Bridgepoint, which also owns the University of the Rockies, grew from just 12,623 students in 2007 to 77,892 in 2010. Its profits also exploded, going from just $4 million to over $216 million annually. About 85 percent of its revenue comes directly from the federal treasury.

But if Bridgeport and Warburg Pincus are billing top dollar, they're unrepentant misers when it comes to educating kids. In 2009, Bridgepoint spent less than $700 per student on actual instruction. By comparison, the nearby University of Iowa spends 17 times that figure.

What Bridgeport doesn't short is its marketing, spending $2,714 per student to keep the turnstiles spinning. Overall, the 15 largest for-profit colleges spend nearly $13 billion a year on recruiting and marketing.

Barmak Nassirian, former AACRAO official: “They found a system where the pitch goes to one guy and the bill to someone else.”
courtesy Barmak Nassirian
Barmak Nassirian, former AACRAO official: “They found a system where the pitch goes to one guy and the bill to someone else.”
Iraq War veteran Chris Pantzke ran up $26,000 in debt at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.
courtesy Chris Pantzke
Iraq War veteran Chris Pantzke ran up $26,000 in debt at the Art Institute of Pittsburgh.

Needless to say, it's a terrific business if you don't have to worry about educating kids. Nearly 80 percent won't complete their program within six years — almost double the failure rate at traditional schools.

The tactics have become so brazen that even accreditors are taking notice. Last month, Ashford conceded that the Western Association of Schools and Colleges had denied its accreditation renewal, noting that the school had just 50 full-time faculty members to teach 90,000 online students. Within a week, Bridgepoint's stock price had plunged 50 percent.

"It's basically consumer fraud rendered to a business model," says Nassirian. "Over-advertise, oversell, overcharge and under-deliver. They found a system where the pitch goes to one guy and the bill to someone else."


WE'VE GOT YOUR MONEY. NOW BEAT IT
Mary had been a good student all her life, earning a master's in psychology from William and Mary University in Virginia. When the military transferred her husband to Tampa, she chose Argosy University, the only area school offering a psychology doctorate geared toward clinicians rather than researchers.

Mary, who doesn't want her real name disclosed, figured it was legitimate. Argosy was accredited by the American Psychological Association.

She aced her studies with a 3.7 GPA. All she needed was an internship to graduate. That's where her problems began.

Argosy University, with 19 campuses, is owned by Education Management Corporation [EDMC], whose investors include Goldman Sachs and Providence Equity Partners, a Rhode Island private equity firm. To wring out more profit, Argosy began taking on more students than it could handle, says Mary's lawyer, Florida state Rep. Rick Kriseman.

But Argosy didn't have the professional connections to supply enough internships. So, like air traffic controllers, it decided to place students into holding patterns.

Mary was asked to accept a practicum instead, a lesser form of internship that wouldn't bring her any closer to her doctorate.

She was upset but went along, spending the next eight months volunteering at a mental health facility. But by the time she was finished, Argosy still didn't have enough internships. Her instructors ordered her to take a second practicum.

She didn't have much choice. Mary had already invested four years and over $100,000. She spent another five months volunteering. By then, her instructors had begun to question her intellectual rigor.

They not only flunked her out of the program, but refused to let her defend her work before a board of teachers and peers, then denied her a chance to address administrators before they rejected her appeal. (EDMC refused repeated requests for comment.)

Mary was shocked. "I was an A student," she says. "It was baffling to me how this could happen at the last minute. You have to understand the shame of going to school and being an A student and becoming a flunked-out person. It's so foreign and confusing."

Yet Kriseman would discover a pattern at play, finding three more students who'd suffered a fate similar to Mary's. "When the school did not have those [internship] slots, they found reasons to either dismiss the students or to make it so uncomfortable for them that they left on their own accord," he says.

Argosy's problems seemed to be nationwide. Across the country, in the psychology program at Argosy-Seattle, the school had assured its doctoral candidates that accreditation was moments away — since without certification, their degrees would be all but worthless. It wouldn't be until later that administrators confessed that their application had failed — and they were closing the entire program.


FAILURE AT A LUXURY PRICE
For-profit colleges like to place their alarming failure rates in charitable terms. They claim to disproportionately serve low-income students who struggle in school.

But if they're serving people of lesser means, why are they charging so much money?

On average, a four-year degree from a for-profit runs twice what in-state tuition costs at a public school. When it comes to two-year programs, the disparity widens: For-profits charge three to four times the rates of their public counterparts. Yet they've still managed to fool the political class into believing their competition is driving down tuition.

During the Republican primary, Mitt Romney praised a major donor and co-chairman of his Florida fundraising team — Bill Heavener, owner of Full Sail University — for helping to "hold down the cost of education." What Romney failed to mention is that a 21-month degree in video game art at Full Sail costs over $80,000. And that's not unusual.

A four-year bachelor's degree in business from Indiana-based ITT Tech costs almost $89,000. That's more than twice the in-state tuition at more venerated Indiana University.

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12 comments
argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

TO my Attorney: Before we go any further, I wanted to make sure you both know a little about me and how vital my experience was with Argosy. I wanted to take a moment today to clarify something about my case. Something I neglected to mention. I wanted to mention the true victims of this fraud. I want to spend a moment telling you about my Patients. I want to tell you both how much they meant to me and how deeply wounded I am as their Doctor to no longer be able to reach out my hand and offer hope. I can't express in words how life giving it was to be a Therapist and Evaluator. Every day of my life since departing my field I have wondered how they faired. I wondered if anything or anyone came along and gave them the tools they needed to move forward with their lives. I wondered if anybody stopped to make sure they were being cared for. I sat at home and wondered. I said goodbye to psychology in 2009. I wanted to try to reach people with my words. I chose writing and have nine bestselling Kindle books. But, I always wondered what might have been. I left my field reluctantly. I left because I felt like my voice had been silenced. I felt like I could never escape the clutches of my graduate school and the insurmountable debt it left me in. I thought the only way I could ever hope to reach out to help those in need was through my writing. I thought maybe I could help that way instead. I am happy to report success as I have sold thousands of books (3,284 last year). But, I always dreamed of what might have been had I stayed. I began therapy in 2007 and go once a week. I have tried to practice what I preached to those in pain. And, I am happy to report success. I have moved on to other ventures. I have been developing a Carcinoid cancer charity since 2011. I have posted 360 videos to raise awareness for this rare cancer which my Aunt suffers from. I plan on transitioning to this endeavor permanently. But, I always wondered what might have been had I stayed. I wondered about them. My Patients. And, to find out the school I trusted to guide me to helping those people in pain was a fraud is the most shameful, humiliating, and painful revelation as one could ever imagine. I want to tell you that no matter what happens with this case, I will never let them have the joy, hope, and promise I tried my best to impart to those under my care. They may hide behind clauses and laws but they can never touch that part of me. They may ruin me financially and shame me to my colleagues. But, at least, I will retain that joy from reaching out with hope to those in need. Respectfully, ArgosyWhistleBlower

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

Update: launched facebook page today. Less than four hours later, I have spoken to seven students. One from Maine, one from Arkansas, one from Arizona. All online students. Seems like they have it worse than those of us who had a campus to go to. They are given the run around. Confirms my resolve. Get at us on facebook: "Argosy Whistleblower" or twitter @AUfraud or email me argosywhistleblower@gmail.com We also need former professors/staff/recruiters willing to testify.

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

Correction- In lieu of being deemed uneducated, I hereby correct my typo. I am a Neuropsychologist, former Neuropsychology Fellow. Okay, now that I've clarified my training, let me tell you about my chat with Argosy President Dr. Garrison. I informed Dr. Garrison that I will be pursuing my legal rights to which he replied, "Can I confirm your mailing address to send the copy you requested of your student file?" In other words, he bypassed discussing my tenure at Argosy. I also spoke with Rep. Kriseman of Florida for over an hour. I then spoke with two local Consumer Fraud lawyers. I am happy to report my decision to find and assist ALL Argosy victims. If we can join forces, we can do something. So, if you know anyone who got duped, have them contact me.

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

Attention ALL Argosy students/grads: if you would like to discuss your eligibility for a class action suit contact me at argosywhistleblower(at)gmail(dot)com I am a former Neuropsycholgy Fellow & grad determined to recoup our costs. For all others, please know the Bay Area campus wears the crown in terms of ripping people off. I was a clinic Supervisor at Argosy for four years. I was made to complete THREE practicums! The lady profiled in the article only had to do two & she is headline news? Look no further than Alameda if you want to see corruption in action.

trubluamerican
trubluamerican

It's so disturbing, that these vicious schemes to defraud hardworking citizens, are being created by members of society's elite, who have powerful political and economic connections at the highest level,  of both political persuasions.

wakeup
wakeup

Wake up Kiddos!  It's time to put down your electronic toys and push out those in Congress who made it illegal for you to walk away from student debt, while protecting the degenerates profiting from your basic right to an education. 

If a student agrees to pay the price for an education, then at the very least, demand that educational institutions provide, a quality education that meets industry standards.

notstupid
notstupid

 @wakeup Are you proposing that taxpayers bail out students who did not practice due diligence in deciding to what school to send their money to?

argosywhistleblower
argosywhistleblower

@hollymarieperry On facebook "argosy whistleblower" on twitter @AUfraud by email argosywhistleblower@gmail.com

 
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