His tenure at the Art Institute came to an end on Easter, when he was hurt in a serious car accident. Unable to type for six months, Pantzke decided he'd instead study photography on his own. In just 18 months at the Art Institute, he'd run up $26,000 in debt and burned through an additional $65,000 of his G.I. Bill benefits — with almost nothing to show for it.

Yet if Pantzke got away, there were plenty of other servicemen where he came from. A story by Bloomberg news caught a recruiter from Ashford University visiting a wounded warrior barracks at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. It seems that injured veterans — notably those with head injuries — are particularly receptive to the for-profit sales pitch. The story's opening line said it all: "U.S. Marine Corporal James Long knows he's enrolled at Ashford University. He just can't remember what course he's taking."

Federal data shows that for-profits are increasingly targeting veterans. In 2009, they took in almost as much military money as public colleges — though they were educating just one-third of veteran students. Last year, eight of the top 10 educational institutions collecting G.I. Bill benefits were for-profit, taking in a stunning $626 million.

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.

"I think sometimes the emphasis is on signing up the student as opposed to whether or not the student is really ready to be successful at that school," says Holly Petraeus, an official with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and wife of General David Petraeus. "The top 10 recipients of G.I. Bill aid, eight are for-profit schools, and they are very heavily engaged in marketing to the military — quite successfully, frankly."


IT'S ALL ABOUT THE BENJAMINS
The University of Phoenix will never be confused with Yale. According to one 2010 report, 90 percent of its students fail to graduate within six years.

Still, by pure monetary standards, former CEO Todd S. Nelson was a success. During his tenure, he tripled revenue for the school's parent company, the Apollo Group. Enrollment surged to more than 300,000.

Unfortunately, he accomplished this the old-fashioned way — by cheating. Since 1992, it's been illegal to pay recruiters based on how many students they bring through the door. Phoenix did it anyway until two recruiters blew the whistle, initiating a suit that would ultimately cost the school $88.3 million in settlements and fines.

Under pressure, Nelson was forced out in 2006, walking away with a generous $18 million severance. Apollo and Phoenix founder John Sperling put a polite spin on the exit, saying only that Nelson was "preoccupied" with stock price to the detriment of the school's long-term health.

Yet if Nelson's profit motives were too lusty for Phoenix, they were a match made in corporate heaven for Goldman Sachs. The Wall Street bank had partnered with two private equity firms to buy EDMC. Nelson was hired as the company's new CEO. Former Maine Gov. John McKernan Jr. — husband of Sen. Olympia Snowe (R-Maine) — was named chairman of the board. Over the next five years, the company's revenue would nearly triple to $2.8 billion.

Last year, Nelson took home $13.1 million in salary and stock. By the standards of for-profit executive pay, he was working on the cheap.

Gregory Cappelli, his replacement at the University of Phoenix, received $25 million last year. CEO Robert Silberman of Strayer Education raked in an astounding $41.9 million in 2009. Yet even this pales next to Jonathan Grayer, the former CEO of Kaplan University, who walked away with a $76 million severance package — courtesy of Kaplan's parent company, the Washington Post.

By comparison, Harvard President Drew Faust collected a meager $875,331 in 2010.

Nelson's bad-boy practices have predictably caught up with him. Last year, the Justice Department and attorneys general from five states charged EDMC with fraud for paying recruiters based on the money they generated. Six more states have joined the suit.

EDMC claims its sales pay is not just based on bodies enrolled, but such things as business ethics, professionalism, and job knowledge. Kathleen Bittel would beg to differ. She was an EDMC recruiter when Nelson arrived, and readily attests to the change in atmosphere.

Over the next three years, the sales staff increased from 950 people to more than 2,600. "Once Goldman Sachs took over and they brought in [Nelson], everything changed," she says. "Everything became much more cutthroat. It was just more oppressive and very high pressure.... They were watching you constantly."

Like Lawrence, Bittel had studied psychology and proved adept at forging bonds. She'd gone back to school in her 40s to support her family of four after her husband got cancer. She understood the difficulties of raising kids, working full time and going to college. At first, she admits to "drinking the Kool-Aid," believing Argosy's online program could help people like her.

After six months on the job, she was allowed to take Argosy courses for free. That's when she discovered she'd aided a bait-and-switch. Many of the features she heralded to students were barely functional or didn't exist. The Worldwide Professionals Network, where students could find graduate mentors in their field, was nothing more than a bulletin board. Promised mp3 downloads of classes also didn't exist.

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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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