax return. That's a 12-fold increase over the previous year, when it reported a budget deficit of only $1.5 million.  Fitch Ratings downgraded the school's bond rating for the second time in six months. B-CU's bond rating now hovers just above junk status.

Should B-CU tighten its belt and cut expenses to deal with this crisis? Hell no!

According to the Daytona Beach News-Journal, salaries jumped from $41.5 million to $49.2 million in just one year.

Here are the details, quoted verbatim from the Daytona Beach News-Journal article:
  • Salaries at the school jumped nearly $8 million, from $41.5 million to $49.2 million, accounting for a large chunk of the increased expenses.
  • The school's top leadership took away a combined $2.69 million in compensation--an average of $207,000 for each of the 13 [executive] employees. The previous year, its leadership took in $1.4 million, an average of $175,000 for only eight top executives.
  • While his base pay was lowered, [President Edison] Jackson received a raise of $40,000 when additional compensation was factored in, giving him a total salary of nearly $410,000.
  • Fifty employees were paid at least $100,000, up from only eight in the previous year.

And there's more. B-CU borrowed $7 million from its endowment funds, about 13 percent of the total. Five million dollars of that amount was to pay--you guessed it--administrative expenses. Meanwhile, its investments suffered a 11 percent loss, even though the stock market was going up.

In short, it appears that B-CU's senior administrators are giving themselves raises while the school's budget deficit spirals out of control.

You may remember that Bethune-Cookman made the news recently when many of its students turned their backs on Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos and booed her when she spoke at the university's spring graduation exercise.

Isn't it remarkable how college students turn their anger on external parties instead of examining the competence of their own institution's leadership? Most of Bethune-Cookman's students have taken out student loans to finance their studies at a university that apparently does not know how to manage its own financial affairs. B-CU's students booed the wrong person at last spring's graduation exercises. They should have been booing President Edison Jackson.


References

Erica L Green. Bethune-Cookman Graduates Greet Betsy DeVos with Turned Backs. New York Times, May 10, 2017.

Scott Jaschick. Large, Growing Losses at Bethune-Cookman. Inside Higher Ed, June 26, 2017.

Seth Robbins. Tax documents show B-CU losses mounting to $17.88 million. Daytona Beach News-Journal, June 24, 2017.

Valerie Straus. Booing students at Betsy DeVos's commencement speech told to shut up or get diplomas sent in mail. Washington Post, May 10, 2017.

Monday, May 8, 2017

A Holy Cross Vice President writes confidential email hinting that the college may close and mistakenly sends it to the entire student body: Oops!

Kelly Jordan, Vice President for Student Affairs at Holy Cross College in Indiana, sent a confidential email to a boarding school administrator last April, hinting that Holy Cross may soon be closing. Kelly told his correspondent that he might "spend the better part of the coming school year closing down the college."

Unfortunately for Vice President Jordan--and for Holy Cross, for that matter--Jordan's email was mistakenly sent out to the entire student body. Oops! The South Bend Tribune, a local newspaper, picked up the story; and now the whole world knows that the future of Holy Cross is in doubt.

Father David Tyson, interim president of Holy Cross, sent out the usual damage-control email message, assuring students that "I look forward to classes beginning in August and working with the faculty and students to create a bright future for the college that fully reflects the Holy Cross mission."

Note that Father Tyson did not contradict VP Jordan's message that Holy Cross might soon be shutting down.

Holy Cross is clearly in trouble. Its former president stepped down earlier this spring along with three of its five vice presidents. The college is quite small--only about 500 students; and the future of many small liberal arts colleges is uncertain.  Less than a year ago, two small Catholic colleges announced they were closing: St. Catharine College in Kentucky and St. Joseph's College in Indiana.

Most small liberal arts colleges depend heavily on tuition revenue, and a lot of them are having trouble attracting students. The National Association for College Admission Counseling recently published a list of colleges that still have room for incoming freshmen or transfer students in their fall 2017 classes. As of early this month, there were more than 500 colleges and universities on that list.  A majority of those schools were private liberal arts colleges with less than 5,000 students.  Seventy-seven of those schools had 1,000 students or less.

A lot of small liberal arts colleges are fighting to survive; and many will fail over the next two or three years. Holy Cross's recent embarrassment raises questions about how college administrators should deal with their own institutions' struggles.

Obviously, small-college administrators should do everything they can to attract new students and revenues. But there comes a time when college leaders need to ask themselves if they have a moral obligation to shut down rather than attract more new students into an institution that is on the road to closure.

If so, when should students and staff be told? I can't answer that question, but for Holy Cross the question is moot thanks to the fact that a confidential email message went public.


Photo credit: South Bend Tribune


References


College Openings Update: Options for Qualified Students. National Association for College Admission Counseling (n.d.).


Margaret Fosmoe. Holy Cross VP paints bleak future for college in emails mistakenly sent to students.  South Bend Tribune, May 6, 2017.

Scott Jaschik.  College Will Suspend Operations. Inside Higher ED, February 7, 2017.

Scott Jaschik. 350 Colleges Still Have Room for New Undergrads. Inside Higher ED, May 4, 2017.

Emily Tate. College VP Sends Email on Possible Closure. Inside Higher Ed, May 8, 2017.


Wednesday, March 4, 2015

For Want of a Starbucks, a College Was Lost: Sweet Briar College is Closing Its Doors

Sweet Briar College announced yesterday that it is closing its doors at the end of the academic year.

Sweet Briar is one of those obscure but vaguely elite colleges that average Americans have heard about but are totally clueless about where they are located. Bowdoin? Colgate? Williams? Amherst? Where in the hell are these places?

Sweet Briar College: Too Far From a Starbucks
Well, Sweet Briar is a small liberal arts college for women located in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. It is quite small--less than 600 undergraduates, but it is a lovely place. The college has a horse-riding program, a Study Abroad program, and several notable alumni.

But Sweet Briar is expensive. The sticker price to attend Sweet Briar for a year is just under $35,000 in tuition and fees.  And that doesn't include the cost of oats for your horse or the artisan cheese you will eat when you are studying abroad in France.

According to an article written by Scott Jaschik for Inside Higher Ed, Sweet Briar is closing for several reasons. First, students are less and less enamored with rural colleges. Even though Sweet Briar's campus--located on 3200 rural Virginia acres--is stunningly beautiful, most young people want to be where the action is, which is in the cities.

As Sweet Briar's President James F. Jones Jr. put it, "We are 30 minutes from a Starbucks."

Second, single-sex colleges have fallen out of fashion. Single-sex institutions have been totally wiped out in the public sector after the Supreme Court ruled that Mississippi University for Women and the Virginia Military Institute had discriminated on the basis of sex due to their single-sex admission policies. And most private colleges that started out as single-sex institutions now admit both women and men.

And of course, it is getting harder and harder to determine a student's gender, which makes single-sex admissions policies a bit awkward. The New York Times Magazine ran a story about transgender students at Wellesley that identified some of the complexity of gender issues at a private women's liberal arts college.

Third, it is harder and harder for private colleges that are not in the top tier to make a go of it. As Jaschik's article noted, only about one out of five women who were admitted to Sweet Briar chose to enroll there.

Sweet Briar and most private colleges try to sweeten the deal for potential students by discounting their tuition fees.  At Sweet Briar, the so-called discount rate for attractive first-year students was 62.8 percent in 2014.  That's right--the real cost for selected first-year students was only about one third of the sticker price.

So who pays the sticker price? Only suckers like you, Mom and Pop.

I say good riddance to Sweet Briar and all the overpriced private liberal arts colleges that failed to offer a product that students wanted at a price that families could afford. They have brought their demise on themselves by jacking up the sticker price of tuition and then giving discounts to special students who are selected based on criteria that are less than transparent. These schools have been operating more like used-car dealers than academics in the way they have sought to attract students, and now the jig is up.

Moreover, in my opinion, the vaunted value of a liberal arts education at one of these joints is vastly overrated. Many of the professors at these elite institutions are peddling postmodernism under the guise of a liberal arts education. And you don't need to attend an expensive private college to achieve the wry, edgy cynicism of a postmodernist.  Just watch Jon Stewart on television.

The crucial fact is this: the non-elite private liberal arts colleges are surviving almost totally on the federal student aid program; and students are having to borrow too much money to receive a non-spectacular education from these places.

What will replace Sweet Briar and the other overpriced, private liberal arts colleges as the purveyors of quality post-secondary education? I don't know. But I think it is likely that a great many private liberal arts colleges will close their doors before we figure it out.

References

Scott Jaschik. (2015, March 4). Sweet Briar College will shut down. Inside Higher Ed. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2015/03/04/sweet-briar-college-will-shut-down

Mississippi University for Women v. Hogan, 478 U.S. 718 (1982).

Ruth Padawer. (2014, October 15). When Women Become Men at Wellesley. New York Times Magazine. Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/19/magazine/when-women-become-men-at-wellesley-college.html?_r=0

Ry Rivard. (2014, July 2). Discount Escalation. Inside Higher Ed. Available at: https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/07/02/prices-rise-colleges-are-offering-students-steeper-discounts-again

United States v. Virginia, 518 U.S. 515 (1996).







Tuesday, August 27, 2013

The For-Profits "Are Making Out Like a Bandit": Will Sheriff Obama Round Up those Bad Boys?

In a question-and-answer session with college students at SUNY at Binghamton, President Obama made clear that he understands what's wrong with the for-profit colleges.

 [T]here have been some schools that are notorious for getting students in, getting a bunch of grant money, having those students take out a lot of loans, making big profits, but having really low graduation rates. Students aren’t getting what they need to be prepared for a particular field. They get out of these for-profit schools loaded down with enormous debt. They can’t find a job. They default. The taxpayer ends up holding the bag. Their credit is ruined, and the for-profit institution is making out like a bandit. That’s a problem.
President Obama also said he understands that some for-profits are exploiting our military veterans:
[T]hey’ve been preyed upon very badly by some of these for-profit institutions.... Because what happened was these for-profit schools saw this Post-9/11 GI Bill, that there was a whole bunch of money that the federal government was committed to making sure that our veterans got a good education, and they started advertising to these young people, signing them up, getting them to take a bunch of loans, but they weren’t delivering a good product.
 Indeed, Senator Tom Harkin's Senate Committee report on the for-profits found that the for-profits soaked up a huge share of the money made available to military veterans under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, a law designed to extend educational benefits to veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

Some for-profits are "making out like a bandit"
According to the report, the for-profits trained 25 percent of the participating veterans but received 37 percent of the Post-9/11 GI Bill money during the first two years the program was in place.  Eight of the top 10 education providers during that two-year period were for-profits, including the owners of the University of Phoenix, DeVry University, and Kaplan University (pages 27-28 of Harkin report).

Among the top ten participating institutions in this veterans program, the eight for-profits had the highest student withdrawal rates.  Apollo's student withdrawal rates for bachelor's degree programs was more than 50 percent. Kaplan Higher Education Corporation (owner of Kaplan University) had a 68 percent withdrawal rate for its four-year programs (page 29 of the Harkin report).

Will the Obama administration and Arne Duncan's Department of Education rein in these bad boys? I'm not sure. President Obama made it abundantly clear that he is willing for the federal government to continue funding for-profit colleges--the largest of which are publicly traded corporations or institutions owned by private equity groups.

 "For-profit institutions in a lot of sectors of our lives obviously [are] the cornerstone of our economy," President Obama said at the Binghamton gathering. "And we want to encourage entrepreneurship and new ideas and new approaches and new ways of doing things. So I’m not against for-profit institutions, generally."

President Obama's approach to for-profit colleges is basically in harmony with the Harkin Committee's viewpoint.  Like President Obama, the Harkin Committee acknowledged a place for the for-profit sector in higher education.  The Committee expressed the view that the public sector and nonprofit private colleges do not have the capacity to educate all the postsecondary students who want to be educated.

Personally, I disagree.  Why should the federal government pump $30 billion a year into the for-profit colleges in the form of federal student aid, when it is absolutely clear that the for-profit colleges have an overall poor record of performance and catastrophically high student-loan default rates? Shouldn't that money be going to the public institutions--particularly our community colleges?

So far, President Obama has been unwilling to take aggressive action to clean up or close the for-profit college industry.   For the time being at least, the for-profits will continue to "make out like a bandit," and President Obama will continue to critize them but do little or nothing to bring them under control.

References

Paul Fain & Scott Jaschik. Obama on Non-Profits. Inside Higher Education, August 26, 2013. Accessible at: http://www.insidehighered.com/news/2013/08/26/obama-speaks-directly-profit-higher-education-noting-concerns-sector

United States Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee. For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success. July 2012. Accessible at: http://www.help.senate.gov/imo/media/for_profit_report/PartI.pdf

Note: All quotes come from the Inside Higher Education article cited above.