Columbia University President Lee Bollinger: Reform Kaplan Or Quit Its Board
  • Petitioned Lee C. Bollinger

This petition was delivered to:

President of Columbia University
Lee C. Bollinger
Executive Vice President for Communications & Public Affairs, Columbia University
David M. Stone
Assistant Vice President for Media Relations, Columbia University
Brian Connolly

Columbia University President Lee Bollinger: Reform Kaplan Or Quit Its Board

    1. Petition by

      Columbia University College Democrats Activist Council

Kaplan exploits the poor, the vulnerable and the taxpayer to enrich itself. Let moral leadership at Columbia be a guide to moral leadership at Kaplan.

**IMPORTANT: If you are a member of the Columbia community, please use your Columbia email address when you sign.**

When recruiters at Kaplan University try to convince prospective students to enroll at their institution, they don’t boast a strong support network, vast library collection or affordable tuition.  These recruiters are instructed to use scare tactics – fear and pain – to prey on the insecurities of financially insecure and emotionally vulnerable young adults, rushing them to take out massive loans that they will never be able to afford and enroll in a school that offers little success at an enormous cost.

Columbia’s own President Bollinger has the potential to end this injustice.  Kaplan University, which earned over $250 million in 2009, is the Washington Post Company’s biggest asset, more valuable even than the Washington Post newspaper itself.  President Bollinger sits on the Board of Directors of the Washington Post Company.

According to a training manual used by Kaplan recruiters in Pittsburgh, the company targets individuals who exhibit low self-esteem, who were fired, laid off, incarcerated, or were victims of physical or mental abuse.  Once on the phone, recruiters exert enormous pressure to sign up right away.  The company instructs recruiters to probe these unemployed, stressed, abused individuals for their hidden pains and fears, to stir up their emotions and create a sense of urgency to enroll.  And the recruiters all too often succeed.

Still unsure of their ability to complete the yearlong online coursework, unaware that they could often receive the same degree at a local community college for as little as 4% of the cost, and uninformed that Kaplan’s programs often fail to even prepare students for better paying jobs, these people are coerced to sign on the dotted line, making the decision that they all so often regret.

Tactics like these rush underprivileged, insecure, fragile individuals into signing up for the school, only to find themselves struggling to stay enrolled and pay off their loans.  Just 1 in 8 Kaplan students actually complete a degree program, yet over a quarter of them default on their loans within 3 years of leaving school.  Defaulting destroys their credit rating, not only obliterating their chances of financing a car or home, but also marring their ability to pass screenings at new job opportunities.  Beyond forcing students into mountains of debt, Kaplan even makes it harder for students to find a job.

And for Kaplan, this contradiction doesn’t seem to pose a problem.  Former Kaplan instructor and administrator Carlos Urquilla-Diaz has revealed that the representatives target the most vulnerable because they are “most likely to drop out before completing the program, leaving Kaplan with the aid money and no need to provide more services.”

Another former Kaplan employee characterized the company’s business model as “a cold-hearted scam to make money by taking student loans from the government, and leaving students with debt that they’ll never be able to pay off.”

Kaplan’s CEO recently said he supports change, but at the same time he sued the Department of Education and spent more money than any other for-profit university lobbying Washington to shield the company from reforms.  As Kaplan continues to snatch tens of thousands of susceptible Americans into its lucrative trap, draining them of their time, money, and futures, it also fights safeguards that would protect other students from entering such agony.

Where do we come in?  How can we stop this injustice?  Sitting on the board of the company that owns Kaplan, President Bollinger can make a difference.  We must encourage him to use that voice, to stand up for these students, just as he would for us.  Ask him to stop the malicious recruiting practices.  Ask him to cut the lobbying.  Ask him to support governmental reforms.  And if he can’t, ask him to quit Kaplan.  Because he can do better than that.


Recent signatures


    1. Md. bill targets for-profit colleges, including Kaplan:

    2. Today's Kaplan University story: a Missouri mom can't use her credits -

    3. We're kicking off a week of Kaplan University Horror Stories today, shared by former students. Read the first one here - it's by Roger Betancourt, an Army veteran who found his peace of mind shattered after enrolling:

    4. Reached 2 signatures
    5. Some truly disturbing tactics used by lobbyists for Kaplan University and other for-profit colleges, reported by Campus Progress:

    6. Kaplan University is being investigated by the state of Illinois:

    7. Columbia Spectator Editorial Board endorses College Democrats' petition:

    8. Reached 2 signatures
    9. George Washington University professor praises Columbia students' activism:

    10. Top 10 (Cringeworthy) Things You Didn't Know About Kaplan U

      Veterans, single moms and low-income parents -- all hustled by the Washington Post Company into signing up for college classes of questionable quality and a lifetime of debt.
      Shocking, but true. This tragic story happens again and again for students...

    11. Columbia University Spectator covers campaign to urge Columbia U. president to reform Kaplan University:

    12. Reached 500 signatures
    13. Columbia University blog, "Bwog," mentions the campaign:

    14. The Chronicle of Higher Education reports on the petition!

    15. Columbia University petition on featured in Washington Monthly:

    16. Reached 250 signatures
    17. Here's a full link to the Chronicle of Higher Education story that mentions Lee Bollinger and the Washington Post Company: This will work for non-subscribers for this week only, so print out the article if you need it for your records.

    18. The Chronicle of Higher Education has published an in-depth article on respected figures in higher education - including Lee Bollinger - lending their names and credibility to for-profit colleges. We're hoping to have the full link soon but for now, here's a snippet from the story:

    19. Reached 100 signatures
    20. Columbia Students Tell President Bollinger: Reform Kaplan University

      Here's the latest jaw-dropping news about Kaplan University, the commercial chain of schools that made $1.5 billion for the Washington Post Company in 2009.
      Turns out Kaplan, as well as other for-profit colleges, explicitly trains its admissions...

    21. Reached 25 signatures


    Reasons for signing

    • DeGuyz in Mississippi POPLARVILLE, MS
      • over 3 years ago

      His name is Justin and he should still be alive.

      It's their schools, their states and their country. If their cries for help are ignored, we must protect them.

    • Leslie Gray OLYMPIA, WA
      • over 3 years ago

      The recruiting tactics of Kaplan are ruining the lives of the students they claim to be helping. Stop this desceitful practice and give the prospective student a real education.

    • Juanita Johnson FLINT, MI
      • over 3 years ago

      It makes me truly sad that while I'm working hard on a degree that I know will help me obtain a job, you are ruining the benefits that I receive for someone else by allowing them to be used by the system. It is a shame that you aren't held accountable for your actions.

    • Dakri Lukowski PENSACOLA, FL
      • over 3 years ago

      I am a Kaplan University student and have many horror stories. Every time I finished one degree program I would get a phone call saying that I owed more money which had to be taken care of before I could receive my degree. The tuition is insanely expensive. Now I have finished my master's degree and can't even get a copy of my unofficial transcript. Unfortunately for me I now owe over $70,000. DO NOT choose Kaplan!!!

    • David S. CHOTEAU, MT
      • over 3 years ago

      As a Former victim (Now I am talking about the business side not the academic) of Kaplan U. I will sign this. I was taken for nearly for 11 grand. I got an education, I learned how to write better; Nevertheless, I got ripped off. I could of went to a LOCAL UNIVERSITY for 1/3 the cost. I had to fight with them over the student portal entrance, getting my GRADE fixed (now the professor did her best) and getting my transcripts so I can go to my Local University.

      I have pulled my funding, I have gotten my transcripts sent and I am working on getting enrolled for the Next Academic Year.

      Stop Kaplan before it destroys legit online schools. (Traditional schools are embracing this slowly.) So PLEASE stop Kaplan or reform it to make it "cheaper and more like a real school".

      BTW AIC (bought by Kaplan for the purpose of saying it has been around since 1938)


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