Entries in Higher Education (3)


GAO Report Exposes Rule-Breaking at for-Profit Colleges

Photodisc/Jack Hollingsworth/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- A new report from the Government Accountability Office found several instances of rule-breaking at several for-profit colleges in the United States. Investigators who went undercover to pose as students found they could get away with blatant flouting of academic standards, such as plagiarism. Some even found they could get away with inserting photos of celebrities and politicians in lieu of written answers to essay questions.

When the investigators presented “fictitious evidence of high-school graduation -- either a home-school diploma or a diploma from a closed high school,” they were allowed to enroll in online courses at 15 commercial colleges, which were not identified in the report.

Once enrolled, the undercover students investigating the colleges engaged in “substandard academic performance,” including plagiarism, failure to attend class, failure to submit assignments and submission of incorrect assignments.

The investigation was conducted over the course of one year, from October 2010 to October 2011. Each investigator enrolled for one term. The report focused on the areas of enrollment criteria, cost, financial aid, course structure, substandard student performance, withdrawal and exit counseling.

Overall, eight of the 15 schools followed standard procedures regarding penalties for academic dishonesty, exit counseling and course grading. There were mixed results for the remaining seven schools.

At one college, “Our undercover student consistently submitted plagiarized material, such as articles clearly copied from online sources or text copied verbatim from a class textbook,” according to the report.

The first time it happened, the instructor told the student to paraphrase but gave full credit. The student continued to turn in plagiarized assignments and ultimately received a failing grade, but no action related to academic misconduct was taken.

There were also situations in which the schools and instructors followed standard policies.

At one college, a professor repeatedly tried to contact a student who logged into class but did not submit assignments or participate in discussions. When the student refused help, the professor locked the student out of the class.

The undercover investigation was done at the request of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, and the chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.

Harkin’s office was closed Wednesday, but he released a statement Tuesday regarding the report, as was reported by the New York Times.

“The fact that many of the schools accepted incomplete and plagiarized work -- sometimes for full credit -- leads me to question whether for-profit college students are truly receiving the quality education they are promised to prepare them for a good job,” Harkin  said.

“Coupled with sky-high tuition costs, alarming dropout rates, poor job placement services and the many other troubling practices that we’ve uncovered in the HELP Committee’s investigation,” Harkin said, “it is obvious that Congress must step in to hold this heavily federally subsidized industry more accountable.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Colleges Use Facebook to Recruit Students

NICHOLAS KAMM/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- According to a recent Kaplan survey of college admissions officers, 82 percent of American universities have set up Facebook pages to communicate with prospective students during the admissions process.

"College-aged kids use social networking a lot," said Jeff Olson, Kaplan's vice president of research. "A majority use it every day. Now colleges are recognizing what a powerful tool it can be."

Olson said that over the past few years, attitudes toward colleges using social media have changed. Initially, people saw universities engaging with prospective students over sites like Facebook as a negative interaction, he said.

"There was this 'Oh, no!' reaction at first," he said. "But as social networking becomes more popular, people are warming up to the idea."

A lot of the fear stemmed from the belief that colleges would use information found on an applicant's Facebook profiles against them, he said.

Kaplan's survey of college admissions officers suggests that about 10 percent of officers have checked an applicant's online profile. This figure has not changed since 2008, despite more colleges using social media to recruit students.

Olson remembers how one student posted comments on his Facebook, bragging about how he was "too good" for a certain university that accepted him. An admissions officer saw the comments and rescinded the school's invitation to enroll. But Olson admits that cases in which students harm themselves using social media are "isolated."

"In the end, your Facebook is far less important than your transcripts," he said.

This year, Boston University received nearly 42,000 freshman applications. With that many applications to review, checking the Facebook page of every potential student would be impossible, said Colin Riley, Boston University's spokesman.

"It would be too time-consuming," he said.

He said, however, that if there is a compelling reason to look into an applicant's online profile, admissions representatives may do so.

For example, if a student writes an essay about how they organized a charity event through Facebook, or maintained a school club's social media accounts, the admissions staff may look into the student's profile for support.

Olson predicts that as social media becomes more popular, the practice of colleges using Facebook and similar sites will become even more common.

Such technology can be a great way for students to get information, he said, but he does warn students to be careful when using it.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Nonprofit Gives Scholarships to White Males Only

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(SAN MARCOS, Texas) -- When Colby Bohannan was looking for college financial aid nine years ago, he concluded that he was at a disadvantage because of his race.

"In the landscape of the scholarship foundations in this country, there is just one demographic that does not have a single dedicated scholarship," he told ABC News. And that demographic, said Bohannan, is white males.

Bohannan said he found a plethora of scholarship options for minorities and women when he was searching in 2002, but not one dedicated solely to white males.

So after taking a hiatus from school during which he served in the Iraq War, Bohannan launched the Former Majority Association for Equality, a nonprofit organization that takes its name from the fact that according to U.S. census numbers, non-Hispanic whites make up only 45 percent of the Texas state population.

"Trying to afford an education is not easy," said Bohannan, 28. "Just because you're white and male doesn't mean you have a bunch of money lying around to pay for books and rent."

The Association, which Bohannan started with his cousin Brandon Bohannan and William Lake, the group's treasurer, plans to offer five $500 scholarships to eligible students -- white males -- from anywhere in the country.

Unsurprisingly, not everyone agrees that white males need a dedicated scholarship.

"Our largest state-funded financial aid program is the Texas Grants program, and in 2009 we served about 63,000 students," said Dominic Chavez at the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, which promotes greater access to higher education in the state.

"I am not sure I accept the premise that these programs are targeting students of color," Chavez said. "These programs are targeted to poor Texans. There is no consideration of race [or] ethnicity for the allocation of these awards."

The board's goal is to increase enrollment of every single ethnic group in higher education by 5.7 percent -- that includes whites as well as blacks, Asians and Hispanics, said Chavez, who pointed out that college enrollment rates are down among males across all ethnic groups.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

ABC News Radio