All posts tagged for-profit college

Liberal Arts Colleges: the Tsunami is Coming


Of all the colleges that stand to face difficulties in the coming decade, liberal-arts colleges are at the top of the list. This is not news to anyone who follows higher education, but this thoughtful interview with Victor E. Ferrall, the former president of Beloit College, brings a lot of the points home.

One of the points of pride of the many liberal-arts colleges in this country is that each one is different: in culture, in appeal, in teaching style. All feel superior to the other, at least in one area, or at least “different” enough that they could never stand to be affiliated.  But it is that competition and unwillingness to compromise that may kill them. Almost half of the non-profit institutions listed earlier this month by the Department of Education for low financial-responsibility scores can be classified as liberal-arts colleges. Throw in small religious and bible colleges, and theological seminaries, and the proportion is almost two-thirds.

Here’s the usual proviso: the most deep-pocketed liberal-arts colleges with the biggest brand names need not worry so much. Their education is still in demand. But for most other small liberal arts colleges, they face a public who sees their education as a luxury they cannot afford, not with all the student debt already out there.

Mr. Ferrall has reason to be worried. His college, Beloit, may be just the type of colleges with a future that looks pretty cloudy financially. He proposes that liberal-arts colleges look to share faculty, share curriculum, and look elsewhere for commonalities. As he rightly points out, many smaller liberal-arts colleges long ago shed their pure “liberal arts” orientation, and now graduate more students with degrees in education and business than in any other discipline.That was the major departure from their historic orientation. Merging some operations with other like-minded institutions won’t take away their reason for being. It may make them stronger.

The alternative for many of these colleges is likely somewhere off a cliff.

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College Pays The Bills: The For-Profit Cover Up

Westwood College has a new guarantee for its students. If you don’t get a job within six months it will help pay your bills. And they are advertising it heavily – I stumbled on the pledge through a paid banner on a news website. Founded in 1953 and based in Denver, Colorado, Westwood College has 17 campuses across the country. Westwood College is a for-profit college that offers bachelor and associate degree programs in business, design, technology, industrial services, justice and healthcare. Currently there are 15,000 students enrolled in classes on campus or online.

The details are simple – if you don’t get a job in six months then Westwood will pay you $500 per month for up to 6 months if you have a bachelor’s degree, and $250 per month for up to 6 months if you have an associate degree. It’s a lot like unemployment benefits for recent graduates. “Eligible graduates must check in weekly in person or via phone with career services beginning upon graduation,” the website says. Not a bad guarantee, but I am interested in knowing if this pushed up the tuition cost a little bit.

The “Westwood Employment Pledge,” is an interesting move in a shaky economy and for an institution with a lot of controversy. There is little doubt the pledge is Westwood’s response to critics of high tuition and the value of a degree from a for-profit institution. According to the Denver Post, Westwood College was sued in federal court in August 2010 for the “misrepresented value of its degrees and inflated potential post-graduation salaries to lure prospective students.” The employment pledge feels like a cover up. Pay $75,000 to Westwood College for the average bachelor degree and get $3,000 back if you don’t get a job. Do the math – the odds are still in the house’s favor.

To learn more about the details of the Westwood Employment Pledge click here.

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