The PBS public affairs show Frontline aired a show on the for-profit education sector last night that focused on the education of military personnel and veterans and took a close look at San Diego-based Bridgepoint Education.

Bridgepoint, which my colleague Liam Dillon and I looked at in our story about the company’s extraordinary growth and controversial history, has become one of the largest private employers in San Diego County in recent years.

In its piece, “Educating Sergeant Pantzke,” Frontline interviewed two former employees of Ashford University, one of Bridgepoint’s two online campuses, who criticized their former employer. Former Ashford enrollment advisor Wade Cutler said he wasn’t discouraged to sign up applicants who weren’t ready for study.

“They don’t say that,” Cutler said.

“What do they say?” the interviewer asked.

“They say everybody is a good fit. The military is a perfect fit.”

Here’s the Frontline video:

The piece examines a trend that has raised concern in the U.S. Senate and in several states across the country. As for-profit universities have boomed, they’ve attracted a significant share of their revenue from students in the military who pay for their studies via the federal G.I. Bill.

That’s a concern to Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who has used the committee he chairs, the Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, to criticize the for-profit education industry and Bridgepoint. From our previous story:

Harkin zeroed in on Bridgepoint two weeks ago in the latest in a series of hearings he has been holding about the for-profit education business. In a lengthy denunciation of the company, Harkin lambasted Bridgepoint for duplicity in its marketing, lavish executive compensation and dismal dropout rates.

The senator pointed out that while Bridgepoint was making record profits last year, 84 percent of the students in its two-year programs were dropping out, according to a sampling of students by his committee.

“In the world of for-profit higher education, spectacular business success is possible despite an equally spectacular record of student failure,” Harkin said.

Since the hearing, Harkin has announced that he plans to introduce legislation to tighten the regulation of the for-profit education industry.

Since we wrote our story about Bridgepoint, we’ve also blogged about the company’s continued explosive growth, an investigation of the company by New York’s attorney general, and Bridgepoint’s boost from weaker-than-expected new U.S. Department of Education federal aid guidelines.

Please contact Will Carless directly at will.carless@voiceofsandiego.org or at 619.550.5670 and follow him on Twitter: twitter.com/willcarless.

    Written by Will Carless

    Will Carless is the former head of investigations at Voice of San Diego. He currently lives in Montevideo, Uruguay, where he is a freelance foreign correspondent and occasional contributor to VOSD. You can reach him at will.carless.work@gmail.com.

    6 comments
    Pamela Brennan
    Pamela Brennan subscriber

    I have 2 more classes before I graduate from Ashford University, and it has been hard...but I couldn't have done it any other way....I have read the statistics(5% graduation rate) and I am not surprised...but it is like anything else, you get what you put into it. Work hard, and then, if you fail...work harder. Maybe that's why they encourage military people, because they have the training and discipline required. Of course Bridgeport is exploiting college students, but so is everyone else. I stopped buying college textbooks a long time ago...Ashford simply provides the means- but it is totally up to the student to learn the material. And if you do graduate, believe me, you've earned it.

    Pamela
    Pamela

    I have 2 more classes before I graduate from Ashford University, and it has been hard...but I couldn't have done it any other way....I have read the statistics(5% graduation rate) and I am not surprised...but it is like anything else, you get what you put into it. Work hard, and then, if you fail...work harder. Maybe that's why they encourage military people, because they have the training and discipline required. Of course Bridgeport is exploiting college students, but so is everyone else. I stopped buying college textbooks a long time ago...Ashford simply provides the means- but it is totally up to the student to learn the material. And if you do graduate, believe me, you've earned it.

    Will Dawson
    Will Dawson subscriber

    If I were a real investor I would take a STRONG SHORT POSITION on Bridgeport Education. As the financial crises in the US BOOMS government funding for for profit education dry up. Without federal money Bridgeport and others like it will die a sudden but sure death. Those "STUDENTS" caught in the mess will still owe piles of $ to defunct "EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS" And my "SHORT POSITION" will make me a lot of cash. Maybe the Watchdog or other investigative journalists might want to see who is "SHORTING" this market segment now.

    Sandawg
    Sandawg

    If I were a real investor I would take a STRONG SHORT POSITION on Bridgeport Education. As the financial crises in the US BOOMS government funding for for profit education dry up. Without federal money Bridgeport and others like it will die a sudden but sure death. Those "STUDENTS" caught in the mess will still owe piles of $ to defunct "EDUCATIONAL INSTITUTIONS" And my "SHORT POSITION" will make me a lot of cash. Maybe the Watchdog or other investigative journalists might want to see who is "SHORTING" this market segment now.

    Josh Gelb
    Josh Gelb subscriber

    Its funny because its true. Why are we surprised when a for profit company tries to maximize profit? In most places its expected. In education its some sort of sin. I'm not defending what Bridgepoint, or Phoenix or National do, I'm just not surprised or indignant. Reminds me of a quote I once read. "Never ask a barber if you need a haircut, the answer is always yes!"

    barnaby33
    barnaby33

    Its funny because its true. Why are we surprised when a for profit company tries to maximize profit? In most places its expected. In education its some sort of sin. I'm not defending what Bridgepoint, or Phoenix or National do, I'm just not surprised or indignant. Reminds me of a quote I once read. "Never ask a barber if you need a haircut, the answer is always yes!"

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