Kaplan University: The Washington Post’s Golden Goose

posted at 7:00 pm on February 3, 2011 by John Sexton

Apparently this has been an issue since December when the story appeared on the Huffington Post. This helpful video summarizes the controversy:

There’s actually another clip in which a liberal professor says Kaplan is a “criminal enterprise” but listening to him you get the sense that he might see any profit making venture as a criminal enterprise.

Kaplan’s CEO has responded to some of the charges against the University at Huff Post. Meanwhile Donald Graham, owner of the Post, has taken to the pages of the Wall Street Journal to lobby on behalf of his golden goose:

Your tuitions are too high. There is a price-fixer in private education—it’s called the U.S. government. Long-existing regulations all but eliminate price competition. We are willing to cut prices on some programs and keep them low for years in return for relief from regulations that mandate our tuitions.

Who is this defender of free markets against the scourge of government regulation? Has he spoken to the Post’s editorial board lately?

There is a point about government involvement that’s worth making here. If, as critics claim, there is too much money going to these institutions too fast, its at least partly because the government is making so much cheap capital available to attend them. If there’s one thing we should have learned from the housing bubble it’s that the lure of cheap credit is hard to resist. And what happens when lots of dollars chase limited goods or services? Prices go up of course. Take the government money off the table (or reduce the amount) and the market will settle. Eventually, institutions like Kaplan will be forced to lower prices and improve offerings to bring in students.

But as usual the left wants guaranteed outcomes. I know lots of people who got a good education from fine a fine four year university and still struggled to find a job upon graduation. Talk to any History, English or, ahem, Liberal Arts major. But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

There may need to be some attention paid to the practices of for profit universities like Kaplan, but removing opportunity for self-improvement offered to lower income individuals is not helping them in the long run. Generally speaking, we want a thriving market for people to improve their skills and education. And maybe we can hope that the experience of running, and indeed being sustained by, a large business will have a positive influence on the Post’s outlook over time.


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But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

that is, unless you’re getting bent over the desk of some lawyer every summer like our resident troll.

said it.

ted c on February 3, 2011 at 7:03 PM

This is where I talk about liberal psychosis and the absence of counterargument. All the left cares about is a Rule 12 hit on a new target of lefty hate.

I’ve had this conversation with ultra-lib and the look of boredom and disinterest when education bubble and government induced lending came out demonstrated that this is just about control and power, and for some reason, Kaplan is a target.

joeindc44 on February 3, 2011 at 7:05 PM

But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

oh Lord, the more money borrowed to invest in a higher degree, the worse off the person is. Grad schools and, in particular, law schools are the real criminals.

joeindc44 on February 3, 2011 at 7:07 PM

ted c on February 3, 2011 at 7:03 PM

You went there.

I have a feeling that Old Country Buffet is the one getting bent.

BigWyo on February 3, 2011 at 7:07 PM

Get rid of all government funding, loans, grants, etc and watch tuition rates drop like a stone. Make college teachers actually teach, 5 classes a week should be the minimum. This would allow colleges to fire half their faculty.

huckleberryfriend on February 3, 2011 at 7:08 PM

But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

Only go to a top 10 business or law program; otherwise stick with your bachelors.

IR-MN on February 3, 2011 at 7:09 PM

Taxpayer dollars should not be in post high school education. I don’t see much difference between this and Fannie/Freddie.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM

ted c on February 3, 2011 at 7:03 PM

Oh dear.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 7:12 PM

Talk to any History, English or, ahem, Liberal Arts major.

Most people with hard science degrees (and I am not talking environemtnal) usually are first to get the jobs. Why?… math!

upinak on February 3, 2011 at 7:12 PM

But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.
that is, unless you’re getting bent over the desk of some lawyer every summer like our resident troll.

said it.

ted c on February 3, 2011 at 7:03 PM

It had to be said. Thank You. If you hadn’t I would have.

Tim Zank on February 3, 2011 at 7:14 PM

Taxpayer dollars should not be in post high school education. I don’t see much difference between this and Fannie/Freddie.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM

This is virtually the same type of “house of cards” Cindy, spot on observation.

Tim Zank on February 3, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Everyone should have a PHD from Harvard, it’s a God Given Right. Just to be fair.

Skandia Recluse on February 3, 2011 at 7:24 PM

said it.

ted c on February 3, 2011 at 7:03 PM

That’s nothing to be proud of.

Esthier on February 3, 2011 at 7:29 PM

RT (TV network)
RT, previously known as Russia Today, is a global multilingual television news network based in Russia. RT was the first all-digital Russian TV network.[1] The service is aimed at the overseas market, similar to CCTV, DW-TV, France 24 and NHK World, and broadcast through satellite and cable operators throughout the world.

Fair and balanced? I doubt it.

mizflame98 on February 3, 2011 at 7:33 PM

This is a very serious topic which deserves a full debate. I’m all for providing avenues for self improvement and in some narrow fields some of these schools are quite good but you are not outlining the scale of the debts or the how the false promises of a new or better career are piling debt on working people with unrealistic expectations and the tax payer is probably going to end up on the hook. The admissions departments at these places encourage terrible practices which echo the worst aspects of predatory loaning during the housing bubble.

This is a huge scam. I don’t think they should all be shut down but there should be standards and regulation as there is with other large debt programs.

I would urge everyone interested to look at an excellent documentary from PBS on this subject just so you have an idea of the numbers and the variety of issues involved.

lexhamfox on February 3, 2011 at 7:37 PM

But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

I will vouch for the truth of this statement. I have classmates who are working in construction, and they were on law review.

Meric1837 on February 3, 2011 at 7:38 PM

Tim Zank on February 3, 2011 at 7:16 PM

Full disclosure, before the government took it over, I worked in the student loan industry in a trained monkey capacity. The number one and two reasons for loans to be forgiven was Bi-polar and obesity. The Bi-polar designation was particularly interesting since the student would get cured, incur more debt and be diagnosed again. Now I realize that that is more than possible but when you add non-discrimination laws into the mix your talking a lot of money.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM

I have classmates who are working in construction, and they were on law review.

Meric1837 on February 3, 2011 at 7:38 PM

Dang. That’s way too much money and effort spent on something they could have done without a HS diploma. Hopefully they’re using their law degree somehow.

Esthier on February 3, 2011 at 7:46 PM

The Bi-polar designation was particularly interesting since the student would get cured, incur more debt and be diagnosed again. Now I realize that that is more than possible but when you add non-discrimination laws into the mix your talking a lot of money.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM

Plus, it’s just so easy to manipulate that kind of system. How hard is it to pretend to be bi-polar? I imagine most women get accused of it anyway.

Esthier on February 3, 2011 at 7:47 PM

I have classmates who are working in construction, and they were on law review.

Meric1837 on February 3, 2011 at 7:38 PM

What, community organizer positions weren’t available?

mizflame98 on February 3, 2011 at 7:52 PM

THIS IS FUNNY…..

Let’s just say I have a “friend” that is studying for their GMAT later this month and recently they bought a book called “GMAT Math Foundations” because they really needed to focus on certain aspects of the test.

The book is published by KAPLAN. It’s really a simple, easy to follow, down and dirty how-to-guide. One problem with the book……..

One day early on in the process (maybe Chapter 2 I think it was) this friend spent about 20 minutes being frustrated that they didn’t understand the answer to the problem. Well come to find out, the BOOK WAS WRONG.

Apparently Proofreading wasn’t their strong suit. I watched this friend of mine run across error after error. Sometimes the problems had decimals in the wrong space, sometimes the answer would be under the next problem, etc. It was a total mess.

I’ve seen a lot of GMAT support material (other books, flashcards and such) as this friend has been studying and it does NOT speak highly of Kaplan and who PROOFS their study guides. Wonder who proofs their publications?

Anyone else have or hear of a similar problem?

PappyD61 on February 3, 2011 at 7:54 PM

Get rid of all government funding, loans, grants, etc and watch tuition rates drop like a stone. Make college teachers actually teach, 5 classes a week should be the minimum. This would allow colleges to fire half their faculty.

huckleberryfriend on February 3, 2011 at 7:08 PM

Thread winner right thar!!!

PappyD61 on February 3, 2011 at 7:59 PM

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 7:40 PM

How did obesity work for loan forgiveness?

CNBC had a great program on the higher education bubble a couple of months ago. It was scary and an eye-opener. I went to university here in Canada 20 years ago and my top tuition might have hit $2000 for a full semester of courses.

There was one young kid in the program that was near tears after authorities were docking his pay for student loans. I felt bad for him but he had a Liberal Arts Master’s degree!! I can’t really comment much since mine is “Honours International Relations.”

I’d like to see the government stop funding for all higher education, which may happen sooner or later. It’s tempting to exempt engineering, medicine and hard sciences but one exemption leads to another. And in terms of “science”, how much crap science and studies have been coming out of universities costing millions of dollars. A good shakeup and reality check may be a good thing.

Skill certification will hopefully be a growth area instead of formal degrees.

Canadian Infidel on February 3, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Ha. While watching the video bashing Kaplan, a Google ad for Kaplan popped up at the bottom of the screen. What a laugh.

Big John on February 3, 2011 at 8:05 PM

I was a Kaplan instructor and trainer for several years. It’s a high class company.

fossten on February 3, 2011 at 8:10 PM

Wonder who proofs their publications?

Anyone else have or hear of a similar problem?

Try The Princeton Review. They actually invest in R&D and proof reading.

Vera on February 3, 2011 at 8:15 PM

Canadian Infidel on February 3, 2011 at 8:04 PM

Morbid obesity usually kept the student housebound with related issues and unable to get a job. I think some of these schools are fine and Kaplan has had a decent reputation, especially in the area of preparing students for entrance exams. A co-worker bought into the CSI hype on TV and went to a for profit school. Her training was not that of a scientist but of an evidence collector and the tuition was outrageous. The sad thing is that she could have probably gotten the same training by going through the police academy. Like anything you need to go into it informed. I agree with you about the government funding though, even regular “non profit” schools spend like they have a endless supply of money.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 8:22 PM

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 8:22 PM

And obesity was still the second major reason for loan forgiveness? Wow, that’s scary.

I think the for-profit schools can be great. When I was in IT, one of my co-workers was from the Phillipines, pregnant at 18 and used every welfare option open to her so she could go to DeVry.

She was smart as hell, one of the project leaders and had a second job teaching at DeVry. I’m pretty sure she was close to 6 figures in earnings.

Again, I think certification in job skills is still the wave of the future.

Thanks and have a great night.

Canadian Infidel on February 3, 2011 at 8:30 PM

I work for a community college supervising a program that costs students $13,000 to complete, including books and everything. They earn an AS degree and have a healthcare career upon completion.

One of the for-profits is opening a similar program in a few months down the road. They are charging $41,000 for the same training, except they have no prerequisite courses and only cursory screening of applicants. Another for-profit in town has similar plans for later this year.

Here is the difference… our state-supported school receives tax payer dollars to artificially lower the cost to students. In return, the people of the state are provided with trained healthcare providers. At the for-profit school, state funding is replaced with de facto federal funding through tuition assistance in the name of providing access to underserved populations. It is a scam of monumental proportions and the bubble is about to burst.

Here’s the latest scam… parents bringing in their teenage students and enrolling them in early college courses at the local community college. The parents pocket the money instead and leave their kids holding the debt. Financial aid is the new welfare.

docjeff on February 3, 2011 at 8:31 PM

The parents pocket the money instead and leave their kids holding the debt. Financial aid is the new welfare.

docjeff on February 3, 2011 at 8:31 PM

Yikes, that’s unbelievable. I didn’t think students under 18 could be held to a financial contract.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 8:34 PM

I didn’t think students under 18 could be held to a financial contract

They can. I started college at 17 and was able to get loans to do it.

Vera on February 3, 2011 at 8:51 PM

There may need to be some attention paid to the practices of for profit universities like Kaplan

Excuse me, but can you name me one 4 year college that isn’t “for profit?”

Aquateen Hungerforce on February 3, 2011 at 9:02 PM

Only go to a top 10 business or law program; otherwise stick with your bachelors.

IR-MN on February 3, 2011 at 7:09 PM

AMEN!

When I was applying to b-schools I was very surprised to see the median starting salaries for some. You had the top tier with solid 6-figure starting salaries. Then the second tier with close to 6 figures. But then you got down to the 3rd and 4th tier and some of them had salaries in the 40s and 50s. And I’m thinking HUH? You’re going to spend 2 years in school, forgo 2 years of income while paying through the nose for tuition so you can graduate and make a whopping $45K a year? It’s insane. But yet every year tens of thousands of people do just that.

angryed on February 3, 2011 at 9:27 PM

Aquateen Hungerforce on February 3, 2011 at 9:02 PM

You realize there is a difference in their definition and your’s right?

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 9:45 PM

You suchah biothes!
I dropped out of high school and after 4 year in the USMC at 22 years old I labored pipelining in Texas and long story short I was a VP at 26 making 6 figs..
I have rarely been impressed with the derivative of our education systolic

esnap on February 4, 2011 at 12:09 AM

Talk to any History, English or, ahem, Liberal Arts major.

You know, ahem, this easy put-down of studying the liberal arts is tiresome. As I posted yesterday in reference to the Harvard study (and don’t feel like recapitulating),

A solid liberal arts education, done properly–one in which there is a commitment to English, science, math, history, philosophy, etc.–provides an intellectual and philosophical framework through which one can judge the world. It encourages the sort of critical thinking that allows the individual to make good decisions and be a good citizen.

One of the problems of modern education in general is the watering down of requirements and courses so that students are not getting this framework (and “critical thinking” becomes code for “the ability to spout leftist platitudes”). And many people are looking at the cost of college–both their tuition and the significant amount that taxpayers are paying–and rightly questioning the system itself. The system is one of forced attendance of subpar (rather, what once was par) K-12 education in which we cater to the lowest common denominator by pretending that all children have the same potential. This results in those with potential being held back with the pack who either cannot or will not learn beyond a basic level, if that.

Public education is a disaster. Until we stop pretending that every child can be “great” if only given the right instructor or tools, it will always be thus.

If you would prefer someone more eloquent discuss study in the liberal arts, read Victor Davis Hanson.

Easy money and government subsidies inflate the cost of education and encourage college for those who shouldn’t be there. And, financial aid shifts the burden to middle and upper income people, as they will pay full price so a lower income student has lower-to-no costs–yet another method of income redistribution that passes under the radar.

DrMagnolias on February 4, 2011 at 4:06 AM

Anyone else have or hear of a similar problem?

PappyD61 on February 3, 2011 at 7:54 PM

Yup, just took the ASVAB (99 percentile) and have used those types of books. Those books taught me algebra. Most every one I have used I found an error with it. They all suck at proof reading.

Tim Burton on February 4, 2011 at 4:22 AM

Kaplan’s (AKA Transcenders) certification test prep software is very good. I’ve passed every test using their software.

gatorfanatic on February 4, 2011 at 7:35 AM

alot of the government agencies online training classes are on Kaplan eduNeering. My favorite still has to be the one on climate change that says Hansons work is still valid including the hockey stick….

CaptainObvious on February 4, 2011 at 9:09 AM

RT.com is Russia Today, one of the propaganda arms of Vladimir Putin’s kleptocracy. Truly a highly reliable source for news.

(Also, is not the phrase “low-income student” a tautology?)

hicsuget on February 4, 2011 at 9:18 AM

The parents pocket the money instead and leave their kids holding the debt. Financial aid is the new welfare.

docjeff on February 3, 2011 at 8:31 PM
Yikes, that’s unbelievable. I didn’t think students under 18 could be held to a financial contract.

Cindy Munford on February 3, 2011 at 8:34 PM

I teach a dual-credit course at our HS through Dickinson State University in Dickinson ND, which is a 4 year college.
Students cannot get grants, but their parents can take out a loan.
However, the only information on these loans I have seen was that the loans were to be taken out by the parent & the parent was responsible for their repayment, not the minor student.
This was what was presented to me as a parent when my daughter took dual credit in HS here. The loans were not in the students’ name.
So I don’t know if this is a state issue or federal.

Your tuitions prices for medical services are too high. There is a price-fixer in private education the medical industry—it’s called the U.S. government. Long-existing regulations all but eliminate price competition. We are willing to cut prices on some programs and keep them low for years in return for relief from regulations that mandate our tuitions prices.

It happened to them, too.

Badger40 on February 4, 2011 at 10:41 AM

But as usual the left wants guaranteed outcomes. I know lots of people who got a good education from fine a fine four year university and still struggled to find a job upon graduation. Talk to any History, English or, ahem, Liberal Arts major. But guess what, it’s hard out there for law school grads too.

Unfortunately, we’ve become a nation of economic leeches (myself included). We don’t get out of college expecting to actually create our own businesses, patent our own inventions, make our own discoveries…we look to those who have done those things to give us jobs. We lost our Pioneer Spirit to do for ourselves long ago. The reasons would be interesting to explore in depth, but I suspect creeping Socialism and an ever more intrusive government/nanny state ideal has a lot to do with it.

On the other hand, too many of these kids go to college and take soft majors…anything to avoid having to study and learn mathematics, engineering, science, and the like. That’s for foreign kids to do I guess.

Yeah, I believe we do need historians and other social scientists, but I think that piece of the economic/job pie was saturated decades ago.

Have a book with a cartoon in it (can’t find it on the WWW)…two janitors, one is laughing hysterically pointing at the other and saying, “You have a degree in philosophy, too?.

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 4, 2011 at 6:31 PM