“Research” on For-Profit Colleges

In 2008 some people affiliated with the University of Phoenix decided to create a nonprofit research institution to study issues at for-profit schools. The institution, first called the National Research Center and now known as the Nexus Research and Policy Center, recruited major scholars for advice.

According to the University of Phoenix, the new center would look at “issues of student achievement and retention, accountability, affordability, access, and inclusion.”

Yesterday the institute issued its first report. According to an article by Goldie Blumenstyk in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

For its first report… the Nexus Research and Policy Center has produced a 77-page document that is far longer on advocacy than analysis.

Citing much of the same data that the University of Phoenix itself has used in a report it just issued, the Nexus report also takes aim at new regulations the Department of Education has proposed that would rein in aggressive recruiting tactics and prohibit colleges from offering costly educational programs that prepare students for jobs in which their expected earnings would not be enough to pay off the student-loan debts they would incur. (The report doesn’t mince words, calling that latter proposed “gainful employment” rule “the most convoluted and potentially onerous.”)

According to the report, “Resentment against for-profits has a number of sources, including:”

An unwillingness to recognize that growth of for-profit colleges and universities is a reflection of the realities of our economy and that for-profit institutions, as Education Secretary Duncan has observed, are vital to America’s economic future.

This is not the sort of tone and, well, psychobabble, generally used in scholarly publications.

The author of the report, Nexus President Jorge Klor de Alva, admits that the first paper is a little unconventional. It reads, as he put it, “like an overly pointed, policy-advocacy piece.”

Still, he says, there’s real data behind this information. Future publications, Alva says, will have a different tone.

Funding for Nexus comes from two sources, the University of Phoenix and the John G. Sperling Foundation. John Sperling is the executive chairman of the Apollo Group, the company that owns the University of Phoenix.

Read the full Nexus report here.

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