'Abysmal' grad rates under fire in Globe lawsuit
Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series examining Globe University’s admission practices, graduation rates and credit transfer programs. To read the first part, visit www.woodburybulletin.com.
WOODBURY, Minn. -- Recent lawsuits against Woodbury-based Globe University allege the school’s credits aren’t transferable and that many of its students are unable to graduate and move on to higher degrees.
But school officials say they’re complying with U.S. Department of Education standards and have formal, written agreements with numerous schools that offer guaranteed credit transfer programs.
Globe University is the subject of a class-action lawsuit filed by five former and current students who say they were misled regarding job prospects and credit transfer opportunities. The case also alleges Globe uses unethical practices to lure students into their various career-focused programs.
Former recruiters have publicly criticized the school, including Noelle Jacquet-Morrison, who was hired in 2006 to start up Globe’s cosmetology program in Maplewood.
During her time as a recruiter at Globe, Jacquet-Morrison said students who didn’t have a high school diploma or a GED certificate were required to take a placement test. She said the test was so simple that many were able to get past it.
“It’s about fourth-grade level,” she said.
Many students enrolled at Globe are unprepared, unqualified for higher-level classes and struggle to earn degrees while juggling full-time jobs and family obligations, according to the lawsuit, which describes Globe’s graduation rates as “abysmal.”
“(Of) the people that I recruited, only two completed the program,” Jacquet-Morrison said.
But Chris Schmitz, a director overseeing online admissions at Globe, said a computerized placement test must yield an equivalent of a 21 on the ACT to move on to college level courses.
He said many students at Globe, however, are not first-time, full-time students. The majority haven’t taken algebra, reading or writing since high school, so they usually need refresher courses.
If students are still not ready after the placement test, they take those foundational courses before moving on.
“A decent number of our students have to take at least one of the foundations,” Schmitz said. “Typically those types of students, it’s because they might be in their 30s and haven’t done a math problem or algebra or fraction since high school, they need to freshen up on that before they jump right into a collegiate algebra class.”
According to Globe University’s “student right to know” report published in July, the overall graduation rate for first-time, full-time students at the Woodbury campus is 30 percent, while the overall retention rate for the same cohort was 48 percent. The report puts career placement rates for the campus at 78 percent.
The report goes on to say that 22 percent of low-income students who receive federal Pell grants graduated in 2012-13. Sixty-two percent of Globe’s approximately 8,000 students receive Pell grants, according to the university.
Officials at the school and the Minnesota Department of Higher Education say those numbers don’t necessarily reflect reality or the average student enrolled at Globe.
“In general, students who are over age 24 tend to be working substantial number of hours while enrolled, so they often don’t graduate in a short amount of time,” said Tricia Grimes, research and policy analyst and an author of a report that examined all for-profit colleges in the state.
The report, published in May by the Minnesota Department of Higher Education, focused on undergraduate data for 2010-11, in which the Globe network had a 49 percent six-year graduation rate. The rate was calculated for a group of 68 first-time, full-time students who began their studies in 2005 for a four-year program and in 2008 for a two-year program.
Attorneys representing students who filed the class-action this month say Globe University’s nationally accredited status hurts their chances of furthering their education.
The lawsuit alleges that students are promised one thing but given something different.
“In addition to accreditation, they were all telling us when they tried to transfer their credits to other post-secondary institutions that no one takes them,” said Scott Carlson, attorney for Halunen and Associates. “And Globe said the opposite.”
Globe officials say they choose to be nationally, versus regionally, accredited, giving the school more opportunities to be involved in the community, offer career-focused education and track job placement rates.
“If we wanted to go through the process and apply for regional accreditation, we could,” he said. “We choose to be nationally accredited because our mission statement aligns with what our accreditor’s mission statement is.”
George Roedler, manager of institutional registration and licensing for the Minnesota Department of Higher Education, said at the end of the day it’s the school’s prerogative.
“There are many regionally accredited schools that will accept credits from nationally accredited schools, but not all,” he said. “There are schools that won’t take credits from anybody, but they’re very restrictive in who they take credits from and what credits they would take.”
Schmitz said Globe has agreements with more than a dozen schools that guarantee students transfer opportunities, including Brown College, Capella University, ITT Tech Institute and University of Phoenix. But he added that doesn’t mean other colleges don’t accept Globe credits.
However, students who filed the lawsuit told attorneys that Globe recruiters claim the two accreditations are equal and that Globe credits would transfer to colleges nationwide.
Sarah Beck said she was unsuccessful when she tried transferring credits from the health care management program at Globe. So was Melissa Beck, who met with enrollers around the same time as Sarah Beck and said she was also under the impression that her credits would easily transfer to the institution of her choice.
Rachelle Hernandez, associate vice provost for enrollment management at the University of Minnesota, said the first thing her department looks at when considering credit transfers is whether the institution is regionally accredited.
“As an example, a credit would not be transferred from an institution that has industry-based education programs that are very narrow in scope,” she said.
The second is whether the school’s mission aligns with the university’s, she said, and the third is comparability of the coursework.
“Whether or not the coursework is appropriate for meeting our baccalaureate degree requirements,” Hernandez said.
Though the University of Minnesota is clear on its policy and that it does not accept credits from Globe, Hernandez said some students do inquire about the possibility of transferring credits from there.
“We tend to get more questions from students who are wondering where to attend school in their planning stages,” she said. “It does happen, but so many students are thinking about their next steps as they’re looking at community colleges.”
Schmitz admits that because of the school’s accreditation, students are scrutinized. However, he said if four-year institutions looked at Globe’s programs, they would find that it’s “equivalent” to regional accreditation.
“I think if they were to really evaluate the curriculum, the instructor’s credentials, the learning that happens in those classes, they would find that they’re equivalent,” he said. “And because I’m a fan of it, maybe even above the learning that happens at these other schools, but biases do not allow them to look at it.”
Globe University officials released a statement in response to the lawsuit, filed Oct. 2, stating the school has been committed to student success and that the allegations don’t reflect all students’ experiences.
“This is unfortunate and we are saddened that these students chose to handle their concerns in this way. Lawsuit aside, as a college you never want to hear that a student is unhappy with their education,” the statement said. “Although it is disappointing that even one student has something unfavorable to say about our schools, we know the sentiment of these five individuals does not reflect all, and we will not allow it to cast a black eye on the thousands of students proud to be a member of our schools.”
The school has been in compliance with state and federal laws, having below average loan default rates and valid accreditation status.
Globe has a 12.7 percent three-year default rate, which means 12.7 percent of students entering federal loan repayment after 2009 defaulted before 2011, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Minnesota School of Business, which is also part of the Globe network, had a 17 percent rate, but it still falls below the 30 percent limit imposed by the federal government that may cause loss of funding.