Certainly the media has not mention Romney’s financial connected to deceptive for-rofit education practices. Truthout:
And, indeed, the previous Republican nominee, Mitt Romney, is financially connected to similar deceptive for-profit education practices.
As the 2012 GOP nomination contest neared the critical Iowa caucuses, Romney was asked by the Ames Tribune’s editorial board what he planned to do about higher education. Romney’s response was crystal-clear: He liked for-profit colleges, including the University of Phoenix, and especially a Florida school called Full Sail University, which, he said, knew how to “hold down the cost of their education.”
In fact, Full Sail only knew how to hold down the cost of education for its owners; for students, it was the third most expensive college in America.
It also turned out that Full Sail’s owners, the principals of a private equity firm called TA Associates, were among Romney’s top donors. In praising Full Sail, Romney never mentioned that TA executives had contributed heavily to his campaign effort.
Nor did Romney disclose that he was actually in business with them. Romney’s son Tagg and 2012 campaign finance director Spencer Zwick had launched the private equity fund Solamere Capital in 2008 with a $10 million investment from Mitt Romney. In June 2012, the Romney campaign held a retreat in Park City, Utah, for about 200 wealthy donors. Remarkably, right outside the retreat, Solamere Capital held its own investor lunch meeting. In March 2013, following his defeat in the presidential election, Romney took on a more formal role at Solamere, becoming chairman of the executive committee.
Solamere describes itself as a “fund of funds” that allows its privileged investors to buy into high-end private equity firms. TA Associates is one of the firms that Solamere Capital has offered to its clients for investment, according to a prospectus sent to potential investors and obtained by the Boston Globe in 2011.
Another for-profit college owned by TA Associates is Vatterott College, acquired in 2009.
In 2014, a Missouri appeals court upheld a jury verdict against Vatterott for deceiving a single mom, Jennifer Kerr. A jury in Jackson County, MO, had awarded Kerr $27,676 in actual damages and $13 million in punitive damages; the trial judge cut the punitive award to about $2 million because state law caps these awards.
Kerr, from Lee’s Summit, Missouri, saw Vatterott’s TV ads and visited the campus in 2009 to pursue her dream of becoming a nurse. A Vatterott recruiter told Kerr that the school didn’t have a nursing program, but it did offer a medical assistant’s degree. With that credential, the recruiter said, Kerr could make $15 to $17 an hour, and her Vatterott credits would transfer to a nursing program and put her on the “fast track” to being a nurse.
But after signing for more than $27,000 in loans and being in the program for over a year, Kerr discovered that her program wasn’t a medical assistant program at all — it was a medical office assistant program. You might not need college for that. Vatterott staff then told her that a medical assistant’s degree would require more classes and another $10,000.
Jennifer Kerr was not the first student to be deceived by Vatterott College.
The 2010-2012 comprehensive investigation of the for-profit college industry by then-Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) obtained internal training documents from Vatterott that seemed to instruct recruiters to use exploitative tactics: “We deal with people that live in the moment and for the moment. Their decision to start, stay in school or quit school is based more on emotion than logic. Pain is the greater motivator in the short term.” Another Vatterott document described the target market for recruiters: “We serve the UN-DER world, Unemployed, Underpaid, Unsatisfied, Unskilled, Unprepared, Unsupported, Unmotivated, Unhappy, Underserved!”
After Michael Brown was shot to death by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri, it was often reported that the young man was on the verge of attending college. Less well known was the name and type of school that had signed him up and was ready to cash his federal financial aid checks: It was for-profit Vatterott.
Vatterott’s recruiting abuses have led to bad outcomes for enrolled students. The percentage of Vatterott students who default on their student loans within three years of dropping out or graduating has been a very-high 26.6 percent. In 2012, eight of Vatterott’s 39 programs failed all three initial tests of the Obama administration’s “gainful employment” rule, which established bare minimum standards to penalize schools that consistently leave their students with insurmountable debt. Student bulletin boards are full of complaints about the quality of a Vatterott education.
In 2009 and 2010, three top Vatterott executives pleaded guilty to a criminal conspiracy to fraudulently obtain federal student grants and loans for ineligible students in 2005-06 by providing false general equivalency diplomas (GEDs) and doctoring financial aid forms.