This week’s American Public University System (APUS), whose name obscures the fact that it is a for-profit college, announcement he had signed an agreement with the chancellor’s office of the California Community Colleges (CCC) system that will allow graduates of these community colleges “to transition seamlessly to APUS as a junior – without loss of credit.”
The deal is already generator some controversy in the world of higher education policy.
The for-profit APUS, whose shares are publicly traded, operates two online schools, which advertise tirelessly on television and online: American Military University and American Public University. Schools have a mixed reputation.
The 2012 Senate HELP Committee’s Full Inquiry into For-Profit Colleges Noted that the schools tuition fees were lower than those charged by many for-profit organizations; and that their “performance – as measured by student withdrawal and failure rates – is better than that of most of the companies reviewed.”
But today, the school’s graduation rate is only around 19%.
In 2018, Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, after investigating APUS, announced a settlement with the company over allegations that AMU violated Massachusetts law by failing to disclose placement, loan repayments, and graduation rates to prospective students and “engaging in tactics of graduation. ‘predatory enrollment, including making excessive recruiting calls’. Healy accused “AMU’s name and other visual images suggest it is part of the United States Armed Services, but the company is not in fact part of the United States military and is not affiliated with this one “.
APUS agreed to pay Healey’s office $ 270,000 to relieve eligible AMU students and agreed to change its disclosures to prospective students.
“For-profit online schools that mislead veterans and military families are not welcome in Massachusetts,” Healey said during the settlement with APUS.
APUS’s new deal with the CCC raises a number of questions that I hope California lawmakers, media and advocates pursue. Among them:
- Exactly what benefits does this arrangement offer to CCC students? According to the APUS press release, “After earning an associate’s degree, students at California Community College will only need an additional 60 credits to earn a bachelor’s degree at APUS. Since APUS will accept up to 90 transfer credits, these students may be able to apply an additional 30 credits to the more than 220 APUS diplomas and certificates beyond their associate degree. Is this in fact a more generous transfer agreement than the one offered by APUS to other community college students? Is this a better deal that CCC students can already get at other for-profit colleges? Or is it mostly just an advertisement for APUS schools that the CCC sends to its own students?
- Will the CCC, currently headed by Acting Chancellor Daisy Gonzales, get money or something of value to direct students to a for-profit college? Turning a publicly funded community college system into a paid lead generator for a for-profit college wouldn’t be a good idea.
- In 2009, California Community Colleges announced a similar deal with for-profit Kaplan University, a school with high prices and a troubling track record. CCC canceled the agreement in the year following the CCC Faculty and student advocates raised concerns. At the time, a man named Wade Dyke was Kaplan Executive Vice President. Now Mr. Dyke is the chairman of APUS. Did he learn from the Kaplan-CCC debacle how to fix things for the students this time around? Or how do you protect the arrangement from being overturned by critics?
- What are some other good licensing options for people who earn an associate degree from the CCC system? Apparently, these students are not guaranteed admission to the California State and University of California systems, nor is there room for all of them. CCC graduates deserve a chance to earn their bachelor’s degree, but are there better ways for the system to ensure affordable and quality options for these students?