University of Arizona Global Campus should not receive federal student aid after court ruling, groups say

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Diving Brief:

  • A dozen higher education organizations and policy advocates are calling on the U.S. Department of Education to bar the University of Arizona Global Campus, or UAGC, from accessing federal financial aid for Title IV students.
  • In a letter this weekthe groups argued that the college, formerly known as Ashford University, should not be eligible for Title IV aid due to a recent California court ruling in a lawsuit filed in 2017. Court fined the university’s former owner $22.4 million for misleading students about program costs and career outcomes.
  • The groups – which include New America and the Center for American Progress, both left-leaning think tanks – have also urged the Ed Department to provide student loan discharges to people who attended Ashford from 2009 to 2020. They say the agency should make the university responsible for these costs.

Overview of the dive:

The impact of the recent decision against Ashford and its former owner, Zovio – who changed its name from Bridgepoint Education in 2019 – has spread beyond the courtroom. The fine also dealt a blow to the reputation of the UAGC, whose registrations had already suffered in recent years.

UAGC is an online college of approximately 28,000 students that tries to attract working adults and veteran students. The University of Arizona purchased the for-profit school from Zovio in December 2020 to expand its online offerings and make inroads with non-traditional students.

“This letter refers to several old allegations and misrepresents many facts,” UAGC said in an emailed statement.

“UAGC, affiliated with the University of Arizona, is a new school with a new leadership team, new policies and procedures, and a student-centered orientation. It is a strong university that strives for good serve students responsibly and these attacks harm students, the majority of whom are non-traditional and rely on UAGC to access higher education and improve their lives.”

The statement also noted that the court declined to grant an injunction against Zovio. The decision determined that there was no substantial evidence that the misrepresentations continued after 2017.

The University of Arizona has reached a similar agreement. Gail Burd, the university’s senior vice provost, said in an emailed statement that the letter was written by a group that released inaccurate information about the institution’s actions regarding the online college.

“We are very disappointed that they have now chosen to lobby against our efforts with the DOE, but this does not affect our resolve to secure a better academic and personal future for the 28,000 students currently enrolled,” Burd said.

UAGC has faced a barrage of criticism in recent years, including from those who feared that past allegations against the institution could damage the University of Arizona’s reputation. Staunch opponents of the UAGC are now using the recent court ruling to argue that the federal government should stop the flow of student aid to the university.

Last week, for example, UAGC told students that it temporarily lost approval to receive GI Bill benefits.

Although the university said it was working with federal and state agencies to resume funding, Veterans Education Success, an advocacy organization, urged the Department of Veterans Affairs to permanently close access to UAGC. to the benefits of the GI Bill. The group’s president argued that the recent decision found that UAGC made false statements to students that should make him ineligible to receive the aid.

This week’s letter to the Ed Department makes similar arguments. He cites federal law that states that institutions become ineligible for Title IV assistance if a court determines they have committed fraud. The letter’s authors also refer to a law prohibiting institutions receiving Title IV funding from entering into contracts with organizations that have been “legally determined” to have committed fraud.

Zovio no longer owns UAGC, but the company still maintains close ties with the university. Under a 15-year contract, he provides services, including marketing and recruiting, to the university in exchange for reduced tuition fees.

The groups referred to this relationship in the letter. “Although the unlawful conduct in the California Attorney General’s trial occurred before Zovio encompassed the University of Ashford in UAGC, the schools are one and the same; UAGC provides education in Ashford in different packaging.

Vickie Schray, Zovio’s director of external affairs, responded to the letter in an emailed statement.

The letter uses a judgment that is still subject to appeal, regarding alleged behavior from many years ago, about a company now under different management, to call for punitive retaliation that would impact on thousands of students from a university that was never involved. in question,” Schray wrote.

Zovio recruited a new CEO, Randy Hendricks, late last year.

A spokesperson for the Department of Education said in an emailed statement that the agency is committed to rigorously monitoring “high-risk establishments at risk of closing” and is looking closely at prosecutions, investigations and the actions of state partners to “ensure that appropriate measures are taken. .”

This article has been updated to include a comment from the University of Arizona.

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