Are OPMs The New Predatory For-Revenue Schools?

Are OPMs The New Predatory For-Revenue Schools?

Proponents consider on-line training is the way forward for greater training, offering ease of entry, extra versatile studying, and the chance to have interaction college students wherever they’re. The pandemic has proven that many universities can pivot to on-line training when wanted, however creating efficient, totally on-line packages remains to be laborious. Maybe that’s the reason many on-line packages at public universities are run by non-public companies often known as On-line Program Managers (OPMs). Worryingly, these non-public firms bear most of the predatory hallmarks—aggressive recruiting and focusing on minoritized college students—we noticed in for-profit schools like Corinthian and ITT Tech, each of which collapsed after years of hoovering up as many federal {dollars} as attainable, harming tens of 1000’s of scholars within the course of.

What are OPMs, and why do they exist?

As on-line training expanded over the previous twenty years, significantly at for-profit faculties, public universities, wanting to compete by increasing their on-line courses, selected to pursue contracts with OPMs fairly than broaden inside capability. no less than partly as a result of they have been satisfied that doing so was much less financially dangerous. That technique has sadly created extra danger for college students and, in the long term, extra danger for establishments.

The concept is that OPMs present the tech platforms that assist college students have interaction with and entry on-line training, and universities present the programs and content material. However more and more, the programs are designed and run by the OPMs as effectively, with the contracting college primarily offering its model to draw college students. If an OPM ceases to supply the platform for on-line programs, college students could possibly be left with no course to attend in a single day.

What makes an OPM predatory?

New analysis from professors on the College of California Merced attracts consideration to the dimensions and scope of on-line training offered via and by OPMs. Public universities enroll virtually two million college students via on-line packages, with as much as eighty p.c of non-profit schools that ship on-line training utilizing OPM companies. Correct estimates of whole enrollment in OPM-run programs are laborious to return by as a result of faculties are reluctant to promote that an OPM is operating a course. This all provides as much as an trade price someplace between $4 and $7 billion a 12 months.

“OPMs backed by non-public fairness appear to have interaction in additional of the problematic practices we describe within the paper. That’s, they’re extra prone to goal marginalized college students, extract income from universities, broaden companies with a college, and universities maintain captive with problematic contracts,” mentioned Dr. Laura Hamilton, one of many report’s authors. Many OPM agreements additionally embrace income sharing, incentivizing OPMs to enroll as many college students as attainable. This dependence on OPMs presents distinctive dangers to college students.

What occurs if an OPM goes out of enterprise?

There are well-established protections for college students if a university goes out of enterprise. OPMs are usually not establishments, so if one closes all of a sudden, there could be no teach-out, which regularly occurs when a university closes to make sure remaining college students can full their levels. There could be no closed faculty discharge of scholar loans, a mechanism for reduction the place college students who borrow to attend a college that shuts down earlier than they graduate can apply to have their loans forgiven. It will even be a lot more durable for the Division of Schooling to supply assist and reduction to tens of 1000’s of scholars unfold out amongst a lot of establishments.

A significant OPM all of a sudden going out of enterprise isn’t a tutorial query; one of many largest OPMs 2U is in a poor monetary state, as a weblog publish by Ben Kaufman on the Pupil Borrower Safety Heart (SBPC) made clear final week. If 2U have been to fail, someplace between sixty and eighty-five thousand college students could be impacted—a extra correct enrollment estimate is tough to seek out as a result of 2U appears to intentionally keep away from publishing what number of college students are enrolled in its program. The corporate’s newest transparency report contains whole scholar enrollment over 20 years however fails to reveal present enrollment. This finest estimate of present enrollment presents an enormous danger for college students, establishments, and taxpayers. 65,000 college students are virtually as many as have been enrolled at Corinthian Schools at its peak. The federal authorities is now forgiving near $6 billion in scholar loans for former Corinthian college students.

OPMs symbolize the newest entrance in greater training accountability. OPMs will proceed to proliferate so long as there may be cash to be made and lax oversight of how they function. It’s excessive time ED pays extra consideration to the distinctive dangers they pose to college students.

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