Academic Swindle?

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It has long been a rumor that for-profit colleges deliberately admit more students than can succeed at these schools, but now a former SUNY academic dean alleges that this practice was also common at one college in New York’s state university system. According to an article in Inside Higher Ed about the lawsuit filed recently:

In an effort to boost tuition revenues, a State University of New York campus lowered admissions and retention standards to admit unqualified – predominately black – applicants who had little chance of graduating….

Thomas J. Hickey, who filed the suit, says his removal as dean in July was retaliation for questioning financially-motivated academic policies that doomed students to failure at the SUNY College of Agriculture and Technology at Cobleskill. The suit alleges these policies were instituted by Anne Myers, the provost, and later supported by Donald Zingale, who was named president in 2008.

The suit hinges academic probation. Normally, SUNY Cobleskill required students with a grade point under 2.0 to participate in academic review, a formal procedure in which the school identifies students who are making “unsatisfactory progress” and recommends disciplinary procedures or expulsion.

According to the Hickey suit, the provost sent an e-mail to faculty a year ago explaining that “in light of the budget, we will use a 1.0 GPA cut off for first semester freshmen for Academic Review.” Hickey believes that the school deliberately lowered standards to take advantage of money from students who were academically incapable of succeeding at the school. Hickey argues that Cobleskill deliberately admits unqualified black students, using their tuition to help support Cobleskill’s well-known agriculture program “which run at an annual deficit, even though these programs serve white students almost exclusively.”

The graduation rate at SUNY Cobleskill has fallen every year since 2002.

The school removed Hickey as dean of liberal arts and sciences this summer after an unsatisfactory review.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer