Odd mix: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

I’m just asking: Why did the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the University of Washington agree to play in the The Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl? For the sake of transparency,  I note that I’m employed by UNL.

I’m not talking about the lopsided football match-up between the two universities in the Holiday Bowl. (Washington beat  Nebraska 19-7)

I am talking about Nebraska and Washington, two non-profit universities with pretty good,  even terrific reputations. 

The Huskers and Huskies played in the Holiday Bowl game this week with new title sponsor Bridgepoint Education. If you’ve been following the news, you know that Bridgepoint is a for-profit education entity under investigation by the U.S. Education Department’s Office of Inspector General for possible violations of recruiter-compensation rules.

Bridgepoint’s issues may run deeper than that.

"While Bridgepoint employs 1,703 recruiters, they employ just one person to handle career planning...for the entire student body of 67,000 students," said Sen. Tom Harkin. Photo credit: By Joshua Roberts/Reuters

This month, Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, held hearings (full text here) on the reported abuses of for-profit colleges and specifically singled out Bridgepoint Education.  Don Bauder blogged the following in the San Diego Reader:

“In a recent appearance on the Senate floor, Harkin cited stunning numbers from San Diego’s Bridgepoint Education and its Ashford University, in which the overwhelming number of its students are enrolled. Harkin talked about two-year associate’s degree programs. “In the first year, 84.4% of students from Bridgepoint who signed up dropped out,” said Harkin. “What do you think happened to their [federal] loans? What do you think happened to their Pell grants? Students get those back? Not on your life. Bridgepoint kept them, the money went to their shareholders,” said Harkin, noting that 63% of those seeking a bachelor’s degree at Ashford drop out within a year.

Then came another shocker: “While Bridgepoint employs 1,703 recruiters, they employ just one person to handle career planning…for the entire student body of 67,000 students,” said Harkin, who is pressuring the Department of Education to push for reforms. Bridgepoint is under investigation of the department.”

To be fair, a group called Coalition for Educational Success responded to Sen. Harkin, calling his statements “another inaccurate anti-business attack on for-profit education.”

Bridgepoint Education’s website also features a response that labels recent reports about the company as “misconceptions and factually inaccurate.”

As Bridgepoint notes, Senator Harkin is not the first to raise questions about for-profit education companies such as Bridgepoint.

"The for-profit education industry makes huge profits taking government money and lending it to students, most of whom will never get a degree," says financial columnist Peter Cohan.

Last summer, AOL financial columnist Peter Cohan dedicated a Daily Finance column to some of the pitfalls associated with the for-profit education industry and made specific mention of Bridgepoint:

“The for-profit education industry makes huge profits taking government money and lending it to students, most of whom will never get a degree. And the beauty is that when those poor suckers take the loans and can’t repay them, that’s the government’s problem, not the “education” company’s.

Meanwhile, at least one for-profit educator hires sales people to push this money onto the weak — including a dying woman who wouldn’t live long enough to complete a single course — and when sales people don’t meet their quotas, it cuts their pay to force them to leave. “

Here are more article links that raise questions about Bridgepoint Education:
What do you think?
Should the University of Nebraska-Lincoln or other universities play in bowl games sponsored by for-profit educational companies that may have competing and questionable interests?

About Bernard McCoy

My views are my own and not a reflection of my employer. I'm a professor of Journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. I've also been a working journalist for the past 29 years. I have covered news stories in war zones, reported on human and natural disasters, presidential conventions, a presidential inauguration and the September 11th, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center in New York City. My career experiences include work as an award-winning documentary producer, television news reporter, photographer, producer, and anchor. I worked at WIBW-TV, Topeka, KS., KCTV, Kansas City, MO, WKBD-TV, Detroit, MI., WILX-TV, Lansing, MI. and WBNS-TV, Columbus, OH. I have also worked as a contributing reporter for The Columbus Dispatch, Associated Press, CBS, CNN, the Ohio News Network and lecture at the Kosovo Institute of Journalism and Communications. I have a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Kansas and a master’s degree in telecommunications management from Michigan State University.
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One Response to Odd mix: The University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the Bridgepoint Education Holiday Bowl

  1. saronai says:

    As someone screwed over by Ashford, I’d have to say you have a right to pause over two reputable colleges agreeing to that. For some strange reason when I signed up with them I firmly recall reading that they were non-profit. Can’t find that anywhere now. Guess I should have dug a LOT deeper than their A+ on the BBB before I let the recruiter pressure/marketing technique me into 20k worth of debt only to have my degree held randsom until I pay 2k out of pocket for a mistake they already admitted was theirs.

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