Durbin Calls for ‘Careful Review’ of University of Phoenix

The Higher Learning Commission has been urged by the Senate to undertake a “careful review” of the University of Phoenix and for-profit higher education.

Senator Dick Durbin has urged the Higher Learning Commission college accrediting body to do a “careful review” of the Apollo Group Inc. (APOL)’s University of Phoenix as the for-profit college industry comes under an increasing amount of federal scrutiny.

Since the last evaluation a decade ago, the for-profit college, the largest in the U.S., has been the subject of at least five state lawsuits and a federal investigation, Durbin, the Democrat from Illinois, said in a letter yesterday to Sylvia Manning, president of the commission, writes Oliver Staley at Bloomberg.

Congress and states attorneys general have recently begun investigating sales practices and student debt problems.

After Goldman Sachs became a partner in Education Management Corp, after the Pittsburgh company’s executives agreed to sell its portfolio of more than 70 colleges for $3.4 billion, employees soon noticed a drastic shift in culture, writes Chris Kirkham at the Huffington Post.

“Longtime admissions managers were replaced, ushering in an era in which recruiters were endlessly hounded by supervisors about hitting weekly enrollment targets. The admissions staff nearly tripled, requiring expanded floor space to accommodate a sales force of more than 2,600 across the country.”

Patrick Flynn was a recruiter at EDMC’s South University online from 2006 through 2009.

He said:

“It just got to the point where I felt like I was lying to these people on a regular basis.

“Honestly, I just felt dirty doing the things I was doing. It’s almost like they were trying to make me take advantage of people’s belief in what this education was going to get them, when I didn’t buy into it myself.”

Durbin has urged the Chicago-based Higher Learning Commission to take care with its thorough review.

As for-profit colleges get as much as 90 percent of their revenue from federal programs, accreditation is essential for students to receive federal financial aid.

And as the industry grows faster than any other in the sector, Durbin believes it “warrants careful scrutiny.”

“We have limited federal resources for student financial aid, making it imperative that participating institutions offer their students quality education, clear information about their financial obligations and appropriate educational support.”

Bill Pepicello, president of the University of Phoenix, said:

“We appreciate Senator Durbin’s focus on ensuring a thorough accreditation process.

“This review will be the largest and most significant in higher education accreditation history and will be the benchmark for review of all institutions and online programs. We are proud of the quality education we’ve provided at University of Phoenix for more than 30 years.”

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