Politicians consider for-profit college for New Bedford

Source:  The Standard Times
NEW BEDFORD — The City Council wants New Bedford to woo a for-profit college rejected by Rhode Island, but the controversy surrounding for-profit universities and a shortage of local tech companies may make for a difficult courtship.
Ward 6 City Councilor Joseph Lopes proposed the unanimously adopted motion asking Mayor Jon Mitchell and Economic Development Council Executive Director Matthew Morrissey to meet with Utah-based Neumont University. He said he believes the tech-focused school would help New Bedford’s economic development.
“Education is the key to growing the economic development base and having a university that is focused on technology and how you improve on technology is going to be key to how we improve our labor force moving forward,” Lopes said.
Mitchell said Friday he had not yet discussed Neumont with the City Council but was open to the proposal.
Neumont University, which offers degrees in computer science, met in March with Massachusetts representatives to discuss the possibility of opening its first New England campus in the state, spokeswoman Stacy Cahoon Hughes said. It wants to find a student-friendly location with available real estate and nearby local technology companies which could hire graduates, she said.
“While New Bedford’s Buzzards Bay location would be attractive to students with nautical interests, we will have to measure the city’s suitability against our location criteria,” Neumont University President Ned Levine said in a statement. “I welcome New Bedford’s leaders to provide relevant information in advance of a meeting where we could learn more.”
Earlier this month, Neumont dropped its efforts to obtain an exception to a law barring for-profit colleges from Rhode Island, saying it had met with “inertia” from state and local government there.
For-profit colleges, which receive an average of 86 percent of their revenue from federal student aid, have been the subject of federal and state investigations which allege “deceptive” marketing practices such as misstating tuition costs to lure vulnerable populations into costly degree programs.
Students at the schools typically take on double or triple the debt compared to those at traditional institutions and default at higher rates, according to data from the Education Department and the non-profit Education Trust. The schools also have records of lower graduation rates than traditional programs.
Neumont, which costs $72,000 for a typical degree, has a graduation rate of 68 percent and receives “far less” than 43 percent of its revenue from federal student aid, Hughes said. Graduates typically earn a starting salary of $62,000 and 95 percent have jobs within six months, she said. Only 4.7 percent default on their loans, she said.
The school has not yet submitted an application to the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, which would have to approve the opening of a new campus, said Board spokeswoman Katy Abel.
April 24, 2012 12:00 AM
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