Perdido 03

Perdido 03

Monday, February 15, 2010

Geoffrey Canada and the For-Profit Colleges

Geoffrey Canada, CEO of the Harlem Children's Zone, is the darling of the education "reform" movement.

I will leave the skepticism about Canada's "Harlem miracle" to others for now (see here and here for that) and focus on something else about Harlem Children's Zone that concerns me.

I teach in NYC and my seniors who belong to an after school program run by the HCZ all talk about wanting to go to Berkeley College (not the the California university, the for-profit one.)

Many of these are students in need of remediation, many of whom will be the first in their families to attend a post-secondary school. So they are desperately in need of good guidance and counseling.

I suggest either CUNY or SUNY schools, which are much cheaper than Berkeley College (Berkeley costs nearly $30,000, CUNY $4,000, tuition at SUNY is just over $5,000) and where the quality of education is so much better.

In fact, Berkeley College is barely a college. It's really more of a diploma mill - the kind where they brag about job placement rates rather than graduation rates because so many of their students drop out of school and never complete their degrees.

And while those students may not complete their degrees at Berkeley College, they do have to complete paying for the loans Berkeley loads them up with per year. Proponents of for-profit schools argue that drop-out rates at for-profit schools are no worse than at public 2-year and 4-year schools, and while that may be true in some cases, most public universities are not charging the kind of money Berkeley College is charging per quarter.

For example, a student who attends York College, a CUNY school, who drops out has paid a little less than $4,400 a year for the school. Even if that student was not eligible for a Pell grant, a TAP grant or any other free aid, the amount of loan debt the student would have from the CUNY school would be pretty minimal compared to the almost $30,000 he/she might incur at Berkeley College per year.

Now I suppose there are worse post-graduation choices a student could make than attending Berkeley College and paying $60,000 for an Associate's Degree in criminal justice or $120,000 for a Bachelor's Degree in the same field, but there are certainly many better choices he or she could make - like attending John Jay and receiving an Associate's Degree in criminal justice for $8,800 or a Bachelor's Degree in the same field for just under $17,000

So why is the Harlem Children's Zone, a program that purports to pride itself on academic excellence and high standards, pushing low-income kids to an expensive diploma mill like Berkeley College where an education will cost between $60,000 and $120,000 when more reasonable and more reputable colleges in the SUNY or CUNY system are available?

When I called HCZ, I was told that they have a "business arrangement" with Berkeley College, which is why they suggest students attend there.

I have tried to get more information from HCZ about this "business arrangement" but have been rebuffed since.

So, let's get this out there on the blogosphere. Does anyone know what kind of "business arrangement" Harlem Children's Zone has with Berkeley College that has them pushing kids toward this for-profit school when cheaper and better public universities are available?


  1. I think Geoffrey Canada's model of integrating education with social services and supports starting from a very early age is basically the right one, but this "business arrangement" -- if there is one -- exposes its fatal flaw, namely, that it is very expensive and heavily dependent on people with deep pockets willing to fund it. In a 2008 interview with Charlie Rose, Canada said he spends 40% of his time fundraising. Maybe now, with the pioneering glitter worn off, it's getting even harder to raise funds, since philanthropists are generally drawn to shiney new things they can put their names on. They don't like it if you keep coming back to them year after year for more and more money.

  2. I'm going to make another attempt to get more information from HCZ today. I called this morning, but the person I was routed to was out. I will try again this afternoon and see what I can get. So far, I just get jive from them. They keep routing me from person to person and telling me "Oh, you need to talk to so and so..." but so and so never seems to either know or want to tell me why they're pushing a for profit college onto their kids.

  3. I must say that this is great.

    Thanks for sharing this information. I'm very glad to heard this which can be very effective for education in Canada.

    Student of Canadian college

  4. I used to work at Berkeley College; I would advise anybody not to go there. It's the type of school that cares more about making money, and more specifically, "retention," than whether students actually learn anything. I'm in a much better place now (and I hope the students who left Berkeley are as well).

  5. I'm trying to get our babysitter's kid (about to graduate from Midwood Highschool in Bklyn) NOT to go to Berkeley. Is there more information you can give me? thanks.

  6. Hey ---

    I'm working on a story for the Village Voice about teachers who are dissuading their students from attending for-profit colleges. Shoot me an email when you have the chance.