April 20, 2012

Scams and Frauds (Plus George W. Bush and Michelle Rhee) At Upcoming Subprime College Conference in Vegas

Scams and Frauds (Plus George W. Bush and Michelle Rhee) At Upcoming Subprime College Conference in Vegas

Republic Report previously reported that former President George W. Bush will be speaking at the annual meeting of APSCU, the leading association of for-profit colleges, on June 22 at the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. For-profit colleges get $32 billion in student aid from your tax dollars every year, but many are marked by deceptive recruiting, low-quality programs, sky-high prices, and high dropout rates.

Bush is an appropriate speaker, in a sense, because his Administration’s deliberate actions made it easier for bad actors among for-profit schools to engage in a decade of waste, fraud, and abuse that has earned them billions in profits but has left many former students deep in debt and without job prospects. Bush’s appearance is “presented” by Pearson, the education publishing company whose nonprofit foundation is now under investigation by the New York attorney general for allegedly seeking to improperly influence state education officials with free trips to destinations like London, Helsinki, Singapore and Rio de Janeiro.

But the overall conference is mostly presented by … you and me, because taxpayers provide close to 90 percent of revenues for many for-profit schools. So Republic Report wants you to stay informed about how your money is being spent on this Vegas event, just as we’ve covered APSCU’s Washington DC lobby meeting and its luxurious “senior executive management seminar” at the “palatial Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe resort.”

Well, there is more to report:

Scam bookings: APSCU’s website now warns of  “Annual Convention Lodging Scam Alert: BEWARE!” Apparently, “at least two companies have been calling APSCU 2012 Annual Convention registrants and exhibitors luring them to book hotel rooms through them.” But, “This effort is in no way sanctioned by APSCU and interferes with APSCU’s existing contracts with hotels to secure adequate room space and favorable group rates for Convention participants…. The two known companies are: National Travel Associates and Convention Expo Travel. The scams may be operating under other names, as well. THESE COMPANIES HAVE NO AFFILIATION WITH APSCU. PLEASE DO NOT RESPOND TO THESE ATTEMPTS AT ‘HOUSING PIRACY,’ WHICH IS A SCAM AFFECTING THE LAS VEGAS CONVENTION BUSINESS.” Well, then. We don’t want anyone ripped off.

Scam entertainment: APSCU has announced the performers for its Annual Concert, and it’s Creedence Clearwater Revisited. Woo-hoo! “Fortunate Son,” “Proud Mary,” “Who’ll Stop the Rain”! Wait, Creedence Clearwater Revisited? We thought it said Creedence Clearwater Revival, the great late sixties band. Certainly the logo looks similar. Turns out  Creedence Clearwater Revisited does have the original drummer and bass player from Creedence Clearwater Revival, but it doesn’t have John Fogerty, the guy who wrote and sang all the hits.  Fogerty’s only connection to this band is that he once sued them.  At least APSCU is economizing here with our tax dollars by hiring a phony band.

Scam attendees (allegedly): Here are some member highlights since last year’s APSCU convention:

  • The attorneys general of 23 states have pursued a joint investigation of possible fraudulent activities by for-profit colleges including Corinthian, University of Phoenix, Education Management Corp., Kaplan, Keiser, and Bridgepoint.
  • The U.S. Justice Department and half a dozen states have sued Education Management Corp., owner of the Art Institutes and other for-profits, for fraud, alleging the company  paid its recruiters based on the number of students signed up, in violation of federal rules. (EDMC denies these claims.)
  • Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, disclosed on Thursday, that the SEC is investigating the company regarding insider trading. (Apollo said it would cooperate.)

Finally, some really depressing news: APSCU has announced the conference’s “additional speaker,” and it’s former District of Columbia Public Schools chancellor Michelle Rhee, now the CEO of education advocacy group Students First. If you’ve been on the fence about Rhee, not sure if she’s a sincere reformer with real results or a union-busting elitist aimed at replacing public education with charters, private schools, and online learning companies, you may find cause to jump off the fence now. By speaking at the annual meeting of the most cynical group of “educators” ever assembled — Wall-Street owned businesses that enrich their CEOs and ruin students’ lives at taxpayer expense and then hire armies of lobbyists to protect their privileges — Rhee has made her preferences very clear.  (It’s always possible that she agreed to speak with the intent of telling the for-profits to clean up their act, but I doubt it.)  Rhee staked her career on the concept of shutting down underperforming, bad schools. And now she will address a room full of them.