The March Issue of Townhall Magazine: How Government Broke Higher Education

Posted: Feb 13, 2014 1:00 PM

Townhall Magazine’s March 2014 issue is here! Check out an exclusive sneak peek of some of our top stories, and order Townhall Magazine today for these can't-miss articles:

- Joel Gehrke: The Innovation Solution - America’s higher education system is broke. Here’s how to fix it.

- Kevin Glass: College Isn't For Everyone - By shoehorning more and more students into schools they aren’t prepared for, to obtain degrees they don’t need, the federal government is undermining higher education.

- Daniel Doherty and Amanda Munoz: Tomorrow's Party Today - The future of the Republican Party depends on how well it can appeal to a growing and significant portion of the electorate: our nation’s youth.

- David Freddoso: Grievance Deficit Disorder - America is far more tolerant today than it ever has been. This is a disaster for the progressive movement which is forcing wannabe heroes to create their own alternative reality.

Each of these features will be a available in full, on-line, after March 1st. If you want to get them first, you have to subscribe!

Excerpted from Townhall Magazine's February cover story, "The Innovation Solution," by Joel Gehrke:

The United States is suffering from a crisis in higher education. Our economy desperately needs highly skilled workers to stay competitive in today’s global economy. But while our existing system of four-year higher education institutions is working well for some highly talented and wealthy students, millions more are graduating without the skills employers want and saddled with tens of thousands in debt.

Collectively, Americans owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt. That is far more than they owe in credit card or car loan debt. And the youngest Americans owe the most since tuitions have skyrocketed as the amount of federal financial aid for higher education has increased.

Higher debt at an early age means kids moving back in with their parents, cars not bought, marriages not joined, and new homes not built. It is a huge drag on the entire economy.

Something must change.

There are people trying to change higher education. Some of them are even backed by millions in venture capital funding. But, with help from the federal government, the current cartel of higher education providers are shutting them out.

Take Ivy Bridge College, for example, an institution created through a partnership between Tiffin University in Ohio and Altius Education, Inc. Founded in 2008, Ivy Bridge College expanded access to four-year higher ed institutions by first offering traditionally underserved students a shot at an associate’s degree. By offering extensive support services, including not just tutoring but life-coaching as well, Ivy Bridge established a strong associate’s degree graduation track record, and then, depending on their grades, guaranteed them a transfer to a partnered traditional four-year institution, including household brand names like Arizona State.

Because of its relationship with Tiffin, Ivy Bridge students could pay their tuition with federal loans, which would generate revenue for the university and Altius Education, which financed the company.

Altius and Tiffin worked well together. The Higher Learning Commission, which accredits Tiffin, praised Ivy Bridge in 2010 for “deliver[ing] education to a relatively underserved population,” according to documents obtained by Townhall. By August of 2012, Ivy Bridge had almost 2,200 students. That same year, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation awarded the for-profit/non-profit college a Next Generation Learning grant. A year later, HLC told Tiffin that the university must cut ties with Ivy Bridge or risk the loss of its accreditation. Tiffin complied, which has effectively killed Ivy Bridge by cutting it off from federal funding.

“The thing that changed was the political environment that the accreditors were in,” Altius CEO Paul Freedman told Town- hall. And that political environment changed when Higher Learning Commission President Sylvia Manning was hauled before the Senate Education Committee by Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) to explain the rise of for-profit colleges such as Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix.

Harkin and his colleagues based their criticism of Manning and HLC on the case of Ashford University, a for-profit institu- tion in Iowa once known as the Franciscan University of the Prairies. With the college on its last legs in 2005, HLC, under the leadership of its previous president, allowed a company called Bridgepoint Education, Inc., to purchase the accred- ited religious school without putting the new for-profit model through an accreditation review.

Six years later, Ashford enrolled 78,000 students receiving more than $600 million in federal subsidies annually. Sixty- three percent of the people seeking four-year bachelor’s degrees dropped out in the first year, according to Harkin, which looks good compared to the 84 percent dropout rate among students pursuing a two-year associate’s degree.

“I think this is a scam, an absolute scam,” Harkin said.

Manning left that hearing having promised that HLC would cut off the shortcut to accreditation (and thus federal dollars) that Bridgepoint had taken. “What happened in 2005 could not happen today,” she said.

When Ivy Bridge College’s for-profit parent company, Altius, tried to operate independently from Tiffin two years later as part of a joint venture, HLC blocked the change and reversed its earlier approval of Tiffin’s relationship with the for-profit institution.

“They’ve boxed the innovators out of higher education,” Freedman told Buzzfeed in an August report on the demise of Ivy Bridge.

...continue reading in Townhall Magazine's March issue.

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