The Starting Line – The Moral Bankruptcy of Bridgepoint Education/Ashford University

by on September 25, 2012 · 7 comments

in Activism, Business, Columns, Editor's Picks, Education, Food & Drink, Government, Politics, The Starting Line

One of San Diego larger private employers, Ashford University/Bridgepoint Education, announced layoffs for 450 employees yesterday, a move that’s bound to send ripples throughout the region.  Employees were told to come in early, shown a video and offered a two-week severance package.  Then it was out the door.

As promised by the Dougchester, the minions at the UT-San Diego did their best to put a positive spin on the situation, quoting a “senior analyst with Wells Fargo Securities” saying that the company’s moves (400 other employees were also transferred) were good enough to address concerns by accreditation authorities.

The coverage at UT-San Diego was technically correct in its reporting of the facts, giving a nod here and there to various “problems” that Ashford/Bridgepoint has encountered with agencies over its low graduation and high dropout rates along with a business model that is overwhelmingly oriented towards marketing as opposed to education.

What’s missing is the important contextual information. The crisis at the private educational institution is symptomatic, pointing to the likelihood of yet another ‘bubble’ bursting that will impact the larger economic picture, brought on by student loans that are defaulted.  As with all bubbles, there will be ripple effects, and the people most affected will be those with the least to lose.

Also missing is any sense of the tragic impact that the economic model used by Ashford/Bridgepoint has and is having on the lives of both the students who are lured by its promises of opportunity and the former employees who have been cast aside.  I’ve found an excellent account (read it here!) written by a former Bridgepoint employee that describes the moral bankruptcy driving this darling of the local business and political establishment.

In keeping with the long tradition by the San Diego news media, a warm, fuzzy blanket is being wrapped around a major “beloved” player in the local economy so that the public awareness will be shielded from the consequences of reprehensible corporate behavior and the complacency of elected officials that allows that conduct to continue unabated.

The aftermath of past corporate disintegrations brought on by unsustainable business models (or a legal/quasi-legal ponzi scheme, as I like to call it) has been a sort of local amnesia, followed by admonitions that “too much regulation” is bad for business. At the bottom of this well of malevolent corporate behavior is the ultimate reality that we citizens will get stuck with the bill for damages while most of its perpetrators will walk away unscathed.

Word of the Day: UT-SD CEO Lynch Adds to the Lexicon

The SD Reader has been aggressive in its reporting on the financial travails of the DougChester’s main Mission Valley minion, CEO John Lynch. There was the matter of the unpaid bill to American Express, now cleared up, according to a missive to the weekly paper. And then the there was the matter of the foreclosure notice on a house in Rancho Santa Fe. Lynch’s response to reporter Dorian Hargrove:

“I know you will attempt to make something celatious (sic: see below) of this, but several of my assets were tied up for 15 months when I was in a lawsuit with the former partners of the two radio companies of which I was a part owner. The lawsuits have been settled. And frankly, my personal balance sheet is in good shape. I have no (0) debt other than this one mortgage.”

After responding the Lynch’s plaintive plea suggesting that he was being persecuted (“the default is a matter of public record, and Lynch is an important person in San Diego.”), scribe Don Bauder went on to ponder the linguistic question brought up in the media mogul’s retort:

I am not sure I understand why Lynch used the word “celatious.” It is a rare word — almost non-existent. A 1934 Webster’s says that celation is “concealment, esp. of a pregnancy or childbirth.” Currently, the word is used infrequently, seemingly in matters concerning concealment of a child born out of wedlock. The word “cellacious” is a new coinage of salacious or lustful material communicated by mobile phone. The Reader has nothing celatious, cellacious, or salacious in mind when pursuing this financial matter.

If it’s Tuesday, you know what that means…. (Roger Hedgecock Edition)

It must be time for more wingnuttia…  Yes folks, the craziness just keeps on keepin’ on, and I’m makin’ sure that you keep up with the latest stuff rather than waiting for those recycled emails from your crazy uncle…

Local wingnut Roger Hedgecock has a column in today’s UT-San Diego complaining about how he was treated during an appearance on HBO’sReal Time with Bill Maher:

 I found myself the token conservative, the pin cushion, the foil for the snide and snarky, the stand-in for evil Romney. The audience was packed with Obamanites howling for conservative blood. It was a great night.

 While I was fully aware of Maher’s politics and “humor,” I had been lured into this by the promise of a balanced panel, Maher and one other liberal and me and one other conservative.

The column is waaay funnier than his appearance on the show (which apparently he took seriously). Here’s an indirect link (HBO’s a little tight fisted with its product) to the clip where he summons up enough courage to respond to MSNBC’s blowhard Chris Mathews.

It’s so gratifying when you get to see somebody of Hedgecock’s ilk get a dose of their own medicine. Or, as SD CityBeat editor Dave Rolland said on Twitter: “Don’t you love it when guys who cultivate a bully persona suddenly think they’ve been victimized?”

So in today’s column we get to see Hedgecock’s reconstructed-to-fit-his-worldview memory of what happened, where it is suggested that our local wingnut needed the security (to protect him from the howling Obamanites, no doubt) that was on hand for guest Salman Rushdie . And we learn that Roger’s experience on an entertainment program is a likely preview of what Presidential candidate Mitt Romney will see in his upcoming debates with Obama.  What is it that the kids say? Oh yeah, LMAO.

The Green Party Campaign Comes to Town

The Green Party candidate for President, Dr. Jill Stein, will be making a campaign swing through San Diego tomorrow (September 26), with appearances at the University of San Diego (10:30am, Pardee Legal Research Center, Lecture Room 132, Sponsored by:Environmental Law Society of the University of San Diego) and San Diego State University (12:30pm, Tula Hall Meeting Room, Sponsored by M.E.C.H.A)  For further information visit http://www.sdgreenparty.org/

Occupy San Diego’s Anniversary Planning Underway

Occupy San Diego will be celebrating its one year anniversary the weekend of October 6th and 7th, which, they remind us, will also mark the eleventh anniversary of the war in Afghanistan.  They’re asking for people to take part in the planning for the commemoration of their first year in San Diego tomorrow, Wednesday, September 26th at 6pm at Children’s’ Park.

NoPark Gets a Nano

It keeping with its newly found status (as described by Forbes) as one of the nation’s best hipster neighborhoods, North Park is getting a yet another boutique business as Hess Brewery is opening a location in the old religious bookstore at 3812 Grim Ave.  Hess maintains its ‘nano-brewery’ status (as opposed to ‘micro’) by virtue of the fact that they make beer in 50 gallon or less batches.  They also sell their beer in cans, a rarity among small brewers.

Tweet of the Day:

Give the unionized workers “what they want,” said the RNC’s Communications Director. (No, really!) bit.ly/QQ3uit#p2 #1u

— BoldProgressives.org (@BoldProgressive) September 24, 2012

On This Day: In 1789 the first U.S. Congress adopted 12 amendments to the Constitution. Ten of the amendments became the Bill of Rights.  In 1975 singer Jackie Wilson collapsed while performing “Lonely Teardrops” at the Latino Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ. He had suffered a heart attack that caused brain damage. He was 41 years old. He died in 1984 after spending the rest of his life in hospitals. In 1983 a Soviet military officer, Stanislav Petrov, averted a potential worldwide nuclear war. He declared a false alarm after a U.S. attack was detected by a Soviet early warning system. It was later discovered the alarms had been set off when the satellite warning system mistakenly interpreted sunlight reflections off clouds as the presence of enemy missiles.

Eat Fresh! Today’s Farmers’ Markets: Coronado (1st St. & B Ave., Ferry Landing) 2:30 – 6 pm, Escondido  (Grand Ave. btw Juniper & Kalmia St.) 2:30 – 6:00 pm , Mira Mesa  (Mira Mesa High School 10510 Reagan Rd.) 3–7 pm, Morena District   (1240 West Morena Blvd.) 3 – 7 pm, Otay Ranch – Chula Vista (2015 Birch Rd. and Eastlake Blvd.) 4 –8 pm, Pacific Beach  (Bayard & Garnet) 2 – 6:30pm, UCSD/La Jolla (UCSD Campus, Town Square at Gilman/Meyers) 10 am – 2 pm (Sept. 25 through mid-June; closed for winter, spring and summer breaks)

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I read the Daily Fishwrap(s) so you don’t have to… Catch “the Starting Line” Monday thru Friday right here at San Diego Free Press (dot) org. Send your hate mail and ideas toDougPorter@SanDiegoFreePress.Org    Check us out on Facebook and Twitter.

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Doug Porter

Doug Porter was active in the early days of the alternative press in San Diego, contributing to the OB Liberator, the print version of the OB Rag, the San Diego Door, and the San Diego Street Journal. He went on to have a 35 year career in the Hospitality business and decided to go back into raising hell when he retired. He won awards for 'Daily Reporting and Writing: Opinion/Editorial' from the Society of Professional Journalists in 2013 and 2014. Doug is a cancer survivor (sans vocal chords) and lives in North Park. NEW: Ello contact @dougbob
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avatar John Anderson September 25, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Excited for Hess Brewing to open up in North Park. Awesome beers across the board and expect big things from them in the future.

avatar John Lawrence September 25, 2012 at 2:59 pm

The for profit universities like Ashford have salesmen for guidance counsellors/admission officers whose job it is to sell the potential student on taking out huge student loans in order to attend their institution. Many of these students are poor; some are on welfare. Makes no difference. They are selling the American Dream to anyone and everyone no matter how qualified. They have swallowed the nonsense that by becoming college graduates they will make more money over the course of their lifetime. A lot of these students never make it through the program or credentialization process, but they are not relieved of the responsibility of their student loan debt and the inevitable forebearances, delinquencies and defaults which can triple the original amount owed.

Even the ones who do graduate find themselves still working at Starbucks, McDonalds or Wal-Mart without a hope or a prayer of ever repaying their student loans. Collective student loan debt now is greater then collective credit card debt, and is probably the next big bubble gearing itself up to crash. The fact that student loan debt can’t be discharged in bankruptcy means that it will follow the former students for the rest of their lives even to the point of having their social security checks garnished.

avatar John Smith September 26, 2012 at 8:51 am

ASHFORD LAYOFFS – If you were laid off in the last 60-90 days, Ashford avoids using that term, they call it eliminated, dismissed, or ended our relationship, it is really called laid off. Anyway, before you accept the 2 week severance package or if you weren’t offered anything from the July lay-offs, check out the Cal-warn Act. You may be eligible for up to 60 days pay due to a mass lay-off. They still may be sticking it to you

avatar John P. Falchi September 29, 2012 at 8:52 am

The mass of for profit universities which have sprung up in places like San Diego County in recent years are a real ripoff of the U.S. taxpayers. Iworked for one of these schools with classes up to 55 students who pay $1,000. per course, whereas the instructors could get as little as $1,500. a course. In other words, they spend a much larger percentage of their income, not on educational expenses, but rather on marketing. They do this to reel in many students who might not have undertaken going to college by encouraging them to take out student loans–which many will end up paying for the rest of their lives. This is true of the many who are college dropouts and who do not graduate. Such a recruitment process should be much more strictly monitored and regulated as the student loan bubble is about to burst!

avatar WestCoastLady December 8, 2012 at 10:04 pm

I am over 40 yrs old & was an Admissions Counselor at Ashford University.
In April 2012, My director falsely accused me (via a verbal warning) of something but refused to give me details as to what I committed. I have witnesses (co-workers), who sat next to me all day long who saw me working tirelessly at my desk.

I was also slandered by another senior staff member as well. I reported this to Human Resources & they refused to help me or provide details. After reporting their slander to H.R.,along with providing irrefutable evidence to prove that they lied, my Director followed up a few days later with a “corrective Action” (2nd warning) with vague, unsubstantiated accusations.

**NOTE: That 2nd warning was used to prevent me from receiving free tuition benefits there as well as prevented me to move up within the organization.

I have had subsequent warnings later in the summer.

They were a result of my complaints to H.R. about management sabotaging my ability to meet sales quotas by giving me a lead database largely made up of blocked & disconnected ph numbers, etc.

I was eventually terminated and my Director refused to tell me if I was fired or laid off.

Ashford University hires & promotes mostly young 20-30 yr old employees.

I am not the only employee at Ashford who has dealt with the browbeating by mgmt there and the subsequent retaliation. Consequently, many employees there are just “buying time” until they are laid off (ie: not going out of their way to help students).

Ashford is currently dealing with many lawsuits filed against them by employees regarding wages and WARN Act violations, as well as lawsuits filed by students and investors.

They are under investigation by the Dept of Justice and Securities Exchange Commission regarding insider trading, lack of transparency to investors of potential risks & possible violations of the Higher Education Act.
The lawsuits are listed in Bridgepoint Education’s (stock: BPI) third quarter Earnings report Nov 5, 2012–see both links below:

Link 1

Link 2

avatar AC from Hell December 11, 2012 at 6:22 pm

Send your complaints to

Sen Tom Harkin
(submit complaint online)

OR MAIL:

Senator Tom Harkin

731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3254
Fax: 202-224-9369

** Your snail mail will be forwarded to the HELP Investigations/Oversight Committee

March 2011 – Full Committee Hearing, Bridgepoint Education, Inc.: A Case study in For-Profit Education and Oversight:

Ralph Wolff, VP of WASC:
985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: (510) 748-9001
Fax: (510) 748-9797

***********************************
MOST IMPORTANTLY, write a complaint letter to HLC *asap*. HLC will be deliberating in Feb 2013 on whether they will allow Ashford to keep their accreditation.

From the Public Disclosure Notice on A.U. on the HLC site:

“to present the report of
the Advisory Visit team and the President’s recommendation to the Board for action at its
February 2013 meeting. At that meeting the Board may act to continue accreditation, with or
without further monitoring, to continue accreditation under sanction or a Show Cause order, or
withdraw accreditation. The HLC will post an updated Public Disclosure Notice following that
action.”

http://www.ncahlc.org/download/_PublicDisclosureNotices/PDN_1249.pdf

*******************************

Contact Info:

Complaints about an Institution affiliated with the Commission:

complaints@hlcommission.org

*********************************
The Higher Learning Commission 230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500, Chicago, Illinois 60604-1411
Phone: 800.621.7440 / 312.263.0456Fax: 312.263.7462 . info@hlcommission.org

avatar WasAtAshfordNowImNot December 12, 2012 at 6:30 pm

After watching the 2011 hearing (VIDEO) by Sen Tom Harkin, I am thoroughly convinced that Ashford University & their parent company Bridgepoint Education is just in it for the money-they could care less about the students–until they were forced to recently due to the WASC & HLC issues they’ve had this summer. The Harkin video is sooo worth watching :

Full Committee Hearing – Bridgepoint Education, Inc.: A Case study in For-Profit Education and Oversight

http://www.help.senate.gov/hearings/hearing/?id=7c3b8c00-5056-9502-5d7a-54d0c8286a98

The execs and some of their directors are grads from Univ of Phoenix…Go figure.
They barely possess enough business acumen to grab up Federal Student Loan & Pell grant monies to line their pockets while flying under the legal radar, unscathed.

Simply put: These for-profit robber barons are only beholden to their fat cat investors like Warburg Pincus.

“Students First” was just an empty chant that Divisional Directors shoved down our throats on a daily basis – nothing more than paying lip service to their students.

Worse yet, the same Divsional directors–just 4 days after the WASC accreditation denial letter came out–pushed good employees out the door in early July, telling them that (and I quote):
“You didnt provide ‘Best of Class’ service to our students.”
Unbelievable.

These people do not realize that “Corporate Social Responsibility” does not end with kissing up to thier paying customers like low-income students & investors. CSR also extends to the very employees they have treated in an unscrupulous manner.

I am noticing that, one by one, these very employees are rising up and will eventually inflict on A.U & Bridgepoint Educ. the biggest backlash any for-profit institution will ever experience – with or without attorneys in tow.

—>Ashford University & Bridgepoint Education is a joke<—

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