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Posts Tagged ‘for profit education’

“Live to Work” or “Work to Live”?

September 17, 2010 6 comments

I’ve always believed in the companies I’ve worked for. Similarly, I’ve always believed in the bosses I’ve worked for. I’m unsure if this was “luck” or me seeking out people who inspire me and business models I take pride in working for, but regardless, I realized this past week I wouldn’t except anything less.

I never understood how people could work 9 AM – 5 PM, take a lunch hour, and go home feeling fulfilled at the end of the day. Perhaps it goes back to the age old verbiage, some people “live to work” while others “work to live”. I’m more of a “live to work” person. I had never really ‘discussed’ my career / career options with anyone except my husband and friends, and as I’m at what I believe to be a pivotal point in my career; I decided maybe it was time to speak with an expert. No, not a ‘shrink’, but a career counselor.

While I’m consulting right now; owning my own business, I do want to go back into the ‘working world’; I miss having a team and definitely miss having people around I can learn from. As the higher education industry is booming right now (perhaps not in a good way), jobs in the industry for innovators are aplenty. Every time I interview or speak to a prospective company about a future relationship, I get excited. I can’t help it; I love building things from the ground up. That said, I couldn’t figure out why I was always excited (at first) and the more I learned about each company, the less excited I became. I loved the people, love the ‘start up’, but my gut was repeatedly telling me, “STOP”. I couldn’t figure out why, but after reviewing my notes from the career counseling session I had, it was clear; it’s because I’m not passionate about anything I’ve been offered. There is nothing truly innovative, nothing new, and certainly nothing that will address the issues the for profit education sector is dealing with right now.

This is an interesting paradox for someone who owns their own consulting business as the way I make money is by working with companies and teaching them how to do things that I’ve done successfully in the past. The problem is; I don’t believe most of what the for profits have done in the past will be useful for the future. Certainly, the skill sets and experiences will help to be successful, but innovation is going to ‘win’ in this industry. So, for the past 8 months I’ve been working, doing what a ‘consultant’ does, made more money than I’ve ever made before; and I have a fiduciary responsibility to continue running this business until I do find something full time that I am passionate about. But I wonder, from a psychological standpoint, how one can continuously work on projects that I don’t believe have a solid chance of long term success?

Short term success? Certainly. Can I bring a business to profitability? Can I teach them best practices? Can I education them about marketing, call centers, operations, and give the best recommendations in TODAY’s world – Absolutely. But in this industry, ‘today’s world’ is rapidly changing.

So the question for me is – how long am I willing to work for businesses I’m not passionate about? I’m delivering for the companies; but not delivering for myself. I am not fulfilled. I hate working from 9 AM – 5 PM. I hate not waking up at 2 AM with a great idea that I can draw up and execute on as I rush into the office at 7 am the next day. I hate not feeling the ‘fire in the belly’. But, I guess this is the life of a consultant. People pay you for your expertise, but you’re not necessarily building something that matters. I originally thought they money would outweigh the need to be passionate about a business. When the money didn’t excite me anymore, I told myself that the executives I was learning from would motivate me to feel passionate about what I was doing. Turns out, that hasn’t worked either. So, I continue in my quest for a meaningful role in a company I believe in and whose model I am passionate about. And I’m left with the question: Would life be easier if I could ‘teach’ myself to “work to live” instead of “living to work”?

For Profit Edu Sector – Embrace Your Innovators

September 9, 2010 8 comments

Approximately 1.5 years ago, I left the innovative company I had helped build, Education Connection. I had found a new innovative company whose mission I loved, and I wanted the experience of working with the “state university” side of the online higher education industry; so I left my comfort zone and moved across the country to Dallas, Texas. I also wanted to “prove” to myself that I could be successful without my two mentors; I felt it was time for me to “grow” on my own.

This turned out to be a necessary part of my ‘journey’ as I was able to grow, learn how to interact with a different group of executives, board members, and cultures and also afforded me to opportunity to see how different working with state universities was vs. for profit universities. I was able to ‘prove to myself’ that I could be successful without my mentors, which was good and bad. Good because it made me more confident…bad because I certainly didn’t need anymore “ego feed”.

By adding this new subset of an industry and connecting with myriads of new individuals, I was able to see one thing: I had been working for (Education Connection) the most innovative and forward thinking group in the education space.

Based on the number of consulting and job inquiries I was recieving while at the second company (post working at Education Connection), I chose to start my own company. I believed this was a way for me to work with multiple companies, multiple executives, and would provide me with an unbelievable learning experience; the ability to interact and learn from the top executives in the higher education industry.

At this juncture, I’ve worked with about ten different higher education service companies, ranging from lead generation to call centers to enrollment management companies; and multiple schools. I have learned a lot, but my biggest learning was this: The only companies that will survive the new for profit education regulations would be the ones that invested heavily and believed in their innovators. In speaking with one of the executives I enjoy working with the most, a brilliant man named John Goodwin, he made a comment I use all the time now. He said, “The companies that come out of this education congressional hearings successful will be the companies that not only listen to their innovators, but more so will be the companies that have the ability to adapt the most quickly to a changing environment.” We were going back to Darwinism.

Having worked with all of these schools and companies, there is only one company that has come forth and displayed a pro-active understanding as well as comprehensive product offering to aid the for profit schools in their quest for higher graduation rates and higher re-payback rates on their loan; that company was Education Connection.

About 5 years ago, my prior CEO and mentor Richard Capezzalli said to me, “What will happen to the for profit education industry in the next several years is going to be cataclysmic.” I vividly remember this as 1) I didn’t know the exact meaning of cataclysmic and had to run and look it up. 2) We had recently started a lead generation company, Education Connection. I thought to myself, ‘why would we have started a lead generation company if the for profit industry is going to be shaken up so badly?’

In the subsequent four years and and 11 months, I learned the reasoning behind our ‘lead generation’ company; we were building a lead gen ‘model’ to learn the best ways to market to students, but the end goal was different. We were looking for students that yielded the highest graduation rates, or net tuition revenue; not solely the lowest cost per acquisition or cost per enrollment.

So after about two years of introducing ‘innovative break through’ #1 (we were the first lead generation company) that had employed prior admissions advisors and were warm transferring leads to the for profit schools at over 10% lead to start conversions; Richard, the innovator, introduced the true reason he was confident that EdConnect could take over the industry; at first, he called it “Future Scholars” (It is now called Test Drive College).

With the goal of advising and working with students who would yield the highest graduation rate, Richard quickly went back to his days of owning and running schools. He explained to his EC management team that 2 of the main reasons students did not stay in school were 1) They were not prepared for the rigors and discipline needed for online learning and 2) Across the entirety of the ‘edu lead generation industry’, we were marketing to people who were not “academically ready”. So, logically – if we were able to find a way to ensure that the students were 1) Academically ready 2) Had the ability to experience online learning (and not just a demo, a true class), the retention and graduation rates would rise dramatically. This would not only effect graduation rates in a positive manner, but would also positively effect loan re-payback rates and minimize loan default rates. There is a direct correlation between students graduating and having a higher payback rate.

The model went live with a large test utilizing two of the large for profit universities as ‘partners’ and while it took a year to get the student retention rates back, the test was wildly successful. “What is the model?” you ask. In it’s simplest form, students take an online accredited course (they can transfer into a school) for free; hence the word, “TEST DRIVE”. In order to be one of the chosen for this free course, the student first must pass a short test (SAT questions – I believe there are 20 of them), which demonstrates the student can sustain the academic climate in a college. Once the test has been passed, the student speaks with an advisor or “gatekeeper” as we liked to call them during the testing phase; whose job is to ensure that IF the student does “adapt” and is a “fit for online learning”, they will enroll in a school post taking the free online course. The goal was to ‘weed’ students out in this free course that did not like online learning. We only worked with students who were serious and who understood the value of the degree, the financial aid process, etc.

The tests were wildly successful. The hypothesis that these students would retain and have higher graduation rates was proven (patience was certainly a virtue as it took over a year for these retention numbers to come back). The company that had been the first to see these regulations would be coming (about five years before they came), the company that quickly executed on their innovative plan, the company whose tests were successful prior to any regulatory discussion taking place – this is the company that is positioned to aid the for profits in their quest to continue to help the students who have nowhere else to go. The company that was the first to embrace their innovator was Education Connection. Will you be next?

Why I’m Thankful For “For Profit Education”

August 11, 2010 4 comments

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A decade ago I started my first job. While I cannot recall all of the two week training, I vividly remember the President and Chief Operating Officer coming in and making a speech. Andrew Rosen, now CEO of Kaplan Inc. said, “Congratulations on working in a company that changes lives. Neither myself nor anyone else in this organization will ever ask you to do anything that you cannot go home and brag to your grandparents about. You will go home everyday proud of the job that you do – because what you are doing is changing people’s lives”.

Over my six years with the Kaplan Inc. conglomerate – he was right. My initial training was engrained in me and still is; “Enroll the right student, in the right program, at the right time.” Those of us in the for profit education industry that live and work by that Kaplan motto go home everyday and say to ourselves, “I changed a life today.”

With all of the negative light shining on the for profit education industry, recently I’ve been feeling angry and a bit jaded. Certainly, there are one or two ‘bad apples’ and everyone makes mistakes; but what was not shown are the thousands of lives that have been changed for the better because of for profit education. The government chooses to neglect to mention that for profit education came about based on a need. There were (and still are) thousands of people who were unable to get into a community college or state universities because the classes were too small, not offered at the right time, and sometimes – too expensive. The pioneers in the for profit education industry have helped better hundreds of lives and supplied thousands of degrees to those who would have otherwise not had an option.

Certainly, I am against any fraudulent behavior, and I don’t think setting regulations is a negative. However, the public slamming of an industry is not just hurting the businessmen; more importantly, it degrades the names of the institutions and devalues its education; this affects the students. Graduates of these programs not only took courses that met the same academic standards as any other regionally accredited institution, but they were also extremely disciplined and determined. They should be applauded for their degree; not meant to feel bad about it.

I go back to the statement Andrew Rosen made eight years ago and look at what he, as well as some of the other leaders in the for profit industry have said and done; and I’m proud to be a part of bettering people’s lives. I’m thankful that educators were innovative enough to allow for the growth in the for profit and non profit education world; and I hope that we remember, as we are reviewing and revising the regulations, that these men are brilliant businessmen. The CEOs in these companies could have gone anywhere and done anything; but they chose to help people. They did not choose to short stocks or to bet against the mortgage industry; they chose to better people’s lives. The government needs to remember that before defaming these schools and their names.

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NY Times says, “For profit schools mislead students”…I say, “NY Times misleads the public”

August 3, 2010 8 comments

The NY Times article on for profit education published today spoke of the reported findings that we will read about tomorrow when the government issues it’s investigative research on the for profit schools. As I read through the article, I was trying to find what was ‘different’ that was told at a for profit school and what is told at a State University or Public Institution. I’ve worked with both, and certainly do not ‘like’ one more than the other; however I do have an issue when 1) The Time write clearly has not done their research 2) The article is clearly one sided.

The article gives lines and lines of examples of colleges ‘misleading’ students, but it only has 2 lines that say anything positive and gives no examples:

But in some instances, the report said, the applicants were given accurate and helpful information, about likely salaries and not taking out more loans than they needed.

Furthermore, instead of singling out the for profits; has the government investigated public institutions this way? I would be interested to see a comparison study as I do not believe there will be much of a difference.

In the review below, I try and play “both sides of the coin”.

Let’s look at what the Times claims this misleading information to be:

Example 1:

” At one college in Texas, a recruiter encouraged the undercover investigator not to report $250,000 in savings, saying it was “not the government’s business.” At a Pennsylvania college, the financial representative told an undercover applicant who had reported a $250,000 inheritance that he should have answered “zero” when asked about money he had in savings — and then told him she would “correct” his form by reducing the reported assets to zero, a change she later confirmed by e-mail and voicemail.”

What the Times does not follow up with is any review of the FAFSA and what is / is not required to be filled out. It is “optional” for a student to input how much they have in savings because the FAFSA is NOT BASED on what is in savings. Hence, it is not the government’s business. The only thing done wrong here is that the recruiter spoke to the student about financial aid AT ALL.

In the second sentence, the financial representative was correct. An inheritance should not be reported as such in the savings column as it would fall under a different category on the FAFSA.

Example 2:

In addition to the colleges that encouraged fraud, all the colleges made some deceptive statements. At one certificate program in Washington, for example, the admissions representative told the undercover applicant that barbers could earn $150,000 to $250,000 a year, when the vast majority earn less than $50,000 a year

Let’s note the word, “could” in this sentence. “could earn”…not “will earn”. Granted, the recruiter should have told the student to go to the BLS and look up the stats or looked up the stats for the prospective student, but the recruiter did not site where she received this information either.

Example 3:

And at an associate degree program in Florida, the report said, a prospective student was falsely told that the college was accredited by the same organization that accredits Harvard and the University of Florida.

Again – this is a true statement by the recruiter. All of these schools ARE regionally accredited.

In these two instances that the Times sites below, the actions taken by the for profit colleges are exactly the same as would be taken at a traditional public university:

Six colleges in four states told the undercover applicants that they could not speak with financial aid representatives or find out what grants and loans they were eligible for until they completed enrollment forms agreeing to become a student and paid a small application fee.

I went to the University of Florida. I was able to fill out my FAFSA prior to admissions. I was also able to enter the school code so my FAFSA went to the right universities. I was not able to find out how much financial aid I was awarded SPECIFICALLY at the University of Florida; however like anyone else in the world, I could have called up FAFSA and asked how much financial help I would be getting. I had to pay my application fee and get my documents on file like everyone else. This way, when my FAFSA was sent through to the college, they were able to match it with an applicant (*or prospective student).

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I don’t have a job…NOW WHAT?!?!

April 13, 2010 6 comments

Boo Hoo. You’re out of a job. You and every one of your 9 friends. We’re all out of jobs, or we’re working for less money, or we’re not getting paid what we’re worth…or the company has cut out our spouses or our parents. Rest assured, we all know someone, most of us – someones – who have been affected by the lack of business or ‘recession’. So, when it happens to you, what will you do?

1. Most importantly; CHECK YOUR EGO AT THE DOOR

I don’t care if you’ve been a Vice President for 15 years; it’s time to work your way up again. If you were a great vice president, as good as you thought, then the jobs would have been poring in from your competitors as soon as other businesses knew you were out of work. If that didn’t happen, then it’s time to get back on the ground floor of a company and do something differently this time.

Most people look at our economy as a ‘mess’ right now; and sure, there are situations that suck and everyone’s is different. But, there is only one thing you can control; YOU – and the attitude you have. A great mentor told me, “everything is purposeful” and it is. If you look back to the hardest things you’ve gotten over in life, you’ll realize these are the times you built character.

If you need money; don’t wait for the perfect job. Check your ego at the door, take what comes your way FOR NOW while you continue to apply for other jobs.

2. SELL, SELL, SELL

If there is one skill set that will always prove useful in the business arena, that is being a salesperson. If you have experience in sales, go SELL. And don’t just sell anything. Find something you believe in and KILL IT. Be the top producer. And if you’ve never sold before, no better time to get into a large corporation where they will TRAIN you to sell. Once you can sell and market, you can work in any arena. And, if you’re good, you’ll move up quickly; especially if you have solid management experience in your past. While some businesses are slowing down, a couple of sectors have doubled in size. Advice: Get into higher education sales. The market is booming AND if you believe in education, you can sell it. The training programs at the for profit institutions are unmatched as are the opportunities for advancement. Just look at the 2 largest IPOs of the past two years; education stocks.

3. Relish the opportunity

Those who are most successful in this world have 2 things in common: 1) They know what they’re passionate about and have found a way to work with their passion. 2) They are lifelong learners. Take the time you have off to find where your passion is and GO FOR IT. Find a way to market your passion. While you’re researching your passion; learn about it and learn how others have been successful in the field you’re passionate about. This is an opportunity for YOU to find YOU. I want to go say “Thank You” to my last company as these past three months consulting have been the best I’ve ever had. It’s not only one consistent learning experience, but I choose what I do…and I only do what I’m passionate about.

4. Consult!

Employers have had to cut costs and staff across most companies and in doing so are short handed from a resource perspective. If you have been an executive or an expert in your industry, reach out to prior contacts and offer to consult for them. Consulting is much better for an employer than a FTE. No benefits to pay, so the employer is saving about 20% by hiring you over a FTE. Don’t be afraid to put yourself out there; the worst your going to here is “no”; and who cares about rejection; it’s part of our everyday life.

5. Take inventory of yourself

Compare yourself to people in your position who have not lost their jobs. Compare your resume to the ‘job qualifications’ of the jobs you would like. What’s the difference? Is there anything missing? Many times these days it’s education. Use this opportunity to go back to school. I’m actually going back to get my six sigma certification. Can I afford it? Nope. But moreso, I can’t afford NOT to do it. In my area, most people have their Masters or MBA. I don’t. However, I also know myself; and I want to ensure I can be disciplined enough to work at home and go to school online; so, before jumping into a $25,000 program, I’ll take something I know will help me on my resume, something that job seekers are looking for, and something that will help me to “stand out” from the crowd.

Net / Net:
You can sit home depressed and collect unemployment; OR you can do something. I’ve decided to do something…well, some things….what will you do?

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