Successful Beginning

ACFP12 was a rousing success.

The organizers are grateful to the presenters, researchers, scholars, and practitioners who made this event possible. A special thank you, again, to the AERA Educational Research Conference grant, the Research Network for Ethnic and Racial Inequality, and the Terry Sanford School of Public Policy for their generous financial support.

This was an augmented conference. People followed the conversation online at twitter and tumblr. Our social media coordinator did an outstanding job providing resource material and reading real time. You can view that archive here.

The suggested reading list continues to develop as do the research collaborations forged during this two day event.

Stay tuned.

Enterprising Education Innovators

Someone forwarded along a link to a company that promises to take your online classes for you!

A phone call to the number listed reveals that a real person does, indeed, answer. Your moderator stopped there because all of her theory and methods courses are delivered in-person.

Most interesting may be the framing of the company’s message. The slide show on the home page hits on themes of useless courses, boring classes, and a need for the credential. The site may provide some humor and some eyerolling but the underlying premise is not far from sociological issues of legitimacy, credentialism, and choice theories.

More California community colleges stop offering federal loans

An interesting story from California:

A small but growing number of California community colleges have stopped participating in the federal loan program, cutting off these borrowing options for students out of fear that rising student loan default rates could lead to sanctions.

Some 16 colleges have stopped disbursing the loans, and at least one more school – Bakersfield College – is considering ending its participation in the program. That makes California home to more students without access to federal loans than any other state, according to data collected by the Institute for College Access and Success, an Oakland-based nonprofit.

College officials say they stopped participating in federal loans because they were worried that an increase in student loan defaults would jeopardize their ability to offer federal grants. Colleges where students default on federal loans at high rates for several years in a row stand to lose eligibility for federal grants under sanctions issued by the U.S. Department of Education.


Is this, as the officials say, an unintended consequence of the gainful employment rule designed to oversee for-profits?

If so goes California, so goes the rest of the nation, it is a development worth watching.

See entire story here.

Washington Monthly’s “New Kind of College Rankings”

In more college ranking news, Washington Monthly magazine announced today what it is calling a new kind of college ranking list.

Citing concerns about growing student debt and public investment in higher education, the editors charge popular college ranking systems with “gaming” the system through price increases and selectivity measures. Harkening to a more Dewey-ian belief in higher education as a mobility vehicle the WM editors say their new list rewards accessibility, affordability, and social mobility:

The Washington Monthly rankings are based on three factors. The first is social mobility, which gives colleges credit for enrolling many low-income students and helping them earn degrees. The second recognizes research production, particularly at schools whose undergraduates go on to earn PhDs. Third, we value a commitment to service. The more expensive college becomes, the more students are encouraged to see higher education as a mere return on investment. The students in our best colleges are taught by example and design to look beyond themselves and give back.

And because the cost of higher education has become so crucial, we have added a new factor to our college rankings this year. The social mobility measure that rewards colleges with better-than-expected graduation rates has been improved to account for college prices. Colleges that are both effective and inexpensive get the highest marks. As Robert Kelchen and Rachel Fishman explain in more detail on page 31, some institutions are doing an outstanding job while keeping prices low at the same time, helping students earn valuable diplomas without being shackled by debt. The complete list of our national university rankings begins on page 54, liberal arts colleges on page 68, and master’s universities and baccalaureate colleges on page 80. Some of the names are familiar. But others show that ranking colleges by social mobility, research, and service produces surprising results. Some famous (and expensive) colleges that routinely top the U.S. News rankings fare poorly by our lights, while some far less costly institutions are providing huge benefits to their students and their nation. Here are highlights from the 2012 Washington Monthly college rankings.

The WM rankings put UC-San Diego at number 1 in 2011. In contrast, Yale University is ranked 41st. The editors explain:

Six of our top twenty universities hail from the UC system, a testament to their commitment to enroll an economically diverse student body while supporting world-class research. Tragically, the system has been rocked by budget cuts and price increases in recent years. We hope this trend is reversed before the UC campuses fade from prominence.

Well-known private universities, by contrast, look different when judged by our criteria. Yale is only forty-first on our ranking. New York University, which has floated to national prominence on a sea of student debt, is seventy-seventh. NYU ranked thirty-three places higher in 2011, but our new cost-adjustment measure penalizes it for being among the most expensive universities in America. Similarly, Northeastern University in Boston has climbed eighty-eight places in the U.S. News rankings since 2001, all the way to sixty-second, within shouting distance of the coveted “First Tier.” We rank Northeastern number 237, in the bottom 20 percent of all national universities. Why? Because Northeastern doesn’t enroll very many low-income students, graduates fewer students than it should, and is unusually expensive. Most national universities are better than Northeastern at graduating students who go on to earn PhDs, and the university’s faculty research awards and service statistics are mediocre. Universities that purchase a facade of greatness are recognized by U.S. News , but not by us.

Read more and see the UW college rankings list here.

The Least Affordable Colleges in the U.S.

Newsweek has compiled it’s least affordable colleges list for 2012.

As one person noted on twitter, there is no inclusion of for-profit colleges and universities on the list. Knowing what many of us know about price difference (both net and gross) between for-profit institutions and not-for-profit institutions it is an odd methodological choice.

The top 5 include:

1. Sacred Heart University

2. Nazareth College

3. Ashland University

4. New York University

5. Hawaii Pacific University

See the entire list here.

What The For-Profit Sector Gets Right

As noted here (and elsewhere), a congressional report on the for-profit college sector was released last week.

Todd Eicher, President of CUnet, offered a perspective on what the report says some for-profit colleges get right. From Eicher:


Those of us in the for-profit sector have already seen – and responded to – many of these criticisms. In fact, much of the data presented in the report was released well over a year ago, and has driven huge changes in our sector over the past 18 months. From clearer language in school advertising to comprehensive monitoring of recruitment practices, schools and their partners have invested a great deal of time, expense, and effort to ensure that prospective students receive the information they need to make educated decisions before embarking upon a higher education program.

The report also presented some positive findings – most of which did not make the mainstream media coverage. It was great to hear Senator Harkin, in his press conference this week, noting that in order to meet President Obama’s goal to have every American adult spend at least some time in higher education, for-profit colleges and universities must play a critical role. Specifically, he noted that the for-profit sector is unique in its ability to meet the demands of the growing number of non-traditional students seeking higher education (which Harkin estimates at 73 percent of all students).

The Senator also actively complimented a number of schools like Strayer, Walden, American Public University, and National American University, and he noted the impressive changes he has seen among schools like Kaplan, Apollo and Devry, who have shown dedication and commitment to improving student outcomes. As a partner to nearly all of these schools, we were very pleased to see their efforts recognized.

As we review and consider the findings of this report, there is no question that there is still work to be done. The for-profit sector must continue to provide access to educational offerings that drive better outcomes, and don’t leave students strapped with unnecessary debt.

For our part, as a provider of products and services for recruitment marketers, this report reinforces our commitment to that end, and to ensuring compliant marketing practices. We are making ongoing investments in products that help schools to reach and recruit the right students,  and we will continue to promote the highest standards of ethics in recruitment practices.


Conference Working Groups

One of the stated aims of ACFP12 is to shape a future research agenda for the study of for-profit higher education. To help us do that the team decided early on that this would be a working conference.

Several working groups have been established.  All participating scholars were asked to participate and we invite those in attendance to do so as well. These groups will organize around several broader themes:

  • Social good, advocacy and for-profits
  • Future of universities, globalization, and for-profit education
  • Race, class, gender and for-profits
  • Public sector finance and for-profits

Researchers will focus on what is known in these areas, what is unknown, and what are the best practices for interrogating what is unknown.

As important as the conversation of means tested subsidies (student loans) and labor market outcomes are to the discussion of for-profit higher education we view the discussion as a broader, deeper area of inquiry into core academic and policy issues like stratification and equity.We believe these working groups, and the stellar scholars participating in them, will help us all to deepen the conversation about for-profit education.

Stay tuned for more details and be sure to register!


Conference Information





Welcome to ACFP 2012!

As one of the conference organizers I am pleased to announce an AERA research conference, “Access, Competition, and For-Profit Colleges”. In collaboration with Sandy Darity, The Research Network on Racial & Ethnic Inequality, and the Sanford School of Public Policy this conference is made possible by generous support from the AERA Conference Grant.

This interdisciplinary two-day conference will convene September 21-22, 2012 at Duke University. You can register  at




Access, Competition and For-Profit Higher Education”

Sponsored by the American Educational Research Association

8:30am                       Registration & Continental Breakfast – Rhodes Conference

8:45am                                    Welcome and Agenda

William Darity. Duke University

Tressie McMillan Cottom, Emory University


8:50am – 9:30am         Mapping the For-profit Research Landscape

Kevin Kinser, Albany State University


9:30am – 9:50am         Q & A


9:50am – 10:00am       Break


10:00am – 11:15am     For-Profit Higher Education and The Social Good

Gaye Tuchman, University of Connecticut &

Bandana Purkayastha University of Connecticut, (co-presenters)

Jonathan White, University and College Union, UK

Sara Goldrick-Rab, University of Wisconsin – Madison



11:15- 11:30am           Q & A


11:30am – 12:30pm    Race, Class, and Gender: Who are For-profit students?

David Harding, University of Michigan*

Letitia Oseguera, Penn State*

Osamudia James, University of Miami School of Law



12:30pm – 12:40pm   Q & A


12:45pm – 12:55pm   Break


12:55pm – 2:55pm     Lunch and Working Groups

Social good, advocacy and for-profits (Lead: Tressie McMillan Cottom)

Future of universities, globalization, and for-profit education

Race, class, gender and for-profits

Public sector finance and for-profits (Lead: Rhonda Sharpe, Bennett College)


2:55pm – 3:00pm       Break


3:00pm – 4:00pm       Data and Methods: How to Study For-profits

Victor Borden, Diverse: Issues in Higher Education, Editor

Thomas Mays, University of Dayton



4:00pm – 4:15pm        Q and A


5:30pm                        Dinner (Location TBD)


Saturday, September 22

8:45am                                    William Darity – Agenda


8:55am – 10:30am       Public Finance, Competition, and For-profits: Do The Means Justify The Ends?

Bonnie Fox Garrity, D’Youville College

Anna Chung, University of Michigan


10:30am – 10:45am     Q and A


10:45am – 10:55am     Break


10:55am – 11:55am     Emerging Scholarship


Christine Tracy and Molly Kleinman, University of Michigan*

Rohit Dutta Roy, Jadavpur University

Margaret Hadinger, University of Pennsylvania

Discussant: Tressie McMillan Cottom, Emory University


11:55am – 12:05         Q and A


12:05pm – 1:30pm      Lunch and Discussion: Goldie Blumenstyk, The Chronicle of Higher Education


Topic: Future Directions for Research in For-Profit Higher Education

Working groups – Drafts from each working group of action items


1:30pm – 1:45pm        Break


1:45pm – 2:45pm       Research synthesis and response: Omari Swinton, Wake Forest University Law School

2:45pm – 3:00pm        Closing Remarks:  Darity and Cottom


3:00pm – 4:15pm        Closed Session: Research and Co-operation

Jorge Klor De Alva, Nexus Research and Policy Center

Kent Jenkins, Corinthian Colleges

Mark Schneider, AEI

Sara Goldrick-Rab, UW-Madison