Saturday, December 7, 2019

The Higher Education Assembly Line

[Image of the boss in Diego Rivera's Mural of Detroit Industry]

I'm conducting a study of Taylorism (aka The "Scientific Management of Work") in online higher education. If you are in the education business, I would appreciate your input, both positive and critical.

According to Maduakolam Ireh, "scientific management (in the 19th century and beyond) eliminated the need for skilled labor by delegating each employee one simple task to repeat over and over. Although this method increased the productivity of factories, it stripped employees their freedom to choose their work, as well as how it should be done." Taylorism included a constellation of tactics to marginalize labor, including the speed up.  While it may be an exaggeration that academic work is like factory work, trends in US higher education point to reduced autonomy, job deskilling, and greater demands to produce more work in less time.

In online higher education, a small number of full-time instructors act as managers, with part-timers (euphemistically called associate professors) facilitating classes--with little input regarding content. Academic work is deskilled: educational content is created on an assembly line that includes instructional designers, copy editors, finishers, and quality assurance specialists who may all be precarious 1099 workers.

Associate faculty are kept in the dark about what's happening. According to one person on thelayoff.com, "...when you're let go don't expect any sort of phone call. One day you'll go to login to the portal and it will say your credentials are invalid. You'd do what any normal person will do and call technical support. Support will awkwardly tell you'll to contact your supervisor to regain access. So you'll call them and if you're lucky enough that your supervisor wasn't also let go in the most recent round of cuts then they'll give you a call in a few days to let you know the bad news."
Is anything lost in the deskilling and marginalization of academic labor?
Unlike an assembly line, however, academic laborers in online higher education may never see each other or talk to each other, creating an atmosphere of alienation, especially among adjunct instructors. Feedback is created by student surveys and by crucial numbers such as retention rate, but not necessarily skill attainment or gainful employment.

Management signals workers an organization's true values and priorities. What values and priorities are online managers signalizing to their faculty? And how does this play out in the classroom and in decisions by faculty and staff?
"They had us deactivate an associate faculty because she was doing what was right: reporting a student for plagiarizing. One of the associate deans didn’t like that she held a standard so she told them to deactivate her." -- Online college program chair
It amazes me how online higher education has been able to reduce the number of full-time instructors to almost nothing, and with few complaints from consumers, educators, or teachers unions.
Have professors becoming obsolete, especially with colleges that serve working adults?
The small number of full-time instructors at regionally accredited online colleges is astounding:
  • Colorado State University Global has 34 full-time instructors for 12,000 students. 
  • Ashford University has 194 full-time instructors for about 35,000 students.
  • University of Maryland Global has 193 full-time instructors for 60,000 students.
  • Colorado Technical University has 59 full-time instructors for 26,000 students. 
  • American Intercontinental University has 51 full-timers for about 8,700 students
  • Southern New Hampshire University has 164 full-time instructors for 104,000 students.
  • University of Phoenix has 70 full-time instructors for 96,000 students.
  • Other online colleges, like Purdue University Global, have similar numbers.
Glass Door, Grad Reports, and other internet sites, however, provide a small peek into the world of academic worker and student dissatisfaction.  But it's not sufficient in understanding the magnitude of Taylorism in online higher education. 
What's your take on the online higher education assembly line? And what numbers do you find important?

Related article: ‘The Gig Academy’ Colleen Flaherty (Inside Higher Education)

Saturday, November 9, 2019

Unnamed Ashford University Suitor Joining Purdue University Global in "Race to the Bottom"

Who would buy Ashford University, an online school that has lost more than 50 percent of its students and is downsizing key faculty and academic administrators?



[Video above:  Dr. Stephen Brewer has reported on the downsizing of key faculty at Ashford and the suspension of the University Senate.]

Having seen so many crazy deals in subprime higher ed, from the ECMC shotgun marriage with Corinthian Colleges to the Kaplan-Purdue deal, anything seems possible.

"A bunch of state schools want online at scale at any cost."...(It's a) race to the bottom. They see their students heading to ASU, SNHU, or the for-profits, and figure if they can get to scale, they will have the time and resources to fix the programs."--anonymous online college expert
Tyton Partners managing director Trace Urdan has suggested that UMass or George Mason might buy Ashford from its parent company, Zovio, but I'm not sure either of those schools would take the risk. In my estimation, Zovio does not have the assets, such as cash on hand, for a safe conversion over the long run. And this lack of assets would make the buyer school more responsible for finances during the conversion.

In my opinion, the most logical buyer would be a school that is WASC accredited (Ashford's current accreditor), large enough to handle the risk, and either does not have a strong online presence or wants to expand its presence. It would also need a president/CEO strong enough and a board and faculty compliant or weak enough to take the bait.

It's possible that a hedge fund or other for-profit firm could create a non-profit specifically for the new school.

In the meantime, Dr. Brewer, is asking for accountability and justice for Ashford University students and professors.  After working at the school for a decade, he said that the situation had changed for the worse, "restricting creativity, inhibiting instruction, and demoralizing otherwise talented, motivated, and forward-thinking educators."

For any state university willing to scale up their online presence, be warned. The Kaplan-Purdue University Global deal is not working out, and Purdue bought Purdue Global for $1 and $50 million in free advertising.

Other subprime deals, such as the EDMC-Dream Center deal (Art Institutes, Argosy, South University), Adtalem-Cogswell (DeVry University), and Apollo Group-Apollo Global Management (University of Phoenix) appear to have panned out poorly. But that may not stop someone in the big business of higher ed from taking the risk.

Related article: There’s a Right Way to Convert to a Nonprofit. Ashford University Isn’t Following It (Bob Shireman, The Century Foundation)

Related article: Restructuring and Layoffs at Ashford (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Education)

Related article: The Next Purdue-Kaplan Deal? (Lindsay McKenzie, Inside Higher Education)

Related article: Early Troubles In The Purdue, Kaplan Marriage (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related article: For-Profit Bridgepoint Says Its Colleges Will Become Non-Profit, But It Won’t (David Halperin, Republic Report)

State Colleges Seduced By For-Profit, Online Education (David Halperin, Republic Report)



Friday, October 4, 2019

College Meltdown Expands to Elite Universities

Related article: Education is a Racket

Related Article: Observations of the College Meltdown in Real Time

Related Article: Many People Saw The Crash Of A Billion Dollar EdTech Company Coming (Derek Newton, Forbes)

Related Article: TCF Analysis of 70+ University-OPM Contracts Reveals Increasing Risks to Students, Public Education

Related Article: How They (Online Graduate Programs) Get You (Katerina Manoff, The Atlantic)

Once restricted to for-profit colleges and community colleges, the College Meltdown has advanced to elite colleges like Harvard and Cal Berkeley. These schools have enormous firewalls (e.g. large endowments, strong alumni associations, and powerful donors), but that does not shield them from skepticism about overpriced online graduate degrees and certificates. Adam Looney at Brookings has already outed USC about their outrageously priced MSW program, but that's just one example. The collapse of 2U, the online program manager (OPM) for several elite colleges, exposes this subprime elite degree mess even more.

With 2U, we are not talking about subprime colleges like University of Phoenix or Purdue University Global, but prestigious schools like American University, Baylor University, George Washington University, Harvard University, Pepperdine University, Rice University, Syracuse University, University of California, Berkeley, University of North Carolina, University of Southern California, and Washington University.




"Steer clear for your own sanity"

Admissions Counselors at 2U perform work much closer to fraud telemarketing than "counseling." The volume bleeds the human element out of every phone call because you will constantly be striving to hit metrics and enrollment goals.

3) 2U programs are godawful expensive. For many programs, 2U also has multiple offerings for the same discipline, so ACs working for the more expensive option are often out of luck if a student is admitted to a cheaper competing program. Kinda hard to convince someone to take out 40k more in loans than they have to. You will be tacitly encouraged to manipulate students into taking on more debt just to meet your goal. They want you to do everything just shy of outright lying. Admissions is a breeding ground for exaggerated claims, half-truths, and lies by omission. In short, you will be kicking water uphill every day in this role, trying to meet laughably unrealistic targets made by leadership.

That's not even to touch on the sham "Core Values" 2U shoves down your throat. They literally have these values in neon tube lights on the walls in HQ. Now, of course every company has their own brand of BS, but 2U is insane about theirs. It is cult-like. People use the phrase “drink the Kool-Aid” unironically. Maybe it’s just me, but using the language of a mass s–c-de in a positive sense...doesn’t exactly sit right. Anyway, here are my thoughts on the core values.

1) ”Cherish every opportunity"–so long as you make 75 calls every day, annoying the heck out of people who just wanted a brochure about the program! Also, if someone has a low GPA or GRE scores and cannot help you meet your goal, that is not an opportunity, so don’t cherish it. This would be an accurate value if it said, "Cherish every opportunity that can make the company money. Forget everything else."

2) ”Be candid, honest, and open" —Honestly, for this one I might as well just post the prĂ©cis of the pending lawsuit against this company: “[2U] throughout the Class Period made false and/or misleading statements and/or failed to disclose that: (1) the Company faced increasing competition in online education and particularly regarding graduate programs; (2) the Company faced certain program-specific issues that negatively impacted its performance; (3) as a result, the Company’s business model was not sustainable; (4) the Company would slow its program launches; and (5) as a result, 2U’s public statements were materially false and misleading at all relevant times. When the true details entered the market, the lawsuit claims that investors suffered damages.”

2U also doesn’t want you being “candid honest and open” with the students. Generally speaking, none of these students even know 2U exists, let alone that it gets a large chunk of their tuition money. You are lying by omission on every phone call, every time you send an email from your university email address. Students assume you are directly tied to the actual campus of the program you represent, because 2U spoofs the phone numbers, so every AC calling from say, Maryland, has an area code local to the school they are representing. Here's another hilarious thing: in September 2019, after mass firing 67 tenured employees and, again GETTING SUED BY ITS INVESTORS, 2U put out a "Framework for Transparency," which asserts, "2U has always publicly listed the degree and non-degree offerings we power," which, while technically true, is exactly the sort of PR/optics sophistry you should expect from this company. Yes, they list their university partners on their website. But at no point in an AC's correspondence with a prospective student is the name 2U ever brought up. Students would have to already know what an OPM is, and what 2U is for this "transparency" to actually do anything. As it stands, this Framework for Transparency looks to me like just another PR maneuver designed to give 2U rhetorical wiggle room to claim they’re being forthcoming while actually being the opposite.

3) ”Give a Damn!” – but not about all those poor schmucks with low GPAs who can't help you meet your goal.

4) “Relationships matter!” - remember where I said above they mass fired 67 employees one day? Yeah, they gave these people no notice– people who had been with the company for years, had helped build the business, and had bought into all of 2U's pompous, self-aggrandizing rhetoric about how they are "changing the world!" True believers, hard workers, in other words, fired en masse with no notice. These unfortunate individuals were literally called into an auditorium, let go, and informed “You’re welcome to work for the rest of the day if you want!”

5) “Don’t let the skeptic win!” — by which they mean don’t question anything or think for yourself, peon! Drink the Kool-Aid! DRINK IT I SAID! SHUT UP AND DRINK IT!!! HAVE YOU MADE YOUR DIALS FOR THE DAY YET?!

6) “Be bold and fearless” — I guess it was pretty bold and fearless to abruptly and callously fire a significant chunk of their loyal workforce, so kudos to 2U on this one. And it was pretty brazen to lie to their investors too. So, all right, I've give them this one.

7) “Make service your mission” — in other words, do good volunteer work and take pictures wearing 2U swag so we can take credit and get those sweet sweet PR social justice brownie points. 2U spends a lot of money promoting itself, getting named as a Great Workplace in magazines, maintaining this veneer that they are an ethical, socially conscious organization, when in reality, like most other companies, business is the first priority. Ethics and social consciousness are a very, VERY distant second. Actually, probably more like a very distant tenth or eleventh. This wouldn't even be annoying if they were just honest about it. I get it. A company exists and makes decisions solely to grow its business. So why does 2U seem to demand that its employees pretend otherwise?

8) “Have fun!” – you know the phrase “bread and circuses?” It means to generate public approval, not by excellence in public service or public policy but by diversion, distraction, or by satisfying the most immediate or base requirements of a populace— by offering a palliative: for example, food (bread) or entertainment (circuses). Thanks Wikipedia. Yeah, that is 2U’s main operating strategy. They do all these extravagant events, e.g. random dance parties in HQ, renting out Six Flags for Halloween, or flying everyone to some destination once a year for company meeting. Superficially these are nice, until you remember that these events are bonkers expensive, and that 2U will then lay off 67 people at a moment’s notice due to monetary concerns. I feel reasonably safe in saying those employees would rather have kept their jobs than gotten to see Flo-Rida live in concert. Moreover, the events, particularly company meeting, are basically thinly veiled attempts at brainwashing, stoking the CEO's messiah complex. They give a lot of ra-ra, gosh-aren’t-we-awesome speeches and make you stand in an auditorium chanting company slogans (again, DRINK THE KOOL-AID, SERF). They get great performers and speakers—Michelle Obama in 2018, for example—who lend specious legitimacy to 2U’s alleged mission and values, but are probably told nothing about the company beyond its claims of being "an innovative tech start up increasing accessibility in higher ed."
9) “Strive for excellence!” — in other words, light yourself on fire daily to keep the higher-ups warm. Break your back to carry the company.

In short, this company is an object lesson in disingenuous corporate doublespeak, bad faith business practices, and dogmatic, cultish conformity. Their core values are a bad joke, and if you are an independent thinker at all, you will not like it here. Also, for the record, I was not fired. I left of my own accord before all the firings and lawsuits started. This is not some disgruntled, terminated ex-employee sounding off. This is just an honest appraisal of how 2U does business from my perspective. Work here at your own peril.

Thursday, September 12, 2019

College Meltdown Investigation: New Horizons Computer Learning Centers

Related article: Are Brand Name Coding Bootcamps the New Higher Education Scam?

Related article: 8 tips to help vets pick the right college

I am currently investigating New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, a system of franchises that provides certified Microsoft and Cisco training and testing. The centers cumulatively receive more than $20 million a year in GI Bill funds for military veterans and an unknown amount from the Department of Defense for military spouses. New Horizons also takes VA Vocational Rehabilitation funds for disabled veterans.

The for-profit schools are privately owned, unaccredited, and do not receive Pell Grants or federal student loans, making the parent company, New Horizons Worldwide, and its franchisees difficult to research. Facing declining revenues since the tech crash of 2001, the once publicly traded company went private in 2010, and slipped under the radar.

Claims about New Horizons' training and outcomes are impressive, but only if they are true. At this point, I am skeptical about these claims after reading repeated complaints about New Horizons Computer Centers and their business practices.

Several of the New Horizons Learning Computer Learning centers are based where service members and veterans live, including Killeen (163 veterans, $686K), Fort Worth (55 veterans, $445K), San Antonio (102 veterans, $641K), Richmond (111 veterans, $1.33M), Atlanta (44 veterans, $208K), Jacksonville, FL (219 veterans, $2.62M), Anaheim (254 veterans, $1.01M), Las Vegas (29 veterans, $15K), Miami (452 veterans, $6.06M), Colorado Springs (52 veterans, $356K), Orlando (236 veterans, $3.99M), Spokane (56 veterans, $968K), Tampa (171 veterans, $1.65M), and McClean, Virginia (94 veterans, $807K).

Recruiting thousands of military spouses, and veterans (including disabled vets), the New Horizons chain also claims to be "Military Friendly" and to adhere to VA's Principles of Excellence. New Horizons markets to veterans by selling their programs as "GI Bill Training." And they claim to offer top-notch instructors and career consultants. Credible information about gainful employment following the training programs, however, is non-existent.

Despite its claims, New Horizons Computer Centers have received a rash of complaints from veterans using their GI Bill benefits. The most common GI Bill complaints about the schools have been about finances, marketing and recruiting, and quality of education.

Complaints across the internet suggest that the learning centers are not worth the cost. New Horizon's recruiting practices also appear to be unethical, using bogus job offers to make their sales pitches.

While New Horizons courses cost $87 to $100 per hour, community colleges offer computer and IT training at lower costs. Lower priced online training can also be gotten for free or close to free, through One Stop unemployment offices and Groupon.

If you have any complaints about any New Horizons Computer Learning Centers, please email me at CollegeMeltdown@protonmail.com

Tuesday, July 30, 2019

College Meltdown Resources

People who read the College Meltdown are missing a great deal of information if they are using the mobile format. I'm putting information here that you can see in the standard format.

The most important links for me are in the section titled Activists, Coalitions, Innovators, and Alternative Voices; these people are trying to make a difference and some can use your support. If you think anybody else should be included in the first section, please comment here or email me at CollegeMeltdown@protonmail.com

This article also includes my updated Bibliography of the College Meltdown. While all of the references are important, I have bolded some of the most vital books, from AJ Angulo's Diploma Mills to Craig Steven Wilder's Ebony and Ivy.

Activists, Coalitions, Innovators, and Alternative Voices

College Choice and Career Planning Tools

Innovation and Reform

Selected Articles

Data Sources

Bibliography

  • Angulo, A. (2016). Diploma Mills: How For-profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers, and the American Dream. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Archibald, R. and Feldman, D. (2017). The Road Ahead for America's Colleges & Universities. Oxford University Press.
  • Armstrong, E. and Hamilton, L. (2015). Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality. Harvard University Press.
  • Bennett, W. and Wilezol, D. (2013). Is College Worth It?: A Former United States Secretary of Education and a Liberal Arts Graduate Expose the Broken Promise of Higher Education. Thomas Nelson.
  • Berg, I. (1970). "The Great Training Robbery: Education and Jobs." Praeger.
  • Berry, J. (2005). Reclaiming the Ivory Tower: Organizing Adjuncts to Change Higher Education. Monthly Review Press.
  • Best, J. and Best, E. (2014) The Student Loan Mess: How Good Intentions Created a Trillion-Dollar Problem. Atkinson Family Foundation.
  • Bogue, E. Grady and Aper, Jeffrey. Exploring the Heritage of American Higher Education: The Evolution of Philosophy and Policy. Oryx, 2000. 272 pp.
  • Bousquet, M. (2008). How the University Works: Higher Education and the Low Wage Nation. NYU Press.
  • Brennan, J & Magness, P. (2019). Cracks in the Ivory Tower. Oxford University Press. 
  • Brint, S., & Karabel, J. The Diverted Dream: Community colleges and the promise of educational opportunity in America, 1900–1985. Oxford University Press. (1989).
  • Caplan, B. (2018). The Case Against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money. Princeton University Press.
  • Cappelli, P. (2015). Will College Pay Off?: A Guide to the Most Important Financial Decision You'll Ever Make. Public Affairs.
  • Carney, Cary Michael (1999). Native American Higher Education in the United States. Transaction.
  • Childress, H. (2019). The Adjunct Underclass: How America's Colleges Betrayed Their Faculty, Their Students, and Their Mission University of Chicago Press.
  • Cohen, Arthur M. (1998). The Shaping of American Higher Education: Emergence and Growth of the Contemporary System. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.
  • Cottom, T. (2016). Lower Ed: How For-profit Colleges Deepen Inequality in America
  • Donoghue, F. (2008). The Last Professors: The Corporate University and the Fate of the Humanities.
  • Dorn, Charles. (2017) For the Common Good: A New History of Higher Education in America Cornell University Press.
  • Eisenmann, Linda. (2006) Higher Education for Women in Postwar America, 1945–1965. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
  • Espenshade, T., Walton Radford, A.(2009). No Longer Separate, Not Yet Equal: Race and Class in Elite College Admission and Campus Life. Princeton University Press.
  • Faragher, John Mack and Howe, Florence, ed. (1988). Women and Higher Education in American History. Norton.
  • Freeman, Richard B. (1976). The Overeducated American. Academic Press.
  • Gaston, P. (2014). Higher Education Accreditation. Stylus.
  • Ginsberg, B. (2013). The Fall of the Faculty: The Rise of the All Administrative University and Why It Matters
  • Gleason, Philip. Contending with Modernity: Catholic Higher Education in the Twentieth Century. Oxford U. Press, 1995.
  • Golden, D. (2006). The Price of Admission: How America's Ruling Class Buys its Way into Elite Colleges — and Who Gets Left Outside the Gates.
  • Goldrick-Rab, S. (2016). Paying the Price: College Costs, Financial Aid, and the Betrayal of the American Dream.
  • Ihle, Elizabeth L., ed. Black Women in Higher Education: An Anthology of Essays, Studies, and Documents. Garland, 1992.
  • Johnson, B. et al. (2003). Steal This University: The Rise of the Corporate University and the Academic Labor Movement
  • Kelchen, R. (2018). Higher Education Accountability. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Kinser, K. (2006). From Main Street to Wall Street: The Transformation of For-profit Higher Education
  • Labaree, David F. A Perfect Mess: The Unlikely Ascendancy of American Higher Education. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2017.
  • Lucas, C.J. American higher education: A history. (1994).
  • Lukianoff, Greg and Jonathan Haidt (2018). The Coddling of the American Mind: How Good Intentions and Bad Ideas Are Setting Up a Generation for Failure. Penguin Press.
  • Mettler, Suzanne 'Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. Basic Books. (2014)
  • Newfeld, C. (2011). Unmaking the Public University.
  • Newfeld, C. (2016). The Great Mistake: How We Wrecked Public Universities and How We Can Fix Them.
  • Reynolds, G. (2012). The Higher Education Bubble. Encounter Books.
  • Roth, G. (2019) The Educated Underclass: Students and the Promise of Social Mobility. Pluto Press
  • Ruben, Julie. The Making of the Modern University: Intellectual Transformation and the Marginalization of Morality. University Of Chicago Press. (1996).
  • Rudolph, F. (1991) The American College and University: A History (1991).
  • Selingo, J. (2013). College Unbound: The Future of Higher Education and What It Means for Students.
  • Sinclair, U. (1923). The Goose-Step: A Study of American Education.
  • Stodghill, R. (2015). Where Everybody Looks Like Me: At the Crossroads of America's Black Colleges and Culture.
  • Taylor, Barret J. and Brendan Cantwell (2019). Unequal Higher Education: Wealth, Status and Student Opportunity. Rutgers University Press.
  • Thelin, John R. (2019) A History of American Higher Education. Johns Hopkins U. Press.
  • Tolley, K. (2018). Professors in the Gig Economy: Unionizing Adjunct Faculty in America. Johns Hopkins University Press.
  • Vedder, R. (2004). Going Broke By Degree: Why College Costs Too Much.
  • Veysey Lawrence R. (1965).The emergence of the American university.
  • Washburn, J. (2006). University Inc.: The Corporate Corruption of Higher Education
  • Wilder, C.D. (2013). Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America's Universities.

 Trade publications

Saturday, July 20, 2019

When does a New York college become an international EB-5 visa scam?

In 2011, Sherry Li hatched the idea to create a $6 billion Chinese Disneyland in the Catskills, with a for-profit college, a casino, shopping venues, eateries, Chinese-themed rides, and a community full of wealthy Communist Chinese immigrants...just a few miles away from nearby villages of American peasants. The ideas were Trump-like, and like several of Donald Trump's business efforts, most likely to fail without political ties at all levels, and lots of money. In this case, Li needed hundreds of millions just to start, most from wealthy Chinese investors. Together with her business associate Mike Wang, Li paid out large sums of money to establish political ties, but politicians claim not to know her. In 2019, this fantastic scheme, whittled down to a school with no buildings, no students, and one person sitting at a desk, looks more like a swindle. But without victims coming forward, and most are unlikely to come forward, this relatively unknown businesswoman will continue what can now be called a scam.

(Note: I have tried communicating with Sherry Li and Mike Wang, her media director, several times via phone, email, and social media. Someone at the Thompson Education Center does answer the phone, and says "they are out of the country." But this person cannot tell me when they left or when they are returning to the US. When I mentioned that their social media was not updated or even monitored, she admitted "we're not operating anything.")

Related link: Visa Mill Promoters Drop $760K on Key Republicans and NY Governor Andrew Cuomo (2018)

China City of America is a multi-phased construction project planned for the town of Thompson, Sullivan County, in the Catskill Mountains region of the U.S. state of New York. The current project, Thompson Education Center (TEC), is a proposed college for foreign students, situated in a 573-acre parcel which borders a state-protected wetland.

In December 2011, China City LLC applied to be a USCIS recognized EB-5 visa Regional Center, but the business was never approved by US Homeland Security. The EB-5 immigrant investor program grants permanent residency to foreign investors in exchange for job-creating investments in the United States. The 880 Regional Centers sponsor capital investment projects for foreign entrepreneurs seeking green card status. Approximately 85 percent of EB-5 participants are Chinese, but there is a quota system, and waits for Chinese applicants can be as long as 15 years.

More than a year later, China City America publicly presented its idea to build a 2,200-acre Chinese theme park, hotel, and casino for an estimated $6 billion. According to The Economist, the plan "would attract 1.5 million visitors annually" and "transform the struggling economy" in upstate New York while seducing thousands of wealthy Chinese investors through the federal EB-5 visa program. The initial capital investment of $325 million would include $127.5 million from EB-5 investors, $132.5 million from equity investors, and $65 million from the U.S. government.

According to the scheme, each Chinese client would pay a small investment up front: a $65,000 non-refundable deposit. One catch was that in return, Li's business would have to quickly create at least 10 new jobs per investor. Local, national, and international media articles conveyed a variety of interests and concerns about the project while local officials and residents expressed both hope and skepticism.

[The initial presentation by Sherry Li starts at about 7:15 in this Youtube video. The comments are in some cases brutally honest, in other cases racist.]





Sherry Xue Li, an Oyster Bay, Long Island businesswoman, has been the chief executive officer and founder of China City of America. Li reported to the Associated Press that she came to the US in 1991, at the age of 19, and has a background in development and finance. Everything about her wealth seems to be a mystery that can only be gleaned from detective work by media outlets and groups like Defeat China City of America on Facebook.
According to her LinkedIn page, Sherry Li has a master's degree from NYU and was a Vice President of Hengli International Corporation (1995-1998), Executive Assistant at Money Securities (1997-1999), and President of China Financial Services (2003-2011).
SEC records show that Sherry Xue Li had been a major shareholder in BRS Group, Inc., a Delaware company dealing in scrap copper imports to China and China Electronic Holdings. Sherry Xue Li sold her stake in China Electronic in 2010 and BRS in 2011. In the video you will see in a moment, Sherry Li also mentions that she has a young child.

According to Lachlan Markay at The Daily Beast, "Li rarely, if ever, talks to the press, issuing her statements mainly through press releases in which she boasts of her meetings with Republican officeholders and Trump administration officials." The other officer of the Thompson Education Center is Mike Lianbo Wang who has appeared in a few TEC press releases.

At a 2013 town council meeting where Sherry Li first pitched the plan, she stated that "Each dynasty will have its building and will have rides go with it," China City’s website features golden dragons, and projects an initial investment of $325 million — with $10 million going to a "Temple of Heaven," $24 million on a hotel and entertainment complex, and $20 million to construct a 'Forbidden City.'" In its second meeting with the town council, Thomas J. Shepstone represented China City. Shepstone was known in the region as a defender of fracking. According to Paula Medley of the Basha Kill Area Association the project couldn't be developed on the scale proposed by China City without damaging environmentally sensitive wetlands.

In 2014, Town of Thompson supervisor Bill Rieber became frustrated with Li's constantly shifting plans and the Town of Thompson declined to approve the project, but the project was granted approval for three wells in 2016. In the same year, Sullivan county lawyer Jacob Billig sued China City of America for failing to pay him fees for service. A settlement was reached out of court for $25,000.

Thompson Education Center

While the larger China City project has stalled, the Thompson Education Center (TEC) is still being planned. The proposed for-profit college campus is on a 573 acre parcel of land near Route 17, Exit 112, which borders Wild Turnpike in Thompson, New York and extends to the town of Mamakating. The mostly undeveloped land for the project is in proximity to an environmentally protected wetland, the Harlen Swamp Wetland Complex. It is also near Monticello, New York, a village with a poverty rate of about 36 percent. TEC press releases have promised that the "high-end" project would create at least 20,000 jobs.

Thompson Education Center plans to have a school of business, a film & arts school, and programs in nursing and medical training, culinary arts, high school equivalency and executive and vocational training. The project includes four classroom buildings, student dormitories, student townhouses and a student center. TEC claims to have entered into agreements with US and Chinese high schools, colleges, education institutions and systems to provide students to the institution. TEC claims also that it has been working with several U.S. accredited colleges on undergraduate programs and ESL programs.

In a January 2017 presentation to the Monticello Rotary, Sherry Li claimed that China City had executed letters of understanding with the Catskill Regional Hospital for its nursing program, and with Phoenix, a Chinese media company that has educated 80,000 students.

According to the Wall Street Journal, in June 2017 Lianbo Wang donated $329,500 to a joint fund between President Donald Trump’s campaign and the Republican National Committee (RNC). About $86,000 was diverted to the RNC’s legal fund. Politico also reported on the large donations by Wang and Li.

In August 2017, Thompson Education Center appeared before the Town of Thompson, with a plan for a campus that would include 732 dorm rooms for 2,508 students, 276 homes for faculty members, and a college president’s house to be built in a “Founding Trustee Village.” Another source stated that the campus would also include a community center, three recreational buildings, three playgrounds, a sports stadium, a performing arts center, a library and museum, a conference center, a business center, a medical center and an inn for visitors.

In September 2017, TEC sponsored a golf tournament benefiting the Catskill Regional Medical Center (CRMC) Foundation. Ms. Li also visited Congressman Steve Stivers, Chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, in Washington, D.C.

In 2018, residents sought for a revocation of a permit that the Fallsburg, New York building department had granted for a 9,000-square-foot building, claiming that the building was not a residential structure. The property is adjacent to the Thompson Education Center and is owned by Sherry Li.

Epoch Times reported that Sherry Li was featured in Chinese media promoting the school "as an 'easy' way to get an American green card." The May 17, 2018 Economist issue noted that Chinese media said that "investors in the scheme will find emigrating to America 'so easy.'" But the current wait time for Chinese nationals to receive an EB-5 visa is a decade and a half, and a new regulation for EB-5 visas may substantially raise the price for obtaining a green card.

In January 2019, at the Ivy Football Association Dinner, Sherry Li's Thompson Education Center said they planned to provide application counseling, exam preparation and tutoring for students by The Butler Method. Then in February, TEC announced plans to offer the Ivy League Prep program, to give students with sports trauma treatment-related classes, noting that the courses could be "transferred to Ivy League universities for college credits." At the time, TEC also reported that the project received three well permits, and that the construction road was completed, which should not have been news--the permits had been issued in 2016. The for-profit college with no buildings and no students also reportedly signed contracts with schools in China "to deliver 2,700 nursing program students every year." On a trip to Thailand in March 2019, Ms. Li met with the president of Thonburi University and discussed educational cooperation between TEC, its partners schools and colleges, and the Bangkok school.

In the same press release, Sherry Li's organiation reported that

"College Town covers an area of 650 acres, with over 5 million square feet of the construction area for educational campus and ancillary facilities. TEC has partnered with many prestigious universities in Unites States, planned to establish courses including, business schools, media arts, medical academies, culinary, various MBAs, special license training, high schools and their affiliated facilities to create an intelligent high-end university community. In 2019, Thompson Education Center will work with International University Alliance under the Ministry of Education to open 50 Thompson Education Center Extension campuses in China."

Meanwhile the Facebook and Twitter accounts for Thompson Education Center lie dormant: a giveaway that something is very wrong with this picture.

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Music Videos of the College Meltdown


While I was updating my College Meltdown bibliography and writing a review of College is Bullshi*t, I found an enormous number of Youtube music videos dedicated to student loan debt. Scholarly sources are fine, but they don't get people to move. These videos vary in quality and genre, from blues to rap, to pop, heavy metal, and country. But you gotta listen. My favorites are Eatin' Me Alive by Ramy B. and Dee-1's Sallie Mae Back. An extremely popular tune, Stressed Out by Twenty-one Pilots, has just one line about student loan debt, but definitely hits on the consequences of youth and making choices.

Works Cited
B., Ramy. “EATIN' ME ALIVE (STUDENT LOAN RAP).” YouTube, YouTube, 10 Feb. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=C44O_GUtcQs.

chescaleigh. “BeyoncĂ© ‘Countdown’ Parody: Student Loan Countdown.” YouTube, YouTube, 8 Oct. 2011, www.youtube.com/watch?v=96KiSEMHy7Y.



Cornell, Charles. “Student Loans, You've Got Me By The Balls - Charles Cornell.” YouTube, YouTube, 12 June 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aJWUA3-E0E%2Bhttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv.



Dee1music. “Dee-1 - Sallie Mae Back (Official Video).” YouTube, YouTube, 11 Feb. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JqbXQa05Z6c.

Dorsey, C. Richaude. “Studen Loan Song.” YouTube, YouTube, 3 Nov. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=JZG8H-1pwu4%2Bhttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv.

ebonysongstress. “Student Loan Song by C. Richaude.” YouTube, YouTube, 5 Jan. 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=ILcTrUHqHa0&list=PLBiTf7f_nVjgtZ7HCrrPEHY9xvIIHSkXd.

Grosscup, Ben. “‘Four Years of College’ (Parody of ‘Sixteen Tons’ by Ben Grosscup).” YouTube, YouTube, 28 Feb. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch

Hammer, Dave. “Student Loan Blues.” YouTube, YouTube, 2 Apr. 2013, www.youtube.com/watch?v=QQtb8EtD458%2Bhttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv.

Harris, Lisa E. “Sally Mizzle (The Student Loan Song).” YouTube, YouTube, 6 Oct. 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=_WHXc7FTkPQ.



Lazer, Glenn. “Student Debt Metal Song.” YouTube, YouTube, 13 June 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=w5JBNcTDtVo%2Bhttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv.



pincgator. “PINC GATOR STUDENT LOAN SONG.” YouTube, YouTube, 29 Oct. 2008, www.youtube.com/watch?v=qD8KVaMbF7E.

“Twenty One Pilots: Stressed Out [OFFICIAL VIDEO].” YouTube, YouTube, 27 Apr. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=pXRviuL6vMY.



Wilson, David. “Simple Mind (The Student Loan Song) by David Wilson.” YouTube, YouTube, 6 June 2016, www.youtube.com/watch?v=hDVtuoPmTPQ%2Bhttps%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv.
?v=_sWosZ2qshc.


Sunday, July 7, 2019

What happens when Big 10 grads think "college is bullsh*t"?

Pictures speak louder than words. And emotions move people more than rationality.  And the harsh words that Mike Newman (aka Ekim Namwen) speaks in his video "college is bullsh*t" express the anger and depression of a 30-something year old Ohio State graduate who gets it.  While Newman's work is thoughtful and original, the emotions are common in many once-aspiring graduates from state flagship universities who never quite get ahead.

If you can deal with the critical tone and the emotions expressed in this video, it's well worth looking at it from start to finish. If not, start looking at it from 28:30. Newmans's intent has been to finish a serious decade-long documentary on higher education, but two recent suicides at OSU led him to speak out against the madness of higher education: its outrageous costs, its greedy anti-labor administration, and its uncaring bureaucracy.



The College Meltdown has been going on for more than a decade, and things are getting worse. Books critical of higher education could fill a book case or two. That's admirable. And of course, there are some great exceptions amid the meltdown, such as free community college, and potential free market innovations such as TuitionFit, but the general direction of US higher education is downward.

The current reality is that millions of Americans are traumatized and silently suffering. Many Americans regret borrowing so much money to get the college degree they obtained, if they got a degree at all. The average family holds about $47,000 in student loan debt. And aside from a few student debt groups (like the Debt Collective and I Am Ai) and a few adjunct groups, there is very little resistance. Calls for change are met by other calls (by the rich and powerful) to abandon the dreams of higher education.

We can't blame the problems of higher ed just on higher education. US inequality has been increasing for a half century, and it displays itself across society, from "savage inequalities" in the college pipeline to how end of life is medicalized and made so expensive, at the expense of state and federal budgets.

But there has to be some recognition of the damage that has been done by business minded college administrators and college boards, by the madness of crushing student loan debt and underemployment, and the system that turns almost everything good into sh*t.

Related link: "Crapademia"​ and the Mis-overeducation of America
Related link: Education is a Racket (2016)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

US Departments of Education, Defense, and Veterans Affairs Shirk Responsibilities to Servicemembers, Veterans, and Their Families

As a military veteran working to expose some of the most predatory practices by subprime colleges, the idea that anyone at the US Department of Education, US Department of Defense (DOD) or Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) would say "Thank you for your service" rings hollow, especially on the 4th of July.

The US  government has systematically shirked its oversight of subprime colleges that target servicemembers, veterans, and their families, especially during the Trump Administration.

I have to give some credit to President Obama for trying to do something against these schools, with Executive Order 13607, but much of that work has been undermined by DOD and VA officials.
I have filed a FOIA and a complaint about Waste, Fraud, and Abuse to DOD, but have been told not to hold my breath. And I have also filed a complaint with the VA, but have even less faith that they will do their job.