Posts Tagged ‘Keiser University’

From: http://community.elearners.com/all_blogs/online_student_blogs/my_bellevue_university_experience/b/bellevue_university/archive/2010/10/19/keiser-university-sues-florida-state-college-jacksonville-how-this-may-concern-you.aspx

The “for profit vs. non-profit” fight has gotten a little bit uglier this month.  I’ve mentioned it on the forums but I’ve decided to do a little more digging before blogging on this particular news article.  In a nutshell, Keiser University (a for profit school) finds out about a collaborative effort between Florida State College Jacksonville (a non-profit school), the Institute for College Access and Success (a connected lobby group which is anti “for profit” schools), Gilchrist Bert (founder of the Water Street Capital hedge fund and famous for short selling) and of course Steve Eisman (a hedge fund analyst also famous for short selling) conspiring to drive Keiser University out of Jacksonville.

 

So who are all of these actors and how does this play out?  Why would they do this?  Is this a crusade to protect the interests of students?

 

Florida State College Jacksonville, generally a community college in Jacksonville who allegedly believes that Keiser University would steal enrollment dollars and decrease the demand for the college’s services.  The conspirators acting on behalf of FSCJ were Steven Wallace the president of the college and Susan Lehr, the vice president of government relations.

 

The Institute for College Access and Success (ICAS) is a lobby group who has a primary agenda of placing restrictions on for profit schools placing them at a competitive disadvantage to non-profits.  This organization is most famous recently for producing Robert Shireman who became the Deputy Undersecretary of Education at the U.S. Department of Education.  It was Shireman who started the ball rolling in changing the U.S. Department of Education’s official stance from neutral to hostile towards for profit education as a whole.  More on himhttp://www2.ed.gov/news/staff/bios/rshireman.html

 

Gilchrist Bert founded the billion dollar, Jacksonville based hedge fund Water Street Capital.  Gilchrist is famous for turning massive profits short selling.

 

Steve Eisman is a portfolio manager for FrontPoint Financial Services, a connected hedge fund, who is also very famous for making big bucks short selling, especially in this last mortgage crisis the nation underwent.

 

So the next logical question is, why do these hedge fund guys care about what happens to for profit schools and how exactly do they anticipate making money by short selling?  I’ll take a shot at giving an admittedly oversimplified explanation of short selling and how these guys make money doing it.  Basically a hedge fund manager borrows a stock at a given value on interest from a brokerage and then sells them.  To settle the account eventually the hedge fund manager will then have to buy back the same number of shares and return them to the broker.  If the shares can be devalued or drop in price, the hedge fund turns a profit because they are buying them back for a smaller amount of money than they borrowed them.  They keep the difference.  I’ll give an example, say you borrow a pen worth $1,000 from a friend and agree to pay him/her 10% for every month you keep the pen out of their possession.  You then turn around and sell the pen for $1,000 and during the following weeks the manufacturer of the pen drops the price to $500.  You buy the pen, return it to the owner plus the interest you owe on it and keep the difference.  Make sense?

 

So why are these guys so vested in seeing the education shares fall?  Simple, because they’ve borrowed shares and would like to return them by buying them back at a reduced price.  So other than the for profit schools who stands to lose?  The brokerage firm, that’s who.  And why should we care if the brokerage firm loses?  Take a look at your 401K, guess who is managing this account for you?  That’s right, a brokerage firm.  The brokerage is betting that the stock will remain stable or otherwise grow, meaning that the hedge fund will have to pay interest and return the stock that is now more valuable than before, thus the brokerage firm (and you) will see greater returns on your initial investment than you would otherwise.  This is a win/lose game, either the brokerage and your average investor win or the hedge fund wins.

 

So the basically the story is, these hedge fund managers smell blood in the water.  You have an administration in power that is almost openly hostile towards free market enterprise regardless of industry.  Add to that equation a U.S. Department of Education who has no problem imposing unprecedented policy upon schools based solely upon their tax status and who is also using their position to influence the decisions of non-governmental accrediting bodies.  Lastly you have Senators and Congressmen who receive large campaign donations from not only the hedge fund managers, but law firms who may represent them, non-profit schools and other organizations that may have a stake in the game.

The losers in this are the investors (me and you), the for profit schools, students and future students regardless of whether they will or already attend for profits schools or not.  Why?  Because the supply of readily available schools will drop, making it more difficult and expensive to earn a college degree (supply vs. demand).  Secondly the alumni of for profit schools stand to lose as their degree(s) will have an unfair shadow of doubt cast upon it regardless of the reality of the quality of education they received.

 

 

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A recently filed lawsuit alleges that officials of Florida State College at Jacksonville conspired to compete with a for-profit college with a campus in Jacksonville. This is not true.

With an enrollment of 85,000, our college has plenty of students.

What is true is that Keiser University is retaliating against our efforts to raise awareness about excessive student loan debt.

In collaboration with the U.S. Department of Education, Florida State College at Jacksonville has been significantly involved in efforts to improve student loan consumer protection.

In our view, strong measures are urgently needed at state and federal levels to ensure consumer protection against the abusive practices of some for-profit colleges that can saddle vulnerable students and their families with a lifelong burden of debt without any realistic prospect for repayment.

Such excessive debt often precludes further education and may severely impair the student’s ability to secure future employment and housing. Ultimately, American taxpayers pay for loan defaults, which currently total an estimated $47.4 billion.

Federal studies and investigations have found the for-profit college industry to be at the center of this student debt crisis and have raised serious concerns about some of their business practices.

The leaders of Florida State College at Jacksonville are concerned primarily about the exploitation of students in Northeast Florida by profit-focused colleges as these (typically young) citizens pursue their dream of a higher education.

As one of the largest and most comprehensive public colleges in America, Florida State College at Jacksonville offers nearly every program of interest at tuition rates among the lowest in the nation.

The college’s commitment to student loan minimization led to the establishment of the Star Opportunity Fund – one of the largest local need-based financial aid programs in the country.

The number of scholarships awarded by the fund to low-income students has increased by 176 percent over the past two years, and the college’s foundation has launched a massive campaign to make far more resources available to students.

Florida State College at Jacksonville officials will continue to combat excessive student debt while working hard to protect the interests of our local college students.

We will not let this lawsuit deter us from our mission of providing high-quality, affordable education to our community, nor will it deter us from sounding the alarm about some of the business practices of the for-profit college industry.

STEVEN R. WALLACE,

president,

Florida State College at Jacksonville

 

From: http://jacksonville.com/opinion/letters-readers/2010-10-08/story/non-profit-collegesconsumers-need-protection?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+JacksonvillecomOpinion+%28Jacksonville.com%3A+Opinion%29

by Grant Explorer on Thursday, October 7th, 2010

For-profit colleges are beginning to launch an all-out war to fight what they see as unfair attacks from such critics as community colleges and the federal government.

Fort Lauderdale-based Keiser University sued a Jacksonville community college on Monday, claiming administrators there maligned its school. At the same time, a group representing 19 other for-profit schools released a study slamming recruiting practices and student achievement at community colleges, which compete for many of the same students and government dollars.

And last week, more than 2,000 career college students and supporters attended a rally in Washington, D.C., to protest proposed regulations that could strip the for-profit colleges of much of their federal aid.

“The misinformation is just extraordinary, and we have been absolutely miserable at defending ourselves,” said Keiser chancellor Arthur Keiser, who also leads the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the industry lobbying group. “Finally, I think that’s beginning to change.”

The sector has come under fire in the past year, as Senate hearings and federal government reports have raised questions about recruiting practices, student debt and the large amounts of federal dollars the schools receive. For-profits say they are being unfairly singled out.

Keiser claims in its lawsuit that the president and another administrator at Florida State College at Jacksonville launched a smear campaign against Keiser and the entire for-profit sector. The university based many of its claims on documents obtained through a public records request to the community college.

According to the suit, college president Steven Wallace sullied the reputation of Keiser and other for-profit schools in an April 2009 e-mail to a short seller, who would profit if the price of publicly-traded education stocks declined in value, the suit alleges. The community college was launching a new technical school at the time and saw Keiser as competition, according to the suit.

“The new technical college we will launch … is designed, in part, to drive the sleazebags out of our region,” according to Wallace’s e-mail.

The suit also alleges that school officials fed the media stories that for-profit schools “ripped off” their students and provided them with “worthless degrees.” Keiser’s business suffered, with lower than expected enrollments and restricted access to recruit at area high schools.

“They were out to harm our business, and it got to a point where this was intolerable,” said James Waldman, Keiser’s general counsel.

Wallace called the suit “absurd,” adding, “we are not concerned in the slightest because we have done nothing improper.”

Florida State College officials say they suspect Keiser is upset because community colleges have supported tighter controls of the for-profit industry. The U.S. Department of Education has proposed new rules that would limit colleges’ access to student aid if too many students default on their loans or fail to find “gainful employment.”

For-profit colleges received $4 billion in federal Pell Grants and $20 billion in federal loans in 2009, making up the bulk of their revenues, federal data show. And while only 12 percent of college students attend for-profit schools, they account for 43 percent of student loan defaults. Most students in community colleges don’t take out student loans, since tuition is state-subsidized and considerably cheaper.

“We are simply trying to protect our local college students from excessive debt,” Wallace said. “We will continue to do so on behalf of our community and will defend the college vigorously in court. ”

Keiser’s fight is not limited to Florida State College. Last week, it sent 28 students and supporters to Washington, D.C., to join a national rally against proposed federal regulations. Keiser nursing program graduate Greg Shaw, 44, of Tallahassee, was one of them.

“I worked very hard for a program where we lost 60 percent of the students who didn’t make the grade,” he said. “Now I’m hearing people sneering, saying, ‘I understand the government is cracking down on programs like yours.’ It has the effect of devaluing the degree I worked hard for, and it’s offensive.”

Career colleges and their supporters say the industry is being unfairly attacked. For example, a recent Government Accountability Report did an undercover investigation of recruiting practices at 15 for-profit colleges, but didn’t look at other education sectors. Problems were found in all the campuses, with potentially fraudulent behavior at four schools. Keiser was not among those visited.

Several for-profits, including Kaplan Higher Education and the University of Phoenix, have issued a long list of changes to address the problems, including restructuring their pay system so advisers aren’t working on commission, thus discouraging the use of high-pressure sales tactics.

Immediately after the government report, Kaplan suspended enrollment at Kaplan College locations in Pembroke Pines and Riverside, Calif., and that’s still in effect. A company statement said Kaplan is conducting a thorough investigation to make sure students and applicants “are treated in the most responsible and ethical manner possible,” and that employees are following all laws and company policies.

But industry officials say community colleges are also guilty of questionable practices. The Coalition for Education Success, made up of such schools as the Art Institutes and Argosy University, commissioned an undercover operation of practices at community colleges. The report states admission officials wouldn’t release graduation data and gave misleading or evasive data about job placement rates and earnings potential of graduates.

The survey also quotes federal data that shows community colleges have graduation rates of 21 percent, compared to 58 percent for career colleges.

“At a time when community colleges are being touted as the answer for educational achievement and job placement in this country, we found troubling evidence to the contrary,” said Jean Norris, lead researcher on the study.

If all the findings are true, it still doesn’t negate the need for reforms in the for-profit industry, said critic David Hawkins, director of public policy for the National Association for College Admission Counseling.

“The stakes must be extraordinarily high for the for-profits to be responding with such aggressive tactics,” he said. “The regulations proposed would fundamentally alter their business model, which is something they’re not interested in doing right now.”

From: http://www.exploringgrants.com/keiser-university-sues-jacksonville-college/

Following on this morning’s post about privately held for-profit school The Keiser School suing Florida State College at Jacksonville, Keiser’s senior counsel, James Waldman, was kind enough to take a few minutes this afternoon to talk with me by phone.

Most interesting to investors following the travails of publicly listed for-profits such as Grand Canyon Education (LOPE) and Apollo Group (APOL), and others, is that Waldman contends the suit is a first of its kind in terms of alleging defamation against for-profit ed, but he also says Keiser has not joined forces with any other for-profits, public or private, in bringing suit. The action is strictly related to what the company sees as a particular smear campaign by Florida State.

Waldman says the company can show that misleading statements by executives of Florida State, featured in the media, harmed the company’s business by reducing enrollment and even getting Keiser barred from recruiting at some high schools.

The issues in the suit, however, go to the heart of the criticisms against for-profit ed.

“Florida State has said that we [Keiser] are ripping off our students, and has said our degree is worthless,” said Waldman.

“There is no evidence that our degree is worthless. It is the same degree that can be obtained at the University of Florida,” contends Waldman. ”

“We have higher graduation rates than the community colleges do, and we create more jobs [for graduates] than they do,” said Waldman.

As for the connection to short sellers, such as Steve Eisman of FrontPoint Financial Services, who are named in the suit as co-conspirators, Waldman says Eisman and others “have been in direct communication with the named defendants,” exchanging information about for-profit ed.

As for Eisman, he also spoke with me this afternoon by phone. Eisman tells me he had never heard of Keiser before hearing of the suit last night. Eisman is not a party to the suit.

“I laughed,” Eisman tells me. “It’s very hard to be a co-conspirator about an institution I’ve never heard of.”

Eisman said he may have had some contact with Florida State’s government liaison, Susan Lehr, who is named as a defendant. However, it was only in the context of a general discussion of for-profit ed. “I speak to a lot of people about this stuff,” says Eisman. “We never spoke about any particular schools, and I’d never heard of Keiser before.”

The suit is ultimately “not at all important to the for-profit eds,” contends Eisman. “What I have said publicly,” adds Eisman, “is that the graduation rates are exceptionally low [in for-profit ed], the default rates are astronomical, and that the federal government should do something to change the industry. Those first two are facts, the latter is my opinion.”

From: http://blogs.barrons.com/stockstowatchtoday/2010/10/05/keiser-details-smear-campaign-against-it-eisman-never-heard-of-em/

Click here to read the Keiser Lawsuit against Florida State College Jacksonville.

A for-profit college is suing Florida State College at Jacksonville, its president, and its chief lobbyist for “tortious interference with a business relationship” and “injurious falsehood” in connection with what it says was “a false and misleading campaign in the Florida press and the national media designed to disparage Keiser University and to drive Keiser and other proprietary schools out of business.”

The complaint, filed yesterday in Broward County, Florida, names two money managers, Steven Eisman of Frontpoint Financial Services Fund, LP, Greenwich, Conn., and Gilchrist Berg of Water Street Capital, Jacksonville, Fla., as “co-conspirators.”

The involvement of short-sellers in the push for increased regulation of for-profit colleges and universities has been the subject of extensive coverage here, but the court complaint lays out new details about the way that the government-backed colleges — the complaint terms Florida State College at Jacksonville “a state-funded direct competitor of Keiser University” — worked hand in hand with short-sellers.

“Keiser suffered special damages as a result of Defendants’ negative media campaign in the form of, among other things, decreases in expected enrollment, increased costs of doing business, and decreased business valuation,” the complaint claims.

The complaint says the president of Florida State College at Jacksonville, Steven Wallace, sent Mr. Berg, described as “a prominent Jacksonville short-seller” an e-mail “with information to use against the proprietary schools.”

The complaint also cites an email from the top lobbyist for Florida State College at Jacksonville, Susan Lehr, that “personally insulted Dr. and Mrs. Keiser, Keiser University officials. Ms. Lehr called Mrs. Keiser “very arrogant like him. I guess that is what happens to you when you ‘earn’ $20 million a year and own 5 jets.”

The suit says that Ms. Lehr was “trading information with Eisman” who “stood to profit if the value of proprietary schools declined.”

And it says that Ms. Lehr promoted an Eisman speech critical of for-profit colleges in advance and “tailored a Florida State College press release to Eisman’s message.”

Says the complaint: “In May 2010, short seller Steve Eisman gave a speech called ‘subprime goes to college’ that predicted for-profit stocks would continue to fall. The speech also helped ensure that they would.”

A PDF of the complaint in the lawsuit is here.

The suit was first reported yesterday by the Florida Times-Union.

We have calls in to Florida State College for their response and will post it when we receive it; they had no comment to the Times-Union, saying that they had not yet had a chance to review the complaint.

From: http://www.futureofcapitalism.com/2010/10/co-conspirator-eisman

Keiser University, a regional for-profit college, has filed suit against Florida State College at Jacksonville President Steven Wallace and one of his top administrators, saying they tried to sully the school’s image by colluding with detractors of for-profit colleges.

The crux of Keiser’s civil suit, filed Monday in Broward County, hinges on e-mails from Wallace and Susan Lehr, FSCJ’s vice president of government relations. The e-mail exchanges included representatives from The Institute for College Access and Success, a national group that has lobbied for tighter restrictions on for-profit schools.

The lawsuit claims the community college leaders tried to launch a clandestine smear campaign designed to build negative publicity for the proprietary college, which has one campus in Jacksonville.

An FSCJ spokesman said Wallace hadn’t received the lawsuit by Monday evening and declined to comment.

In the e-mails, an account linked to Wallace disparages the for-profit sector in a note to Gilchrist Berg, a prominent Wall Street short seller who founded a multibillion-dollar Jacksonville-based hedge-fund firm.

“All right, my friend. Here is a bunch of good stuff to get you started in your exploration of greed, corruption and predatory schemes among Florida’s proprietary and for-profit career ‘colleges,’” the e-mail said. “The new technical college we will launch on 8/1/09 is designed, in part, to drive the sleazebags out of our region.”

The same e-mail identifies Lehr as the “designated antagonizer of the privates.”

Other e-mails include correspondence between Lehr and Steve Eisman, a hedge-fund manager who gave a vitriolic speech against for-profit education during a Senate hearing in May.

“I cannot thank you enough for speaking out on the for-profit higher ed industry,” the e-mail said. “I read your speech and could just leap with joy!”

The lawsuit alleges Lehr “tailored a Florida State College press release” to the speech’s message, which alluded to the “subpriming of students.” The release was distributed to multiple news outlets, according to the lawsuit.

Keiser officials said the negative publicity has hindered student enrollment and financially harmed the company. The suit seeks damages, but a total amount wasn’t listed.

James Waldman, Keiser’s general counsel, said this is the first lawsuit ever filed by Keiser.

It’s unclear if this is the first time a for-profit school has sued a state-funded institution.

“My hope is other proprietary schools take action if this is going on elsewhere,” Waldman said. “There is no place in this country for the government schools to operate in such a manner to harm private businesses.”

matt.coleman@jacksonville.com, (904) 359-4654

From: http://jacksonville.com/news/florida/2010-10-04/story/profit-college-sues-fscj-president