Monday, June 13, 2016

the clinton university problem...,

jonathanturley |  While largely ignored by the media, the Clintons have their own university scandal. Donald Trump has been rightfully criticized and sued over his defunct Trump University. There is ample support for claiming that the Trump University was fraudulent in its advertisements and operations. However, the national media has been accused of again sidestepping a scandal involving the Clintons that involves the same type of fraud allegations. The scandal involves a dubious Laureate Education for-profit online college (Walden) and entails many of the common elements with other Clinton scandals: huge sums given to the Clintons and questions of conflicts with Hillary Clinton during her time as Secretary of State. There are distinctions to draw between the two stories, but the virtual radio silence on the Clinton/Laureate story is surprising. [I have updated the original column with some additional thoughts, links, and clarifications for readers).

I have long been a critic of many online courses, though I am increasingly in the minority even on my faculty. However, the rise of online courses has allowed for an increase in dubious pitches and practices that prey upon people who cannot afford or attend a traditional academic institution.  I should also reveal a general opposition to for-profit universities, a view shared by many teachers and experts.  While there are some good for-profit programs from student camps to specialized training courses, Laureate is a massive, mega-corporation that is often criticized for its impact on education.  As companies maximize profits, students often become a mere cost of doing business.  The rate of default has been higher at such for-profit universities and less than half of students at for-profit schools actually finish such programs accordingly to Brookings.  Laureate is often cited as the leader in reducing education to a commodity in a mass for-profit enterprise.  The company has made huge profits and is worth over $4 billion.

Laureate Education was sued over its Walden University Online offering, which some alleged worked like a scam designed to bilk students of tens of thousands of dollars for degrees. Students alleged that they were repeatedly delayed and given added costs as they tried to secure degrees, leaving them deeply in debt.  Laureate itself has been criticized for “turbocharging” admissions while allowing standards to fall and shortchanging education.

The respected Inside Higher Education reported that Laureate Education paid Bill Clinton an obscene $16.5 million between 2010 and 2014 to serve as an honorary chancellor for Laureate International Universities.  Various news outlets said that neither Clinton nor Laureate were forthcoming on how much he was paid for the controversial association.

Bill Clinton worked as the “honorary chancellor” which sounds a bit like the group’s pitchman. He gave speeches in various countries and was heavily touted by the for-profit company to attract students.  The size of this payment (which has been widely reported) raises obvious concerns as to what the company was seeking to achieve and whether Laureate received any benefit from the association with the State Department given its massive international operations.