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This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things: Colleges Target Vunerable Groups!

July 27, 2010

As the college class of 2014 – or more realistically the class of 2015 – prepares its annual matriculation to higher education institutions all over the world, in addition to living environment surveys and dubious last minute fees, degree hopefuls are being overwhelmed by discouraging labor force news or perhaps the unsettling realization they have selected the wrong institution. Despite grim forecasts for employment and the skyrocketing fees, the dominant pop culture college narrative still evokes images of ivy greens, bad cafeteria food, crusty, but life-altering mentors and dorm rooms the size of mid size automobiles. Unfortunately, this narrative – in addition to privileging four-year institutions over community college – also minimizes the barriers to higher education faced by countless individuals, particularly if they are not affluent or at least “traditional” in age or life experience.

When the Education Department released a proposal designed to curtail some of the shenanigans of For-Profit colleges I was pretty excited. That is until I actually read the report. The proposal offers little to limit the way in which the billion dollar industry markets itself or the the shady practices it employs to target potential consumers:

Benson Rollins wants a college degree. The unemployed high school dropout who attends Alcoholics Anonymous and has been homeless for 10 months is being courted by the University of Phoenix. Two of its recruiters got themselves invited to a Cleveland shelter last October and pitched the advantages of going to the country’s largest for-profit college to 70 destitute men.

(via Business Week)

For-Profit colleges like University of Phoenix target their marketing towards marginalized groups, specifically subsets within marginalized communities little understanding of the higher educational system. For-Profit colleges exploit their students’ ignorance in areas such as financial aid, accreditation and viability of the degree. In addition, UoP’s parent corporation shelled out a reported $10 million to settle a lawsuit alleging fraud and among other things admissions counselors’ compensation tied to their enrollment numbers!

If that wasn’t enough, another controversy highlighting their deceptive marketing practices was exposed. Those “Obama Has Money For Single Moms” ads, shown on various websites are FAKE. While this might seem like a big “duh” to folks who have benefited from educational opportunities afforded to them courtesy of the kyriarchy, not everyone has been so fortunate. Employing tactics usually observed in other predatory establishments such as check cashing places and sub-prime lenders, these ads distort, mislead and manipulate ill-informed consumers, who are often facing dire economic situations. The dubious ads were not created any For-Profit college, but instead, the intuitions employed lead generators, claiming they were unaware of the tactics used by these companies.

A spokesman for Capella said school officials also “periodically review messaging” used by lead generators, and that they had terminated Capella’s “involvement” with several ad campaigns earlier this year after discovering they were “paraphrasing President Obama.” A spokeswoman for Golden Gate University said the school would “immediately” ask any of its lead generators to stop should they find the marketers using Obama mom ads. The other schools did not comment.

At our request, volunteers asked the lead generators and college recruiters about Obama grants or scholarships for moms. While no recruiter claimed the grants actually existed, they generally did not dispute that they did. More often, said Shepherd, “I was told that a financial aid person could assist me later when I asked about the Obama grants.”

I believe wholeheartedly that college education should be accessible to anyone who desires to pursue one. I also think “legitimate” colleges have dropped the ball in terms of marketing and outreach to underrepresented populations. In addition, the marginalizing of community colleges (hey, I went to a few myself. I seem to have done okay), hampers their ability to provide a strong, viable alternative for those who view cheesy, expensive and predatory fly-by-night colleges as their only educational opportunity. Why they are able to continue their fuckwittage unabated is clear; they are targeting communities nobody gives a shit about. But here’s the thing: As the largest recipient of federal student aid, places like University of Phoenix are exploiting disenfranchised communities while making themselves wealthier with the help of YOUR TAX DOLLARS.

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13 Comments leave one →
  1. irishup permalink
    July 27, 2010 5:56 pm

    You know I already HAVE a “right-wing military-industrial complex is conspiring to discredit educational achievement while keeping the disenfranchized optionless so as to have more bodies to throw at Oil Wars” rant. Now I get to add that part of that conspiracy not only involves cutting off funding for higher education, but redirecting such funding as exists to for-profit institutions that don’t actually give you any education or value.

    Swell.

    I had no idea UoP was being marketed like lottery stores in poor neighborhoods. A homeless shelter!?!? Why the coy disguises? Whynot just hangout in alleys and roll the drunks that way, ffs! This is some seriously disturbing shit.

    Thanks for posting about it.

  2. July 27, 2010 6:45 pm

    No problem. I thought it might be useful in light of all the backstage dealing happening as it relates to “education” and specifically the For-Profit educational model. It’s pretty disgusting. I’ve been railing about them for years!

  3. irishup permalink
    July 27, 2010 6:57 pm

    The thing that really gets me, is that the off-campus educational model SHOULD be something that we can offer to marginalized people as a way out. As a for instance, most shelters have to kick everyone out during the day to clean and reorganize and whatnot. Mostly people just wander around doing what they can for scratch, or trying to stay outta cops way, or out of the weather. Imagine if instead they could be going to a OCC or an off-site adult literacy program or what-have-you – perhaps at a library? Sure, it’s no panacea, but I could see this really helping some people. Particularly ad-lit, which can provide skills that offer immediate relief; my sis volunteers at a big ad-lit program, and the number of people who are homeless in large part DUE to literacy barriers is truly ugly.

    I think that’s what’s really turning my stomach – imagining someone feeling that ther is FINALLY! A Way OUT! only to find out their hole is even deeper.

    Also, I like this green FryButt template better than the pink one when I first commented.

  4. July 27, 2010 7:36 pm

    The thing that really gets me, is that the off-campus educational model SHOULD be something that we can offer to marginalized people as a way out. As a for instance, most shelters have to kick everyone out during the day to clean and reorganize and whatnot. Mostly people just wander around doing what they can for scratch, or trying to stay outta cops way, or out of the weather. Imagine if instead they could be going to a OCC or an off-site adult literacy program or what-have-you – perhaps at a library? Sure, it’s no panacea, but I could see this really helping some people. Particularly ad-lit, which can provide skills that offer immediate relief; my sis volunteers at a big ad-lit program, and the numb

    I agree. I think institutions have really missed an opportunity to serve underrepresented populations like women in long term domestic violence shelters, teen crisis housing and any other folks in transitional housing. More importantly, shame on these social service agencies – who no doubt are getting kickbacks – for allowing their residents to be exploited in this manner. That’s really awful.

  5. July 27, 2010 7:36 pm

    Also, thanks for the kind words about the new template. Hopefully, the green is more enjoyable for everyone! Does the page layout work better for you as well?

  6. July 27, 2010 8:57 pm

    1) I’ve notice a significantly bigger marketing campaign by many of these schools in the past year that has made me nervous, so I’m glad the reality it starting to shine through.

    2) I like the green, but for some reason this layout doesn’t like html code in the post — it’s ignoring my code for footnotes.

    That kinda just made me laugh.

  7. July 27, 2010 9:05 pm

    Yes, this layout does have some limitations, but I like how each post gets highlighted and things are more smartly organized. I can take or leave the green, but the pink was quite awful.

  8. July 27, 2010 9:47 pm

    I like the more prominent date stamp on each post, too. And the right column looks tighter and neater.

  9. July 27, 2010 9:58 pm

    Fry Butter is now Y2K ready!

  10. irishup permalink
    July 27, 2010 10:02 pm

    “Does the page layout work better for you as well?”

    I agree with raymondj about the date stamp and right column. I’m liking navigating around the site and the relatively low contrast of the template as well. Visual change usually is very disorientating for me, but I like this alot.

  11. July 27, 2010 10:37 pm

    Yay! We have a Press page now! We won’t forget all the little people that made our press possible.

  12. July 27, 2010 10:56 pm

    oh snap! we’re getting called up to the big leagues!

  13. July 28, 2010 3:28 am

    The issue of education is certainly one that needs to be addressed. As the population continues to increase, as more and more unskilled labor jobs and even highly skilled jobs are being sent to other countries so that corporations can show a profit, the question of what will happen to those people on the fringes must start to be addressed now.

    Everyone seems okay with ripping off the people who have little or no way to fight back. So opportunistic people descend like vultures and pick at the bones. It’s an ugly business. But it’s up to us to point out the shortcomings of these situations to these people. This article is a step in that direction.

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