Category Archives: Higher.Education

Privatization Is Changing America’s Relationship With Its Physical Stuff

Source: Brian Alexander, The Atlantic, July 12, 2017
 
… As vague as Trump’s pronouncements have been on the matter, it is clear that the general thrust behind the promised building-and-repair push involves using federal dollars as up-front investment to entice private enterprises to provide most of the financing. While Democrats announced their opposition, the general idea of increased privatization of infrastructure has had a bipartisan cast. President Obama supported a plan to create an “infrastructure bank” that would help finance so-called public-private partnerships (known, for their alliteration, as P3s), but that idea fizzled under the glare of Republican opposition. He also floated the idea of selling off the Tennessee Valley Authority. …

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Selling Back To The Public What It Already Owned: ‘Public-Private Partnership’ Shark Bait
Source: Mercedes Schneider, Huffington Post, June 12, 2017
 
Today, I read two articles centered on this idea, both of which concerned Vice President Mike Pence – and one that concerned Pence’s role in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.  One article also included a sprinkling of US secretary of [privatized] education, Betsy DeVos.  A major goal of corporate education reform is to deliver public education to private entities (corporations, or even nonprofits, but don’t think that an entity termed “nonprofit” cannot be a handsome money dispenser for those running the nonprofit and doling out contracts). However, the extreme-right-Republican aim does not end with public education but with delivering the operation of the entire American infrastructure to private entities.  In the end, what this entails is having private corporations front money to state and local governments in order to lease back to the public what the public already owns.

How President Trump Might Carry The Torch Of Privatization
Source: Here & Now, WBUR, May 8, 2017

… Now President Trump is poised to continue privatization and private contracting in all kinds of industries, from education to incarceration. Here & Now’s Jeremy Hobson looks at the history and politics of privatization with Donald Cohen and Shahrzad Habibi of the group In The Public Interest. …

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Trump changes higher ed with rollback of Obama-era consumer protections

Source: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Washington Post, July 9, 2017
 
Step by step, the Trump administration is walking back policies and rules in higher education that its predecessor said were needed to protect students who rely on federal funding to pursue a degree. … Through the first half of the year, the department led by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has withdrawn, delayed or announced plans to revamp more than a half dozen Obama-era measures involving federal student aid. …

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Betsy DeVos delays 2 Obama-era rules designed to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges
Source: Valerie Strauss, Washington Post, June 14, 2017
 
The Trump administration is suspending two key rules from the Obama administration that were intended to protect students from predatory for-profit colleges, saying it will soon start the process to write its own regulations.  The move made Wednesday by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos was a victory for Republican lawmakers and for-profit colleges that had lobbied against the rules. Critics denounced it, accusing the administration of essentially selling out students to help for-profit colleges stay in business.

Trump’s Administration Is Making It Easier for For-Profit Colleges to Screw Over More Students
Source: Michelle Chen, The Nation, March 31, 2017
 
Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’s controversial pick for a special assistant—for-profit college corporate lawyer Robert Eitel, may be a portent. As counsel for Bridgepoint, the parent company of the now-tainted brands of Ashford University and University of the Rockies, was forced by the Obama administration last year to refund $24 million in tuition and debt costs to students, plus civil damages, after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau found that its heavy marketing scheme for its online programs, and “deceived its students into taking out loans that cost more than advertised.” …

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Betsy DeVos Picked A Student Loan CEO To Run The Student Loan System

Source: Molly Hensley-Clancy, Buzzfeed News, June 20, 2017
 
When the Trump administration announced its pick to run the $1.3 trillion federal student loan system on Tuesday, there was one notable thing about the candidate that wasn’t mentioned in the press release: He’s the CEO of a private student loan company.  The Education Department’s statement described A. Wayne Johnson as the “Founder, Chairman and former CEO” of a payments technology company called First Performance Corporation. … But what wasn’t noted was Johnson is currently the CEO of Reunion Student Loan Services, a detail confirmed by a company representative reached by phone on Tuesday afternoon. Reunion originates and services private student loans, and offers refinancing and consolidation for existing loans. …

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Betsy DeVos undoes Obama’s student loan protections
Source: Danielle Douglas-Gabriel, Chicago Tribune, April 11, 2017

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos on Tuesday withdrew a series of policy memos issued by the Obama administration to strengthen consumer protections for student loan borrowers.  The Education Department is in the middle of issuing new contracts to student loan servicing companies that collect payments on behalf of the agency. These middlemen are responsible for placing borrowers in affordable repayment plans and keeping them from defaulting on their loans. But in the face of mounting consumer complaints over poor communication, mismanaged paperwork and delays in processing payments, the previous administration included contract requirements to shore up the quality of servicing. Companies complained that the demands would be expensive and unnecessarily time consuming. … DeVos has withdrawn three memos issued by former education secretary John King and his under secretary Ted Mitchell. One of the directives, which was later updated with another memo, called on Runcie to hold companies accountable for borrowers receiving accurate, consistent and timely information about their debt. … The Obama administration requested routine audits of records, systems, complaints and a compliance-review process. … The exhaustive list of demands were a direct response to an outpouring of complaints to the Education Department and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. The CFPB, in particular, has documented instances of servicing companies providing inconsistent information, misplacing paperwork or charging unexpected fees. Because the federal government pays hundreds of millions of dollars to companies such as Navient, Great Lakes and American Education Services to manage $1.2 trillion in student loans, advocacy groups and lawmakers argue that more should be required of these contractors. …

Federal Student Loan Servicing: Contract Problems and Public Solutions
Source: Eric M. Fink, Roland Zullo, Elon University School of Law, University of Michigan, June 2014

One consequence of the 2007–2008 financial crisis was an abrupt shift from bank-based to direct federal student loans. This momentous change required the Department of Education to rapidly establish the capacity to service loans, which was achieved by outsourcing this responsibility to four large for-profit firms and a group of smaller regional entities. Loan servicing involves routine payment processing, account management and borrower communication, as well as the non-routine yet more labor intensive role of assisting borrowers that face hardship with debt repayment. Borrowers have expressed dissatisfaction with the present system. Complaints jumped significantly in the first two years of the loan servicing contracts and remain at historic highs. Several factors contribute to this increase, including the lackluster job market for graduates. However, upon close inspection it appears that loan servicers bear part of the blame for neglecting their responsibility to counsel borrowers with distressed loans. The Student Loan Ombudsman’s Office of the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau has issued several reports that further validate this assertion. To understand why the system is underperforming, we draw attention to the public-private contract. A question for any public-private contract is whether the incentives within are adequate to encourage contractor behavior consistent with the mission of the service. In our review of the contract terms, we conclude that the incentives to reduce operational costs far outweigh the incentives to be responsive to the needs of borrowers…This case illustrates the inherent limitations of a performance-based contract as an administrative tool. Regardless of design, contractors will strive to minimize operational commitment to any labor-intensive task, in this instance attending to the personal needs of borrowers….

Michigan university following Ohio State’s lead with parking privatization

Source: Tom Knox, Columbus Business First, June 29, 2017

A public university in Michigan is considering privatizing its parking system – and using Ohio State University as an example. Eastern Michigan University regents on Tuesday authorized President James Smith to pursue an arrangement to lease out its parking apparatus in exchange for upfront money. … It’s a significant decision because it is one of the first universities to follow Ohio State’s lead after the school signed a first-of-its-kind arrangement in 2012. Ohio State leased its parking operations to Australian pension fund QIC Infrastructure in a 50-year, $483 million deal, framing it as raising money for academics. …

Judge rules Tennessee must release outsourcing records about Fall Creek Falls purchase

Source: Associated Press, June 29th, 2017

A judge has ruled in favor of a media group that sued the state of Tennessee to release records about its attempt to outsource services at Fall Creek Falls State Park. The Tennessee Coalition for Open Government says Davidson County Chancellor Bill Young on Tuesday ruled that the state must produce records to City Press Communications LLC, parent company of the Nashville Scene and the Nashville Post, and reporter Cari Wade Gervin. …

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Controversial state plan to outsource college jobs moves forward
Source: Adam Tamburin, The Tennessean, May 26, 2017

Tennessee moved forward with a controversial plan to outsource jobs at public colleges Friday when officials finalized a contract with a corporation that already handles a sizable amount of state business.  Under the contract, JLL — which currently manages about 10 percent of state facilities — will oversee the potential expansion of outsourcing at college campuses, state parks and prisons. It is a pivotal moment for the proposed expansion, which has been in the works for two years. …

Fall Creek Falls state park outsourcing push draws no bidders
Source: Associated Press, May 11, 2017
 
A push by Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration to outsource hospitality services at a Tennessee state park has drawn no bidders. Tennessee Department of Environment and Conservation spokeswoman Kim Schofinski says that no one bid on the proposal at Fall Creek Falls State Park, located on the Upper Cumberland Plateau in Van Buren and Bledsoe counties. TDEC planned to award the winning bidder $20 million to raze the park’s inn and build a new one. The Tennessee State Employees Association and park workers opposed it. …

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Trump Labor secretary tells G-20: More apprenticeships in US

Source: Laurie Kellman, Associated Press, May 18, 2017
 
U.S. Labor Secretary Alexander Acosta is making public-private apprenticeships his debut issue as President Donald Trump’s point man on matching American workers with specific jobs. … The declaration, and a new campaign of tweets on the subject, represent the first indication since Acosta’s swearing-in three weeks ago that apprenticeships are at the core of the Trump administration’s plans to train a new generation of workers.  The discussion of apprenticeships is a relatively new one for Trump, who campaigned for the White House on promises to restore manufacturing jobs that he said had been lost to flawed trade deals and unfair competition from China, Mexico and more. But it’s not new to policymakers of either party or the private sector, whose leaders have for years run apprenticeship programs. … There’s also evidence of rare bipartisan agreement, at least on the value of apprenticeships, which generally combine state and federal government money with support from universities and companies looking to train people for specific jobs. In some cases, students split their time between school and work, and the companies pay some portion of wages and tuition. The budget compromise funding the federal government through September passed this month with $95 million for apprenticeship grants, an increase of $5 million — in part to increase the number of women apprentices. …

In a bid to ease student debt, California considers a role in helping refinance private loans

Source: Melanie Mason, Los Angeles Times, April 18, 2017
 
State treasurer and gubernatorial hopeful John Chiang is wading into the increasingly high-profile debate over college affordability with a new push for California to play a role in alleviating the burden of high-interest private student loans.  Chiang is sponsoring legislation that would create a $25-million fund that would offer a degree of protection to student loan providers. With the state assuming some of the risk, the measure’s proponents say financial institutions will be more likely to offer lower interest rates to those carrying student debt. … The proposal, which is being carried in the Legislature by Sen. Ben Allen (D-Santa Monica), is among a swell of measures introduced in the Legislature this year aimed at tackling the high cost of college. Allen and Chiang will unveil the legislation at a Capitol news conference Tuesday. …

Loans ‘Designed to Fail’: States Say Navient Preyed on Students

Source: Stacy Cowley and Jessica Silver-Greenberg, New York Times, April 9, 2017
 
In recent months, the student loan giant Navient, which was spun off from Sallie Mae in 2014 and retained nearly all of the company’s loan portfolio, has come under fire for aggressive and sloppy loan collection practices, which led to a set of government lawsuits filed in January. But those accusations have overshadowed broader claims, detailed in two state lawsuits filed by the attorneys general in Illinois and Washington, that Sallie Mae engaged in predatory lending, extending billions of dollars in private loans to students like Ms. Hardin that never should have been made in the first place. …

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Navient Lawsuit Shatters GOP Privatization Myth
Source: David Dayen, The American Prospect, January 19, 2017

The Trump era is likely to usher in rapid privatization of public goods and services. … Behind these plans to sell off the public sector lies a philosophy that private enterprise can perform government roles more cheaply and efficiently. Perhaps nothing shatters this myth more than a lawsuit filed Wednesday against Navient, a company that administers payments on student loans. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and state attorneys general in Illinois and Washington state accuse Navient of “systematically and illegally failing borrowers at every stage of repayment,” using “shortcuts and deception” to rip off students. … Navient committed these alleged violations in part while fulfilling a federal contract for work that could indisputably have been performed by the public sector. … According to the complaint, Navient failed to correctly allocate borrower payments across multiple loans, sometimes ringing up late fees and defaults even when the borrower made the payment. The company steered borrowers into forbearance plans (a temporary break from payments) that increased interest due, rather than other repayment options. The CFPB estimates that $4 billion in unnecessary interest charges piled up on borrower accounts from 2010-2015 because of this. … The CFPB added that Navient gave student borrowers incorrect information for how to maintain eligibility for income-based repayment plans, which only take a sliver of a borrowers’ income every month. … But the Navient lawsuit doesn’t just reinforce why we need the CFPB. It shreds the argument for privatization, particularly of functions the government is perfectly capable of doing on its own. We could easily route student loan payments right to Uncle Sam. But instead, we push them through a predatory actor that needs to commit harm to make it worthwhile. …

City Colleges moving Lakeview Learning Center after $7 million sale

Source: Gregory Pratt, Chicago Tribune, April 6, 2017

City Colleges of Chicago board members Thursday unanimously authorized selling the property housing the Lakeview Learning Center for $7 million. …
City Colleges is selling the Lakeview property to BlitzLake Partners, a private real estate acquisition and development firm, a move that school officials said was fiscally responsible at a time of state budget cuts. The college system has not received $70 million it had expected from the state during the past two years during the historic budget impasse in Springfield that has left higher education with only sporadic funding. … But the move has generated controversy as the Lakeview Learning Center has a long history in the area. … Four people urged trustees at Thursday’s board meeting not to sell the property, including Carlos Aulet, who teaches English as a second language at Truman College and also is vice president of a local chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.  In an interview, Aulet said the Lakeview center “came from the community (and) it belongs to the community.”  “There’s no reason for the sale other than that property values, ever since the Cubs won, have soared there, and somebody smells money,” Aulet said.  George Roumbanis, the union chapter’s president, told the Tribune he’s concerned that students won’t transfer to Truman from the Lakeview campus. …

To Ease The Student Debt Crisis, Hold Colleges Responsible

Source: Doug Webber, FiveThirtyEight, April 6, 2017
 
… In recent years, the public debate over student debt has often focused on the roles of the students who are borrowing the money and the government policies that encourage that borrowing. But there is also another key element of the equation: the colleges themselves. Colleges and universities benefit from the federal student debt system, which lets far more students afford tuition than otherwise could. But they shoulder none of the financial risk that comes with that debt; they get paid just as much regardless of whether students pay off their loans on time.  In the most extreme examples, these misaligned incentives have led to outright fraud and other bad behavior by some schools. Corinthian Colleges, one of the biggest players in for-profit higher education, shut down in 2015 amid allegations it had misled students and the government about its students’ graduation rates and employment prospects. Another big, for-profit college, ITT Technical Institute, closed its doors last year after similar allegations. The real issue, though, isn’t outright fraud — it’s that colleges are partially insulated from basic market forces, and they behave accordingly. They have financial incentives to enroll as many students as possible, and little incentive — or at least, little direct financial incentive — to ensure that those students will graduate on time and find jobs that pay well enough to repay their loans. The issue is particularly acute at less selective institutions including, but not limited to, for-profit colleges. …

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For-Profit Schools: Trump Delays Enforcing New Rules, Lifting Shares
Source: Josh Mitchell and Gunjan Banerji, Wall Street Journal, March 12, 2017
 
It isn’t exactly 2006 again, but for-profit colleges are riding high on Wall Street.  Stocks in the industry, some left for dead five months ago, have climbed rapidly since November as investors cheer President Donald Trump’s talk of easing regulations. Last week, for-profit schools got an inkling he might deliver on the promise when the Education Department announced it would delay enforcing rules drafted under the Obama administration.  Those rules, known as “gainful employment,” threatened to shut down hundreds of for-profit campuses in the next two years due to high debt levels among former students. …

For-profit colleges may lose access to federal student aid
Source: Kimberlee Payton-Jones, American School and University, March 18, 2014

In response to what appears to be a growing national concern, the Obama Administration announced new steps to force career and for-profit colleges to better prepare students for the work force or risk access to federal student aid, according to a press release from the Department of Education.

“The proposed regulations address growing concerns about unaffordable levels of loan debt for students enrolled in these programs by targeting the lowest-performing programs, while shining a light on best practices and giving all programs an opportunity to improve,” Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in the press release.

The regulations seem to be directed at for-profit colleges, which have a higher rate of student loan default than do public institutions. “Students at for-profit colleges represent only about 13 percent of the total higher education population, but about 31 percent of all student loans and nearly half of all loan defaults,” the release said. “In the most recent data, about 22 percent of student borrowers at for-profit colleges defaulted on their loans within three years, compared to 13 percent of borrowers at public colleges.”

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