April 18, 2024

Flailing U of Idaho President Accuses Phoenix Deal Critics of “Misinformation”

Flailing U of Idaho President Accuses Phoenix Deal Critics of "Misinformation"

University of Idaho president C. Scott Green this week reaffirmed his determination to acquire the troubled for-profit University of Phoenix, despite the mounting opposition in his state and the growing evidence that the proposed $685 million purchase could be a disaster for the school and the state of Idaho.

He also leveled false attacks on critics of the deal.

“There is a desire to continue to move this along,” Green told the State Board of Education on Wednesday morning, Idaho Education News reports. “We’re trying to figure out what that’s going to look like. … We do believe there are a couple different paths available.”

Green said discussions with the University of Phoenix’s current owner, private equity giant Apollo Global Management, with legislators, and with Governor Brad Little (R), were ongoing.

Green, who already has spent more than $10 million of the university’s money on expensive lawyers and consultants to pursue the Phoenix deal, did not offer specifics as to what a path forward might be.

His statement came in the wake of the Idaho legislature signaling its opposition to the deal, with the House of Representatives last month passing a bill asking the Board of Education to reconsider the deal and authorizing the legislature to sue to stop it — and the Idaho Senate subsequently rejecting a bill aimed at fixing the constitutional flaws in the arrangement that had been highlighted by the state legislature’s lawyer and by Idaho’s attorney general, Raul Labrador. 

Republican statehouse leaders subsequently declared the deal close to death.

Green’s insistence on owning Phoenix also came after the rating agency Moody’s expressed concerns about the financial impact of the deal, and Idaho state treasurer Julie Ellsworth did the same. It also came after the University of Arizona’s president, Robert Robbins, announced he would step down following criticism from the state’s governor, Katie Hobbs, over Robbins’ mismanagement and apparent dishonesty over that school’s acquisition of a similarly awful for-profit college, Ashford University. 

President Green, like President Robbins before him, doesn’t seem to grasp that the school he wants to buy, the school that Apollo seems so anxious to unload, the school that other prospective purchasers have rejected, comes with potential multi-millions in liability for cancelled student loan debt held by students who were ripped off by Phoenix’s deceptive practices. Even though Green was warned about those risks last September in a letter from three senior U.S. senators, warnings that have been repeated by numerous editorialists in his state.

Phoenix has repeatedly gotten in trouble with law enforcement for making false promises to students, and it may well be in trouble again with the Federal Trade Commission for a recent deceptive ad campaign. So the risk of liability is on the rise. 

Green doesn’t seem to understand, also, that Phoenix’s special sauce, which has produced billions in profits over decades, is not high-quality education or a high-tech platform.  Instead, it’s a ruthless advertising operation and call center that pressures and tricks inexperienced students into signing up for overpriced programs that often leave them buried in debt and without the careers they sought.  Less than a quarter of Phoenix students have ended up obtaining the degrees they wanted.

Green also doesn’t seem to care that Phoenix’s bad outcomes, if he rescues the school by buying it, would fall mostly on the 99 percent of its students who don’t live in Idaho, and the 99 percent of US taxpayers who live outside the state. What seems to excite him is a projected $10 million annually in revenue that Idaho would be able to pull out of Phoenix. Never mind that the cash would come from the morally-troubling practice of enrolling lower-income people in expensive and often worthless programs — or that the earnings could rapidly diminish if Phoenix tries to go straight and end its deceptive marketing, or else if it stays crooked but gets ensnared again by law enforcement.

Instead of being honest about the risks of buying repeat offender Phoenix, Green is now falsely accusing the deal’s critics of making things up.

In an email Monday to university staff and students, Green claimed the Senate bill failed “after some last-minute political maneuvers and the dissemination of false information.”

Similarly, Green told the Board of Education on Wednesday, “There was a lot of political maneuvering and a lot of misinformation, or new information, depending on how you’re looking at it, that we had to cut through and respond to.” 

Green didn’t explain what false information he was combatting. 

Green’s comments to the state board did, however, highlight a key piece of misinformation that he himself was peddling in trying to shove through the Phoenix deal. In statements to the legislature and filings with the state courts addressing a legal challenge to the deal from attorney general Labrador, Green and his minions had insisted that the deal had to get done quick to meet a May 19 deadline for getting on the agenda of Phoenix’s accreditor, or a May 31 deadline that would allow either side to walk away, or else it would collapse.

Now the May deadlines cannot be met, yet Green told the Board of Education that all sides remain committed to the deal. 

So the deadline was fake. Just like, as happens every day, when a sophisticated for-profit college pressures a prospective student to enroll by saying that spaces in the class are just about filled, so therefore the veteran, single mom, immigrant, or other striving person before them had better enroll right away, whatever doubts they have.

In truth, for-profit schools like Phoenix will enroll almost anyone, almost any time, so long as they are eligible for federal aid money. And also in truth, Apollo Global Management would likely be pleased to unload its turkey at any time, to any sucker. 

Whether Green, who comes from a Wall Street career, was duped by Phoenix’s private equity owners into believing the May deadline was firm, or whether he was joining them in duping his state, doesn’t really matter at this point. Enough people in Idaho have seen through the con.

When will C. Scott Green stop wasting his fellow Idahoans’ time and their money?