Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Why I Left Ashford University.

The following letter I wrote right after I left Ashford University. I had worked there for about 6 months. I had decided I could not take the atmosphere and attitude of this "higher education" establishment. I shopped it around to a few different publications and two of them were interested. Unfortunately, it was never published and now I feel the time is about right to finally release it into the wild. Especially, after Ashford University lost its recent bid to be accredited by WASC. 


March 23, 2011

Why I Left Ashford University

A week ago today I resigned from Ashford University as an Admissions Counselor, a position I held for a little over 6-months. I’m actually surprised that I stayed there for that long. The position was nothing like I had expected. All through our two-week training when I first started, and even after we hit the floor, we were told the position was “about the student.” That was what I wanted to hear. I came from working with at-risk youth in low income areas, so this was a position I was really looking forward to. I wanted to help people get their education and help them better themselves.

Once I hit the floor I knew I was in for something completely different. If you aren’t producing the number of applications per week that management wants, you start feeling the pressure. I get it, it is a for-profit college and we were there to enroll, or as they called it, “changing lives.” That phrase in itself makes my stomach turn every time I hear it. I finally realized that changing lives was right and I strongly feel that most of the time I was changing lives, but for the worse.

Once you start struggling or not “changing lives,” you realize it is about the students’ money and not the student themselves. Your job as an “AC” revolves around enrollments. The higher the enrollments of new students, the better it went for us. Keep in mind that the job, as they kept telling us, was not about numbers, but about focusing on the student. Yet, as a manager told us during a daily meeting, the first two hours and last two hours were about “pounding the phone” and if an enrolled student were to call us during that time we were not to answer their call because we had to be especially focused on getting new students during those hours. If you weren’t hitting certain numbers (250 calls per day, 2 schedules per day, 1 appointment per day, or the equivalent of at least1-2 applications per week to “meet expectations”), you were looking at getting written up for things like, “lack of communication.” The negativity was abundant when the team I was on was underperforming. Day in and day out we were having meetings in which we were being blasted for how bad we were doing. The manager would lay into us and constantly remind us as to how bad we were. This is the same manager I overheard tell a co-worker that 80% of our students are “dumb.” At one point we were told that it would be a good idea for us to start looking for new jobs. We weren’t “meeting expectations.”

I had a manager who told our team that if we hit 15 applications in a week as a team (completely submitted) she would buy us breakfast, if we were to hit 20 applications she would get us a catered lunch, and it even got to the point that, if we were to exceed that amount, she would have looked into getting us a paid day off. That doesn’t sound too bad, right? Well there was a catch. We were also told that if we did not reach our goals, we were to expect disciplinary action i.e. be written up. This was from a company that “was not” incentivizing the enrollment of students.

The mentality of the majority of the people there on the sales floor, and I call it that because that’s exactly what it was, was about money. Making the university money so that you can keep your job. It was either get people enrolled or get a new job. And believe me, they too used scare tactics on us. Telling us how bad the economy is, how everyone is out there looking for a job, and we would be struggling to find a job that pays as much or offers the same benefits as Ashford. In January they laid off about 150 people. They are planning another round of layoffs soon. They told us that the bottom 10% will be cut this summer. Also, I think it’s funny how we were being audited for accreditation purposes just a couple of weeks ago and we had to get rid of everything on our cubicle walls that “tracked” our numbers/students. Every single day there is about numbers, not education.

A co-worker told me one day that, “I cared too much.” All because I wanted the prospective student I was working with to know, as much as I could tell them, so that they knew exactly what they were getting themselves into. I was told by the same co-worker to use “round about” figures when describing tuition and technology fees. To emphasize how much they could be eligible for in Pell grants. This is the same type of co-worker that our manager told us to sit with, learn from, and “pick their brain”. This is the type of person they wanted us to be like. Keep in mind that to go to Ashford University for 4-years and receive your Bachelor’s degree, you are looking at $52,000+. To go to an online university and pay that much is a travesty to me. We were supposed to highlight how much Financial Aid they could possibly get and how it was affordable to go to our school.” We were told to tell each student how much a degree would help them in finding a career and how much more marketable they would be. That might be “affordable” in a sea of for-profit college tuition, but last time I checked $52,000+ of student loan debt is not “affordable.”

As I did more and more research on for-profit colleges, I came to find out about the many investigations and lawsuits filed due to violations being committed across the country. These schools are getting billions of dollars a year in federal aid funds. 45% of student loans being defaulted on are from for-profit colleges and these schools account for 10.7% of college students enrolled. The drop out rates at for-profit schools is ridiculous. The government is providing this aid to students to obtain an education. If these students cannot get a job to repay the loans after the completion of the program because these programs are not academically adequate, the government then loses out on millions of dollars a year. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that online education can benefit people in certain situations, but I strongly feel that the majority of people attending an online college are being taken advantage of. According to a Bloomberg article, “Students at for-profit colleges are more likely to be unemployed and earn less in the six years after graduation than their peers at community colleges, according to a study by Harvard University researchers.” There needs to be stricter regulations on for-profit colleges.

Two months ago I knew that I needed to leave Ashford University. I was asked a question that made me want to walk out of the building as soon as I heard it. A co-worker of mine asked me, “Do you care more about ‘Shaniqua’ or do you care more about your paycheck?” I was shocked to be asked that question. I didn’t answer back. Keep in mind that this was one of the people that management wanted us to be like. All I could say in reply was, “did you really just ask me that?” She replied with, “what?”  She looked at me puzzled as if I was the crazy person, as if I was the one who had just said something extremely insensitive. I sat down quietly and just stared at my computer screen.

I chose and will always choose; “Shaniqua”, “Juan”, “Frank”, or anyone else for that matter that I honestly believe is being taken advantage of, over a paycheck any day of the week.

I decided to write this because I felt inspired by Greg Smith’s Op-Ed about his resignation from Goldman Sachs. He inadvertently used a term I had been mulling over in my head and had been thinking of using when departing Ashford University. His use of “morally bankrupt people” really struck a chord in me. Money is not everything. Ashford believes more in monetary gain than an actual education, as do many for-profit colleges. Being financially successful means nothing when you are “morally bankrupt.”  

Carlos Mendez

p.s. Part II


Anonymous said...

You need to send this letter to WASC the accrediting agency that turned them down! Tis amoral nd corrupt business needs to be outed! You should also submit this letter tO every newspaper you can as a letter to the editor. I think it would get plenty of papers wanting to print it now that this story has broken. Good for you to have left this horrible company whose CEO lives in a multimillion dollar house and his family lives a lavish lifestyle.

Anonymous said...

Nice work. I was actually an AC at Ashford for 2 1/2 years and can attest to what you're saying. I rejoiced when I heard they were denied WASC accreditation, I hope they get hit even harder. Good luck getting this article published.

Anonymous said...

You really should send this to the editor at Union Tribune to be published. I can attest to MANY friends that have been subjected to this ridiculous form of "motivation" at Ashford, jobs being threatened daily by an inexperienced manager that used to be a mediocre car salesman. Such a shame to take advantage of our youth, and some not so youthful, who only want an education so they can excel in this hell hole of a world - and good ole Ashford gets ya while you're bending over. Shame on this dishonest, manipulative & shady representation of a University. Kudos to you Mr. Mendez, hope you are finding yourself in much happier & productive work places.

KASSMS said...

I was an Admissions "Counselor" at AU for 11 months and can attest to your experience; I, too, resigned when I began to feel like a sleazy salesperson. I enrolled a student who, before her first day of class, had a change in circumstances, she needed to move to a new home unexpectedly, and wanted to push back her start date a couple of weeks as her computer would not be available until then. I thought this was a reasonable request, after all, how can one complete ONLINE classes without a computer? I was forced by the Division Manager ( my manager's boss) to call the student back and tell her if she didn't start as scheduled she would not be able to start classes for 3 more months...a total lie! I did it, because I had already been "warned" about my performance (low enrollment numbers,) but that was the final straw for me.
I also enrolled in classes in an attempt to add a little something to the BA I already obtained, I figured what the heck, it was free. Well, free or not, the 4 classes I took were incredibly easy, I learned little to nothing (and believe me, I wanted to learn!) and the instructors don't give a hoot if you can read or write, much less put a coherent sentence together.
I have said of my experience at AU, both as an employee and student, that I have never been so disillusioned in my life. What Bridgepoint has going on here should be illegal.

Anonymous said...

Very nice! I also worked for Ashford as an AC for about 5 months before I was let go for not meeting my goals. Like you, I came from a background working with low-SES children and I thought Ashford would be a place where I could help people get into college and really get their life in order. Sadly, I was pressured by my manager and all my teammates to enroll-enroll-enroll!! The pressure to enroll students got to the point that I was sick to my stomach before going in to work because I knew I would be called in to a meeting with my manager *again* to discuss why I was failing to meet the goals they set for me. Needless to say, the day I was fired from there was a pretty happy day.

Kudos for writing such an honest article! Good luck in getting it published!

Los said...

Thank you all for taking the time to read this letter I wrote. I had sent this to various sites; The LA Times, NY Times, San Diego Union Tribune, Huffington Post, and to the newspapers in Iowa and Colorado (where Bridgepoint/Ashford has offices), but no one took it. The only people that responded were from the Union Tribune and from the Huffington Post. The UT was very hesitant to publish it, they would only do so if I provided emails, memos, or any other sort of physical evidence. That's the beauty of Ashford, they were great at making sure none of the BS was ever on paper. I am glad to see that they are starting to feel pressure about their practices. I hope that colleges like these will soon be heavy regulated.

Los said...

heavily* regulated (sorry about the typo)

Anonymous said...

Good for you and much respect to everyone else who left on their own volition. No one should work against their morals simply for money. Work should be happy and but most importantly proud work; whether it's cooking burgers for hungry people or cleaning bathrooms so people can have a sanitized place to do their business; good honest work. Thank you for sharing your experience and hopefully anyone reading this can learn from it.

People looking for jobs should ask in detail during interviews about what their job description is and company practices and culture. If anyone needs a job and has to take one like this, then I say take the job; but don't take the job seriously. Get paid while you look for another job or until you get laid off. Don't get used, use them.

Anonymous said...

I am currently an AC of 11 months at AU. I have gotten close to walking into my director's office to quit several times. I have been told by my manager, "don't understand," when a prospective student says that they can't go to school because their family member just died, are in the hospital themselves, are going through custody battles, or are already tens of thousands of dollars in debt (to name a few). You know what? I COMPLETELY understand and am not going to coerce someone into going to school.

Every word you have written here is absolutely true, I couldn't have described the twisted mentality and brainwashing "motivation" better myself. I have been planning on putting in my 2 weeks on friday, but I'm not even sure I can wait another day.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for sharing. Union Tribune wonders why they are losing readership. They need to grow a pair.

Anonymous said...

I was an AC for about 10 months. I have never been happier to leave a position. You pretty nailed the opinions of many AC's while penning this op-ed. There were some students that I worked with that sincerely needed an online education and had the smarts to be able to get the most out of the experience. Then there were others who were just eager for a quick fix and should have been taking remedial English courses before even considering to experiment with an online education.

Anonymous said...

I am also an Ashford AC, been with the company for the better part of a year and I am one of the top producers, as far as numbers go. Like some of you others I come from a strong service background and really believe in helping people. That's the only reason why I'm good at my job. I'm a horrible salesman, really.

This author's views are, in my opinion, fairly spot on.

The only difference is that before this week's WASC fiasco I could just sort of grin and bear it. Yeah, there were some shady people in the company doing the wrong thing, but I was genuinely doing the RIGHT thing, and I was actually helping people. Ashford is not a diploma mill. Are the academics sub par compared to other four year universities? Yes. But the issue is more complex than that. Most of our students do not have access to other four year universities. Even if they did they would not be prepared, they wouldn't be able to manage it. Schools like this are sometimes their ONLY chance to move up and move out. The education may not be as good, but it is enough to open their minds, expands their worldview, and probably most importantly, improve their critical thinking skills to a degree that's going to actually help them get a leg up in the real world. Is that fair? No. But it's what we've got, and I am not going to delve into the topic of socio-economic class warfare right now.

My point is, there is a real need for online education, and even though the system is broken it's better than the alternative, and as a small person in a big world you can only work with the tools you have. So, like I said, I was willing to take the bad with the good because I personally felt like it was worth it in the long run. Until this week.

Between the WASC denial, the resulting HLC freak out, the class action lawsuit that was filed by shareholders alleging financial fraud, and the fact that we just laid off about 40% of our Denver staff all in the same week, I'm done. I just can't. It feels wrong and it feels immoral and I want to tell all of my current students to get out now and transfer all their credits to another school before it turns into a problem.

This is all happening because of corporate greed. Ironically, if Bridgpoint had decided to forgo a bit of short term profit in order to grow the business more ethically and more sustainably, we wouldn't be in this position in the first place, and would probably make a lot more money in the long run.

If I had it my way we'd shut down admissions entirely for a while and just work on getting our shit together so that we don't screw over our students. On a personal level, I'm not really sure what I am going to do. I don't know how I can find it within myself to convince even a single student more to enroll at Ashford. When I go in to work on Monday am I just going to sit there and stare at my computer screen? Am I going to quit? How am I going to pay my bills? I'm going to want to find another job before I jump ship, but I don't know if that will be possible, and I don't know how I'm going to get things figured out of it's not. I'm sure there's a lot of other AC's in the same boat. But you're right. It doesn't matter because at the end of the day the Shaniquas are more important than a paycheck, at least to me.

To you others: Take care and stay strong. Do what you think is right.

Anonymous said...

Thank you all!! I was an AC for a six months and the job literally made me sick. I had to go on medical leave due to the hostile work environment as well as the stress from the un ethical sales practices
I am so happy that WASC stood on values and standards and denied accreditation.
This is justice!!

Anonymous said...

my daughter works for ashford she refers it as ...stealing souls...and she also looks for student that are legit..who can handle and desire an education...although it appears that is not a prereq..andrew clark and other asford top exec dumped enough stock the week before this hit to be tagged for'possible insde trading" on an online stock monitoring web site..google his name and u can find it..hpoefully they can be sanctioned and held accountable for all the student currently enrolled and in debt..

Anonymous said...

Fuck Amy Haldeman, a lying cunt admissions counselor.

Fuck Don Frey, a pitiful dumbass, lying, unethical, know-nothing "professor".

Fuck James Chitwood, a do-nothing President.

Fuck Jessica Ewoldt, a clueless know-nothing student advisor.

Fuck Barb Philibert, a no-account, no integrity airhead "Dean" who turns a blind-eye to academic bullying and corruption from Ashford's "professors".

Fuck Donn Leiske another garbage "professor".

Fuck Jim Jeremiah, a completely useless faculty member whose actual role I can't even remember beyond his unwavering ineffectiveness and unimportance.

Fuck Brenda Murray, an uncaring finaid "specialist"

FUCK the ENTIRE staff of Ashford University!


A former 4.0 GPA student who was treated like a piece of trash.

Los said...

Once again, I'd like to thank those of you who have taken the time to read this. I can see that a lot of people feel very strongly about how Ashford University and other for-profit universities treat people. I also wrote a part 2 to this:


I hope that things change sooner rather than later.

Anonymous said...

I was an instructor at ITT Technical Institute. When I started there the people in your position were called by the very accurate term "sales reps". It wan't until about 2002 or 2003 that they started calling them "Counselors". That was a bit of cynical marketing. After I left them in '03, I saw one of the "counselors" I had worked with. He was selling Toyota's.

-Students with special need were recruited, but no services were provided for these students.
-Attendance and grade records I submitted were altered by the administration.
-Promised small classes were often overbooked at the start of term.
-IT personnel gave top priority to the marketing dept. Leaving instructional computers up to six months behind on important software updates.
-Students with remedial math needs were put into college level algebra classes with tutoring of sometimes as little as two days.

This is McEducation at it's worst. What McDonalds is to haught cuisine, these diploma mills are to higher education.

Los said...

Part II


Anonymous said...

I don't know any of these people, but I agree with you on all counts.


A former "Admissions Counselor" who hopes I didn't fuck up too many people's lives.

Anonymous said...

As you might already know many of us have been "Let go" because they are eliminating our positions. Wow what a shock. First you put so much money into training us, then we get on the floor and we produce, but not enough for their numbers for the University. i was given a verbal after enrolling my second student. I thought it was way too soon to get any kind of warning since it was only my second month on the floor. So I contested my verbal. It was a generic verbal that my manager did not type it was a template. I only enrolled students who were excited to go to school and really knew the value of their education. So yes I changed lives but not as many as they wanted me to. So we were going thru a transition where all the SRS's are now SA's and they are letting a lot of good Vets go for no reason. Then we see a trend. They send out a mandatory meeting and have us all come in at 8:00am only to find out they hand us a white envelope and tell us not to open it until the end of the meeting. That was my red flag. Then the VP of HR comes and tells us all that our positions are being eliminated. They tell us we have to sign a release form if we want a two week serverance. No way was I going to sign it. Then they have the nerve to ask us to sign up for any open positions at Ashford University. Who would want to take a chance at getting laid off or fired again? Not me. We all have to get together and do something about this. It was wrong how they treated us and they don't care about us at all. All they care about is their bottom line. $$$. I have never worked for a company who treated their employees so badly. Mind you there are a lot of people who were driving a long distance to work for this horrible company. Nobody deserves to be treated this way. Ashford University needs to get the A**es together they will lose the current accreditation also. Do work for them you don't really change lives maybe changing their lives by putting them into more debt.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Ashford for 4 months and happened to resign the week before Monday's layoffs. Your comments were spot on and my experience almost mirrored that.

The only thing I can add that as an AC my manager didn't even have a degree. A company that "so values education" employs managers that must advise on the importance of education..yet don't have any themselves. Just another instance of Ashford/Bridgepoint's hypocrisy.

Great Great article sir. It was everything I experienced too.

Layne Ruble

Anonymous said...

Los, I’m currently a student with AU and have 5 classes left. I have had no trouble, however I do believe everything you say here given the preponderance of testimony I will not have any student loan debt and will hopefully be going on to grad school in February since I have doubled up on my classes. My questions to you are; Will this degree be recognized and should I continue or bail now?

Anonymous said...

ASHFORD LAYOFFS - If you were laid off in the last 60-90 days, Ashford avoids using that term, they call it eliminated, dismissed, or ended our relationship, it is really called laid off. Anyway, before you accept the 2 week severance package or if you weren't offered anything from the July lay-offs, check out the Cal-warn Act. You may be eligible for up to 60 days pay due to a mass lay-off. They still may be sticking it to you

Los said...

This is for the student with 5 classes left. If all you have is 5 classes left, I say go ahead and finish up there and apply for whatever Grad school you are trying to get into. The degree should be recognized because they do still hold accreditation through the NCA/HLC. The only way there could be an issue is if they do not pass the review coming up through the NCA/HLC and lose all accreditation. I highly doubt that, but you never know what could happen. I believe they were granted an extension as to when they will be audited. Given they just fired 450 people on Monday, it looks like they are making whatever moves they can in order to stay accredited.

What grad programs are you trying to apply for? If you don't mind me asking.

Los said...

I heard about the layoffs that happened on Monday morning. When I received the text from an old coworker of mine I thought it was a joke, but I can't say that I am surprised by how Ashford University conducted themselves. Sending an email invite to 450 people on Friday afternoon instructing them to meet on Monday morning at 8am and then firing all of them sounds humiliating. I was told about how upset people were. There were people crying, shocked, and justly angry. I understand that they were told they would not be allowed to enter the building to grab their belongings from their cubicles because they were now considered "security threats." They will be mailed their belongings. I don't believe this is the correct way to treat people. I feel sorry for all of those that were laid off and I hope that they can get back on their feet soon enough. As for Ashford University, I do not see this joke of a university can get away with treating people like this. This is a move intended to keep their accreditation through the NCA/HLC and it will keep them afloat for a little longer. I'm not sure what their future holds, but I wouldn't be surprised if Andrew Clark tried to get rid of it by sale. Undoubtedly, not before squeezing a few more millions out of it while he still can.

Anonymous said...

I am a former Ashford student, and I have to say that I am so glad I left when I did. I took 8 classes with them, and I left in Dec 2011. There was such a complete lack of communication, sub par education, total disregard for their own plagiarism policies, major issues with financial aid, and such horrible opinions about the school that I had to leave. When my "AC" told me that she was in a call center with 2000 other people and had nothing to do with the campus, I was really upset. Here I was, trying to better my life for my kids, and I was dealing with glorified telemarketers for my education! That was it. I had enough. So I left, and now I attend a tier 1 university (online) and have never been happier. I'm thrilled that Ashford and Bridgepoint are finally getting theirs. Hopefully Clark ends up in a cell right next to Madoff.

Anonymous said...

This is awesome! I am so glad someone wrote about how horrible Ashford is. I was an employee there for 10 months also, and could not be happier that I quit! Since then, life has been amzing and I have been in touch with a representiative from Iowa about a case against Ashford. He is looking for more people to tell him about their experiences they would like to talk about. I ahve spoken to him by phone once, but deals mostly by emial. If you feel like sharing, please email him. ASHFORD NEEDS TO GO DOWN!

Richard C. Heathcote Investigator, Consumer Protection Division
Phone: 515-281-5449
Fax: 515-281-6771
Email: rheathc@ag.state.ia.us

Anonymous said...

It is interesting to note that all employees effected by the mass layoff on Monday 9/24/12 were all the employees trained on the new compliance rules and procedure - on how to properly enroll students and address their concerns if they receive too many phones calls etc. The staff that remains are all apart of the old AU culture of enrolling students just for the body count!! It is with poor taste how AU conducts its business of education. I was hired in June 2012 and was in the first 3 week training class (versus the 2 week training) that was suppose to clearly focus on compliance. So upon completing that training and being assigned to the downtown office, I found that the culture in that office under director Jose Fernandez remained in a non- compliant mode of operation. Such admission Managers as Andrew Campbell and Bryan Tarpley carried AU provided cell phones that are used exclusively for taliking to students about things that are non compliant and they don't want it to be "monitored or recorded for quality purposes". - for example, for calling students to convey non compliant instructions in order to qualify for financial aid, and although AU was training the new way, no one really had the opportunity to apply it because managers such as Campbell, Tarpley and Fernandez did not allow it and aggressively coached you on deception versus compliance. Also it should be noted that Bryan Tarpley was promoted as the manager/director to head the new student inquiry department and positions - "Mr. Deception" himself. So we can just imagine how students will be bamboozled into enrolling. Because basically, the new student inquiry counselor (SIC) position ( how appropriate "SIC") will only be able to spend 7-8 minutes to screen a prospective student on such things as "can you receive financial aid" and " do you have a computer" before they "warm" transfer them over to an admissions counselor who are the admission counselor trained in the old way of enrolling to lie and trick these unknowing students into enrolling in a school with accreditation risks.
So for all students enrolled in Ashford University! Please know that the real reason that AU is attempting to obtain WASC accreditation I am told is not because they are headquartered in San Diego, it is clearly because of the an advantages within a WASC accreditation not in the HLC - North central assn. and that is this.....currently AU Is a school accredited through the HLC... So under HLC rules-. If you are not satisfied with the education and degree from AU or if you find that employers will not accept your degree or honor your degree or schools accept your credits/courses (if you decide to transfer) - basically it is found that an AU degree or classes are worthless-- you can sue Ashford University and they will have to restore/ send back all your student loan and pell grants financial aid back to The Department of Education so that you can reuse it all over to go to a real university or college and get a real education and degree. If they get WASC accreditation they can't be sued for those reasons. So it is a protection clause to safe guard all the millions of dollars they steal away from the poor demographic student base they prey on! So students just remember you can get your financial aid restored if anything happens to AU. You probably can do it now by ( not sure though) disenrolling and contacting the department of education and filing a major complaint if you are having trouble with your AU degree. With all the scuttle butt, I'm sure they are very aware of the issue. Interesting enough, I recently learned that the department of defense and the GI bill is cutting all "for profit" school like Ashford university off the list of school military personnel can attend so do the math..
I will post again soon.

Anonymous said...

The problem with this model is that Ashford's market is, on the whole, insolvent, underprivileged and disenfranchised. This is the last demographic that can be taken advantage of in our debt-based economy. And of course the government is complicit in this model. The Ashford experience, is at best, only a simulacrum of what traditional schools can offer. In other words, it is the image and branding that conveys what they want to be, but can't. They simply do not have the administrative technology systems to support what they claim to be: best in class, student centered, caring, innovative and so on.

Recently, in an effort to scramble to achieve WASC accreditation or to cut costs at the realization that a more student centered approach would also mean to cut revenues generated by enrollments, a mass layoff of 450 people, Admissions Sales Staff, or "Admissions Counselors" was effected.

It was one of the most unprofessional and sinister lay offs I've seen. They prevented people from going to their desks, demanded they report to the cafeteria and a large room used for presentations and seminars and rounded them up to fire them. Furthermore, these people had no idea what was going on. They were forced to watch a video in the process and were handed packages, but instructed not to open them until they left the premises. Typical for a company who communicates with it's employees from behind a thick corporate veil. The culture there is based on fear, uncertainty and intimidation.

All that was said before about "motivation" and "servicing the student" is true. There is no real service one can provide to students in Ashford's market because a large portion of the students don't belong there. Not to mention the servicer to student ratio is grossly imbalanced, even with the new changes that have taken place. Students either don't have enough basic education to work independently and succeed, are computer illiterate (or do not have a computer -- yes! Ashford enrolls such students!) or are only in it for the Pell Grant.

This is a brilliant business model, but unfortunately it causes more detriment to the students and the national deficit than it does help.

I also speak to many employees on this level and many have a secret hatred for the Ashford experience. Unfortunately, our economic environment does not offer many jobs and people are working there out of desperation rather than inspiration. A circumstance managers and directors exploit as a way of motivating people or demoralizing them due to lack of performance or for not "meeting expectations."

I think with the withdrawal of the WASC review, the most recent mass lay off and the accumulating lawsuits filed, the cat is now out of the bag more than it ever was before. While I think Ashford will survive, I feel they are only in it for the money. I think that if they really want to be what they claim, then the investors and the board need to step in and fire the CEO and executive staff whose strategy is only reactionary and who lack any vision or real concern for education. It's only about shuffling enough to satisfy DOE regulations to continue to receive money printed freely from the Fed.

Anonymous said...

As one of the many former employees/students who was, and still is traumatized from the year I spent at Ashford... how do I get in touch with someone such as an attorney in order to bring Bridgepoint to justice? As far as I know, I still owe them almost $2,000 for a class I was never able to finish. Unbelievable.

Anonymous said...

If Ashford employees took the severance pay & signed an agreement right there on the spot--whereby not allowing the employees to take time to read the agreement, but needed the money-- then they can probably fight "AssFord" on the basis that they signed the agreement "under duress" due to economic loss & that might make the agreement void.

Verify that with an attorney tho'!

Anonymous said...

To Carlos & everyone else:

Send your complaints to

Sen Tom Harkin
(submit complaint online)


Senator Tom Harkin

731 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510
Phone: 202-224-3254
Fax: 202-224-9369

** Your snail mail will be forwarded to the HELP Investigations/Oversight Committee


March 2011 - Full Committee Hearing, Bridgepoint Education, Inc.: A Case study in For-Profit Education and Oversight:


Ralph Wolff, VP of WASC:
985 Atlantic Avenue, Suite 100
Alameda, CA 94501
Phone: (510) 748-9001
Fax: (510) 748-9797

MOST IMPORTANTLY, write a complaint letter to HLC *asap*. HLC will be deliberating in Feb 2013 on whether they will allow Ashford to keep their accreditation.

From the Public Disclosure Notice on A.U. on the HLC site:

"to present the report of
the Advisory Visit team and the President’s recommendation to the Board for action at its
February 2013 meeting. At that meeting the Board may act to continue accreditation, with or
without further monitoring, to continue accreditation under sanction or a Show Cause order, or
withdraw accreditation. The HLC will post an updated Public Disclosure Notice following that



Contact Info:

Complaints about an Institution affiliated with the Commission:


The Higher Learning Commission 230 South LaSalle Street, Suite 7-500, Chicago, Illinois 60604-1411
Phone: 800.621.7440 / 312.263.0456Fax: 312.263.7462 . info@hlcommission.org

Anonymous said...

Watch the Full Committee hearing, CEO of Brigepoint Education, Andrew Clark did not make it to the hearing even though Sen Harkin moved the date to accomodate his schedule!


Anonymous said...

Bridgepoint's SEC Filing Q3-Nov 5 2012.

Read pgs 33-34 "Legal Proceedings & pgs 35-39 "Risk Factors"


Anonymous said...

Ashford's Denver Call center is once again handing out arbitrary verbal & written warnings to employees, like candy.
They are setting these poor employees up for a termination.

Some terminations have happened last wk & this week-under the guise of "employees with poor attitudes", "poor work ethic", "no progression", "not engaged enough", "not sociable enough", etc.

They are doing it in such a way that it will look like isolated terminations, when in fact, it's a lay-off done in smaller chunks.

We were told after the layoffs in Jan/Feb, July, Sept & Oct of this year that there would not be any more losses - but I can no longer take management's word for anything.

I have alerted the Colorado Dept of Labor about their irresponsible hiring/firing practices which result in constant "employee churn".
It is not good for the local community & they are a blight on the face of higher education.

I have filed a complaint to Senator Harkin in Iowa.

More complaints will be sent other gov't agencies and accrediting bodies which have a direct impact on Ashford's future.

Anonymous said...

After watching the 2011 hearing (VIDEO) by Sen Tom Harkin, I am thoroughly convinced that Ashford University & their parent company Bridgepoint Education is just in it for the money-they could care less about the students--until they were forced to recently due to the WASC & HLC issues they've had this summer. The Harkin video is sooo worth watching :

Full Committee Hearing - Bridgepoint Education, Inc.: A Case study in For-Profit Education and Oversight


The execs and some of their directors are grads from Univ of Phoenix...Go figure.
They barely possess enough business acumen to grab up Federal Student Loan & Pell grant monies to line their pockets while flying under the legal radar, unscathed.

Simply put: These for-profit robber barons are only beholden to their fat cat investors like Warburg Pincus.

"Students First" was just an empty chant that Divisional Directors shoved down our throats on a daily basis - nothing more than paying lip service to their students.

Worse yet, the same Divsional directors--just 4 days after the WASC accreditation denial letter came out--pushed good employees out the door in early July, telling them that (and I quote):
"You didnt provide 'Best of Class' service to our students."

These people do not realize that "Corporate Social Responsibility" does not end with kissing up to thier paying customers like low-income students & investors. CSR also extends to the very employees they have treated in an unscrupulous manner.

I am noticing that, one by one, these very employees are rising up and will eventually inflict on A.U & Bridgepoint Educ. the biggest backlash any for-profit institution will ever experience - with or without attorneys in tow.

--->Ashford University & Bridgepoint Education is a joke<---

Anonymous said...

Ashford's Denver Call Center is now writing people up left & right to set them up for future terminations.
So far, since the end of November 2012 they have fired roughly 10 admissions counselors (out of 130-150) alluding that they "did not perform well", whereby allowing Ashford the luxury of not paying out unemployment.

This is being fought BIG TIME.

NOTE: They are doing these gradual terminations instead of a mass layoff to avoid bad press.

Anonymous said...

God Im days a way from getting hired thinking this was the right career move in San Diego. Wow. I don't know maybe I can try to be the better apple. I just need the experience and I love working with people. I come from a hard background from retail management, customer service and collections. I have been a top performer almost at every job. But I would like to be one of the counselors that cares and produces. Its too late to turn around. I do know my current job would take me back in a heartbeat. I would like feedback. Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Don't work for them unless you enjoy being micro-managed by 20 year olds with no clue.

Better yet, just Google Ashford/Bridgepoint Education lawsuits. That will give you a glaring answer as to whether you should accept employment with them.

Anonymous said...

I didn't get the job hopefully for the better. I was nothing I did just not qualified. But of course it would have been a major disappointment if I had gone in and all the horror stories were true in Sd. Its just a bummer that I am not going to work with students in a university setting. Im afraid all universities are like this about the position and that's a shame. I'll just research every place until I find the right one. Hope this changes.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your courage in sharing this story. I, too, left AU in January 2011 from an Admissions Counselor position after 4 months. I have never looked back or regretted doing so. I was even on a high performing team. I am still haunted by my first enrollment and the type of financial stress I might have put her in today. I am now receiving my MSW so I can actually change lives.

Anonymous said...

Illinois Senator Dick Durbin penned July 2012 Letters to Ashford, HLC and WASC. See article and letters on his website (too long to paste everything here):


Ally said...

Please go to http://allyslifelemons.blogspot.com/ as it pertains to Ashford University/Bridgepoint Education. I am working on speaking with others that have proof of wrongdoing on Ashford's part. Anyone that has been wronged by Ashford please contact me, employees, students, etc. Please contact me via that blog. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Oh great!! I'm 5 classes away from earning my Business Admin. degree and now I stumble on to this blog. Well there goes 3 1/2 years down the tube. Was hoping to enroll at a brick and mortar MBA program but now it seems like I won't get any credit for this degree at all.

Crystal Rain said...

Oh my Ford & Freud! I have invested so much time & money with Ashford! Set to graduate in 2014 & now I feel it'll all be for nothing....please tell me this isn't so :(

Anonymous said...

To those of you concerned about your degrees- Ashford is still regionally accredited (for now). Having a BA or an MBA is better than no degree; although one might argue that if you are vying for a job and it is between you an another candidate that has a degree from a traditional school, you may not be able to compete. All that was said by the former Admissions Counselors is true and very sad. There are so many people at Ashford that actually care about student success, but unfortunately those people are not the ones making the decisions. I hope that WASC makes the right decision again and chooses not to accredit this money making machine.

Anonymous said...

I was an "EA" (as they called them then) for over a year. I completely agree with everything in this article (and can reenforce its truthfulness). If anything, I experienced even worse episodes than what is described (my manager once convinced a homeless woman to enroll - she told her that going to school was her way out and could use the library for class). In my own case, I started my MBA there and took out loans to complete it when I left Ashford. The "University" was completely inept in managing my loans and now claim that I owe Ashford $6k (for classes that were paid for - basically they sent the money back to the lender after the classes were complete). I used to see that kind of thing as an EA all of the time. I could write another article with completely new material describing how horrible this "school" is (as are many of the people that work there). By the way, I got my undergrad degree at USC. I spent, easily, about 3 hours a day studying. At Ashford, my MBA (literally) took about an hour and a half a week. The school is a complete joke. Student Loans were not meant to be abused this way. I am not happy that the jobless pool in San Diego just grew by leaps and bounds, but I am happy that these bastards might finally get what they deserve (although, in some cases, criminal charges would be nice).

Anonymous said...

I just wanted to comment that while this may be the truth about what happens as far as online education goes, I have had a much different experience as a campus student. Often when bashing the college, many people forget that there is an on campus student body and that the experience is a much different one. The campus college was, before being bought by bridgepoint, a highly successful college that put out quality students. Though there have been staff changes, the students coming out of the campus programs have been well educated, and well taken care of. It's not just the company that suffers when the online degree portion goes under, but also the campus students.

Anonymous said...

I graduated AU in 2009. With BOAM degree. I am still underemployed because No employers will allow this degree to show I know anything. They all have told me I may as well have printed it out myself 50,000 for what? I am so angry. I came from trying to get ahead to further behind and more in debt. They really helped me dig a hole and for a degree that does not even get recognized for transfer to a junior college. Since I repeated sociology there. How frustrating can you get. Buyer be ware the degrees are junk!

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the publication!
I enrolled in Ashford University online because I was a single parent who had to work full time but desired an education in order to find a job to help ends meet. I was mislead by advisors, had a financial representative who changed my fafsa information that caused me to lose my grant and constantly double charged me among other terrible issues. I worked hard for my grades and degrees only to find out that my Master's degree would get me nowhere. In fact, I was led by advisors to take this master's degree program because it would allow me to teach college (I did not have an educational degree). Now, the degree says you must have a teaching degree to be in the program. After finding out (by applying for a job at many colleges) that my degree was bogus I automatically notified the college advisor ect. The college Reps. have ignored and not gotten back to me except for an email that said I signed up for the degree even though I was not a teacher or qualified and that makes me liable. Since when does a college allow you into a program that you are not qualified for? They don't! Which says that I was mislead and fooled. I owe alot of money for a degree that did not get anywhere. BEWARE! BTW, they never took off the extra charges either (over 10,000). I should have forgone the degree and paid more attention to my children. Precious time lost and a debt of 75000 for bogus degrees that has caused me much heartache.

Anonymous said...

Ashford University Sexual Harassment--Gee! why are we not suprised?!?
Lawsuit filed alleging human resources worker 'pulled a Filner'


SAN DIEGO - An employee of San Diego-based Bridgepoint Education says she and others were sexually harassed by the last person one might expect: the woman in charge of implementing the policy on sexual harassment.

According to a just-filed lawsuit, the incident occurred at a luxury Four Seasons Hotel in Denver, the site of a 2011 corporate retreat for human resources employees of Bridgepoint Education, which owns Ashford University.

Wendy Young, an executive assistant, says the group was hanging out at a hotel bar when Rebecca Magnuson sat down next to her. Young says Magnuson was at the time the director of learning and development, in charge of implementing the sexual harassment training.

A lawsuit describes what happened next -- as "pulling a Filner."

"She (Magnuson) grabbed the back of my hair with her left hand, grabbed my breast with her right hand, pulled my head back and tried to stick her tongue in my throat," said Young. "I was in shock. I couldn't believe it."

Young says she talked to another alleged victim who said Magnuson made similar moves on other women that night. Young says when she went to her boss, Charlene Dackerman, the senior vice president of human resources, her boss laughed it off.

"She said Becky was just trying to find herself … and drunk," said Young.

Young says while Magnuson was later promoted, she endured daily anguish at the hands of her boss, who sent her on demeaning errands and called her names.

"I was called a b****, a stupid *****, a skinny ***** and a dumb *****," said Young.

Dan Gilleon, Young's attorney, told 10News, "It must be terrifying for people at Bridgepoint to know the person they're supposed to will not only brush it off, but retaliate. It sends a signal to everyone below … that sexual harassment is not only going to be tolerated, in some ways, it's condoned."

Young's lawsuit comes two months after an employee of Ashford University filed suit, alleging sexual harassment by a manager.

That suit prompted Young to come forward.

"My message is people do not have to put up with this harassment," she said. "They need to speak up."

In a statement, the company said, "Bridgepoint Education believes the lawsuit is without merit and intends to vigorously defend against it. The company maintains stringent standards for ethical and professional behavior by its employees and has zero tolerance for violations of its policies."

marc said...

Ha...I was a "military enrollment advise..aka "use you military affiliated skills to milk TA from the military and GI Bill from the VA". As a relatively high producer...I created a director sanctioned "exit strategy" to getvoutvwithout self terminating back in 2010.
GREAT JOB ANDREW CLARK on creating a UofP knockoff and tying in a podunk piece of crap physical university with 3 buildings to a massive, expensive and worthless online "shake and bake" curriculum. Nice cheezy used car salesman smile Andy. The job was an emotional and ethical compromise bestvsuited for ignorant 20, sumpthings fresh out of college...not adults.

Anonymous said...

I am a former Ashford University Student. I received my BA in 2011. My husband also attended the school but needs 1 additional course to receive his degree. I feel that attending Ashford was a misjudgement and when I started having problems with the school like the wall in my dorm room being full of mold causing me constant migraines and nosebleeds I should have changed schools rather than simply move off campus. Hindsight is 20/20 right? In any case I put up with this school for four years constantly convincing myself that in the end I would get that degree (the first in my family) and it would all be worth it. Well it wasn't. I don't feel like I learned anything that can't be looked up on the internet with a simple search. I have applied for many, many jobs in my field over the last 2 1/2 years and I don't even get interviews. This accreditation crap started after I graduated. This school sucked 4 years of my life, 5 of of my husband's and all we have gained from going there was meeting each other. Now we are both working scarcely above minimum wage jobs and we are both only part time. My degree does not seem to be recognized and we both seem to be considered "over qualified" for things unrelated to our studies. I HATE that school with a passion. I hate that it was a waste of my time, that I am constantly having to put my student loans on deferment, that we are on food stamps despite all the effort I put forth not to be like my parents. It didn't help a poor kid get an education. They took me put me in debt I will probably NEVER get out of and crushed my spirits.

Thank you Ashford University. You have shown me that there really is no faith worth showing to humanity. Oh and by the way you owe us about $200,000!!! Pay up.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely the worst job I've ever had! I would find more pride in cleaning toilets, or cook a burger. I hope they go under and that Andrew Clark gets his!

Anonymous said...

I'm glad you wrote this I was planning on attending now it's a different story thank you very much

Antonio Castillo said...

I also worked at AU as an EA years ago for over 6mo. Thought alot of the perks were awesome and fun! Beer Friday's, Vegas trip, etc. But, I knew it was a bad decision to work there even before we hit the floor. Started to recognize alot of sales jargon beforehand and not enough "advisor" jargon. My heart was never into it. I'm not a salesman. I wanted to help people, not sell to them. I did not want to be a telemarketer which is what you are no matter how hard they tried to convince you otherwise and they tried ALOT. I remember having a class on SELLING to people with cancer or a death in the family! did anyone else have that experience? I seem to remember there was documentation on it. Anyway, just thought I'd put in my two cents. Absolute WORST job I ever had.

Antonio Castillo said...

I also worked at AU as an EA years ago for over 6mo. Thought alot of the perks were awesome and fun! Beer Friday's, Vegas trip, etc. But, I knew it was a bad decision to work there even before we hit the floor. Started to recognize alot of sales jargon beforehand and not enough "advisor" jargon. My heart was never into it. I'm not a salesman. I wanted to help people, not sell to them. I did not want to be a telemarketer which is what you are no matter how hard they tried to convince you otherwise and they tried ALOT. I remember having a class on SELLING to people with cancer or a death in the family! did anyone else have that experience? I seem to remember there was documentation on it. Anyway, just thought I'd put in my two cents. Absolute WORST job I ever had.

Anonymous said...

I completely agree with your analysis of this corrupt money churning corporation, dear writer. I worked there for 2 1/2 years. Please don't think they only treat ACs that way. Faculty and staff at all ranks (except at the top) are in the same pool. They treat you like a dog and think you will act like a robot and take it anytime. You should see the corruption that happens in appointing and firing people. The formula is, keep individuals at every rank for 1-2 years and suck the life energy out of them. After they have worked like a horse to push for improvement amidst the worst corporate backlash to make the corporation slightly educational, it is time to send them either an anonymous letter or connect them with an unknown person at their parent company, Bridgepoint, in charge of taking your work accessories away from you without any explanation (because the guy doesn't know you and you don't know him). A person working there one day fins him/herself unable to enter the building the next day! Next, they appoint an in-house person who is remotely connected to the position, begin a series of fake interviews, open the job window for one night, so that it can be shown that the job was announced, and put tons of money in the new person's mouth to tell him/her to join in the corruption. Every single minute at that institution is torture. Every single person who has even worked there for a minute went for the monies. However, I warn you, the recovery period after getting them off your nerves can last twice as long as your time working. Plus, since they are not even a legitimate corporation that has any person staying at a job for longer than a minute, you don't leave the job with any letters acknowledging experience, lack, or anything.
Don't get me started on accreditation. I have personally seen how they organize the reviewers' itineraries, so that they never meet the faculty (full-time or part-time) alone and appoint a dozen people to make sure the faculty does not bump into the reviewers. You should see what forged documents, graphs, and figures they submitted to WASC. None of what is on paper exists!
Believe me, life away from this corruption cell might be poor, but you will have your dignity and integrity intact.
I invite everyone who still has some ethics and conscience left to write about Ashford's corruption all over the internet and save the inspiring word called education.

Anonymous said...

Hello All! I am active duty military and I got my degree using 100% tuition assistance. I want to start a masters program, but my transcripts are being held because I had a Pell grant returned...that is a long story. Being that quite a few of you worked for Ashford, how can I get them to release my transcripts and take Williams and Fudge away?

Anonymous said...

Ashford University is a major scam, these people are thieves and I plan to do something about it!!!!!!!! I am a current student experiencing the same issues. I am planning on filing a class action lawsuit against Ashford University under the pretense of Financial Aid Fraud please contact me at missevilgenius101@gmail.com f you are interested in taking them down.

Visit to join a class action lawsuit... https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?mds=%2Fprofile%2Fcover%2Fchoose_photo%2F%3FredirectURI%3D%252Fprofile.php&mdf=1

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Ashford University is a major scam, these people are thieves and I plan to do something about it!!!!!!!! I am a current student experiencing the same issues. I am planning on filing a class action lawsuit against Ashford University under the pretense of Financial Aid Fraud please contact me at missevilgenius101@gmail.com f you are interested in taking them down. And visit... https://m.facebook.com/profile.php?mds=%2Fprofile%2Fcover%2Fchoose_photo%2F%3FredirectURI%3D%252Fprofile.php&mdf=1

Anonymous said...

LOL. ALL this written by people who SUCKED at their jobs. With any position there are minimum expectations, if you couldnt cut the mustard...peace! These posts are pathetic. Ashford was the best position I ever held. I developed a real passion for the student and enrolled many as I was a top producer in my division. It was because I WAS the same student I were enrolling. Ashford provided a great working atmosphere, fun, and great people I am still in contact after 2 years removed due to a move across country. If you bad mouth that job, its obvious you werent any good at it. #bitter

JON B said...

I am so glad to see this post and others like it scattered around the internet. I just finished taking a class at Ashford, so I can speak from the student perspective. As an academic institution, Ashford is a complete joke. The facilitator in my class almost never interacted in the forums and even when she did, it was always something to the effect of "great job", not expanding on the topic or offering additional insight. I am almost certain that she didn't even read any of my assignments, as I never had any feedback or a single point deducted from my papers. If anyone reading this post only wants a degree (and not the actual increase in knowledge and critical thinking skills that typically accompanies a college degree), Ashford is your place. If you actually want to learn something in addition to the piece of paper you get at the end of the program, there are many other online options out there that are much higher quality. I am glad that I only took one course, which I am transferring into my degree program at another institution. Lesson learned. Virtually the only lesson I learned at Ashford.

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