Home Madrid Economy UA Global Campus is just a scheme to get cash from Ashford students

UA Global Campus is just a scheme to get cash from Ashford students


Like many colleges across the country, the University of Arizona is facing budget shortfalls resulting from COVID-19 that prompted major layoffs and furloughs.

Recently, the leaders of the AU had an idea to solve their budgetary problems and announced a plan to create a separate (and unequal) online institution which bears the name of Arizona and generates revenue in its name.

The proposal would not only be unprecedented in the world of higher education; it would be extremely detrimental to the students if allowed to proceed.

UA’s partner in the deal, Ashford University, is a disgraced for-profit school which has seen declining enrollment after decades of scandals and consumer fraud lawsuits.

Desperate to get rid of bad reputation, Ashford and its parent company, Zovio, have reached an agreement with UA to rebrand the for-profit company to the University of Arizona Global Campus. Indeed, Zovio’s sales force would use the Arizona cache to turn Ashford’s low-quality programs into tuition gold.

Separated, but still concerning for UA

Although the Global Campus would pay to use the Arizona name, AU officials stressed he would be ‘separated’ and operate “with its own programs, faculties and accreditations”. This should be of concern.

On the one hand, Ashford’s programs combat poor student achievement. The school only has a success rate of 25%and in 2019, accreditors observed that Ashford’s scattered attempts to improve student outcomes “have yet to result in demonstrable improvements”.

Students carry a median debt of $34,000 and, according to an analysis by the Brookings Institution, 47% of Ashford students default on federal loan within five years of attempted payment.

Ashford students are set to fail

Ashford’s own finances reveal that its students are doomed: Payments to Zovio for activities such as marketing and recruitment accounted for nearly half of Ashford’s direct costs in 2018. With little left over for teaching, Ashford has only one full-time faculty member for every 177 students. Federal data shows that in Ashford, students in the lowest income bracket pay $18,761 for only $2,478 tuition.

Based on concerns about student outcomes, faculty workload, and resource allocation, Ashford’s accreditation review last year resulted in a Notice of concernwhich means that the school must improve to maintain its accreditation.

During this time, the California attorney general to take Ashford to court next year for overselling its results to entice students into enrolling and taking on heavy debt.

Ashford’s poor quality is one of the main reasons why UA professors expressed outrage on the proposed acquisition, writing recently that the “lemon” deal would be “catastrophic”. At least two US senators raised similar concerns.

UA wants money, not to help poor students

It’s clear that Ashford needs a major influx of cash and a complete governance overhaul – including Zovio’s freedom – to better serve its students. But AU officials promised the funds would only flow one way: from Ashford, operating as the “Global Campus”, to the AU.

While UA only pays lip service to the idea that the new Global Campus will allow Arizona to serve more diverse and disadvantaged students, the reality is that Ashford students are expected “lighten the financial burden” that UA is currently facing.

Indeed, most low-income people in Ashford (56% receive Pell grants), predominantly non-white, non-traditional online students would subsidize the on-campus experience of wealthier, whiter, and affluent mainstream students at Arizona’s flagship institution. Welcome to the era of online vassal schools.

Low-income students at Ashford cannot afford to enrich Zovio shareholders, fill Arizona budget shortfalls, and improve outcomes at their own school. As a get-rich-quick scheme, the proposed Global Campus could work. Indeed, Zovio has already hired 200 new sales agents.

But as a model of education, the Global Campus is morally bankrupt, and it should be shut down.

Yan Cao is a member of the Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. Previously, she was a Skadden Fellow of the Project on Predatory Student Lending at the Legal Services Center at Harvard Law School. Join her at [email protected].