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August 03, 2010

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Bizzaro Watchdog

From Tim:
"So, according to their report, 100% (or 15 out of 15 of the for-profit colleges they investigated) made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to applicants (is it fair to just consider it a few bad actors now?)"

From GAO:
"To determine whether for-profit college representatives engaged in fraudulent, deceptive, or otherwise questionable sales and marketing practices, we investigated a nonrepresentative selection of 15 for-profit colleges located in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas, and Washington, D.C."

Question Tim, is it fair to consider this a representative sample? I believe the GAO says in the first sentence of its "audit scope" that it is, in fact, nonrepresentative? I can go to the local prison and find that 100% of the inmates are guilty of a crime. But does that mean I can extrapolate from my prison "sample", that the community at large is full of criminals? Forgive me again Tim, but what's needed here is objective reporting and data--not a perpetuation of the carefully orchestrated anti-for-profit smear campaign. Hasn't there been enough bad public policy over the last several years based on faulty logic and data? (I hope this makes it through your new screening--I would hate to see you join the ranks of blogs that censor opposing views.)

Tim Ranzetta

Bizzaro,

I am happy to include your comments. As for my screening of comments, I got tired of deleting the ten spam comments I get for every legitimate one that comes in. My intent is to post all non-spam comments.

As for the crux of your argument, representative or non-representative, isn't it interesting that they found deceptive and sometimes fraudulent marketing tactics at 100% of the schools in their sample; small schools/large schools, publicly held and closely held, at various states across our land. What I find most astounding is the fact that given the recent media coverage and scrutiny that schools wouldn't have changed their marketing practices, which suggests how deeply ingrained these practices are [$250,000 cosmetologists? Was Christophe (at $400 a haircut) a graduate of that school?]. Why shoot the messenger instead of recognizing that fundamental reforms need to take place? The "few bad apples" theory seems to be losing some of its shine.

Tim

Bizzaro Watchdog

Ahhh Tim, I'm not sure how you can argue that the "sample" here is not biased, when the GAO itself says so (twice). From the GAO: "Results of the undercover tests and tuition comparisons cannot be projected to all for-profit colleges." A non-random sample is, by definition, biased Tim. Furthermore, there are 2,000 for-profits according to this report...the "sample" isn't even 1% of that total.

I'm not shooting the messenger Tim. Should we be surprised that some for-profits are doing some unsavory things? A reasonable person should say no. It's an unfortunate fact of life that everywhere we turn there will be some among us who break society's rules. Prosecute those people to the full extent of the law. But leave the ones who do follow the rules alone. That's the American way. According to the GAO, there are 1.8 million Americans enrolled in these schools. If the majority of these people weren't getting a good deal, they wouldn't be waiting for Congress to do something about it now would they Tim? (In the normal course of business, that could take decades.)

I'm convinced this is another power grab by ideologues in Washington. It's not good politics for said ideologues to have a thriving private sector alternative to the public schools. Hence, why I say this whole thing is nothing more than another DC power grab. I'm right on this too Tim.

Tim Ranzetta

Biased sampling or not, I guess GAO was just plain lucky to find the 13 schools (at 15 branch locations) engaging in these practices and there isn't a systemic issue on how education is being sold and marketed. As the GAO investigator said today: "It's not not hard to find fraudulent and deceptive practices; the big difference is the vast amount of money is coming from American taxpayers."

Bizzaro Watchdog

The results of the GAO report are irrelevant to the question at hand. If you want to rewrite 400 years of progress in the statistical sciences, feel free to continue to argue the GAO report is a basis for concluding systemic issues exist in for-profit land. You can also continue to ignore the GAO itself on this point: "Results of the undercover tests and tuition comparisons cannot be projected to all for-profit colleges."

I'll also leave you with a question Tim. Most of the deceptive practices outlined in the GAO report would appear covered under existing laws/regulations. Why then, do we need more rules/laws/regulations when the existing ones appear to cover all the transgressions outlined in the GAO report? It appears to be more a question of enforcement rather than a lack of the rules themselves. Tim? Maybe, this is where that power grab I was talking about rears its ugly head Tim?

Tim Ranzetta

Well, except for the fact that the 15 schools visited are the largest in the industry AND the GAO investigator said the admissions counselors seemed "scripted," it doesn't take a leap of faith to think it might be systemic. Trust but verify. Let's see the sales scripts used by the largest schools and then make our judgments. Hard to believe that companies that pride themselves on efficiencies and centralization wouldn't use the same scripts company-wide. I think we'll get a better sense in September.

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