Students at the Scripps Ranch campus of Alliant International University (formerly United States Internatiional University) are worried that the school may go the for-profit route and their degrees will lose value sharply.
"God forbid that your degree doesn't mean anything," says Evelynn Jones, a representative of the Student Government Association (SGA). "SGA people are concerned this will be a for-profit university," and education officials across the country are concerned that graduates of for-profits are not able to get jobs.
Students are circulating online statements under the banner of "Save Our School: Alliance for Alliant." There are questions such as, "Do you want to go to a school that is under investigation by the U.S. Senate, Department of Education, Department of Justice, and state accreditation boards?"
For-profit universities, including San Diego's Bridgepoint Education, have been investigated thoroughly by various government bodies, partly because of poor job placement of graduates.
I have seen documents that suggest the students have reason to be worried. Alliant is now based in San Francisco as a result of a merger with the California School of Professional Psychology.
Geoffrey Cox, president of Alliant, told his staff in memos recently that Alliant is thinking of becoming a Benefits Corporation, or B-Corp, which would be a way to attract capital. He admits Alliant "is facing serious questions about its long term sustainablity." B-Corps, however, "can be financed by investors who hold shares and have an expectation of a return on their investment." B-Corps are "something of a hybrid between traditional for-profit and not-for-profit structures."
Specifically, Alliant is interested in possibly getting money from University Ventures Fund. Its founding partner is Ryan Craig, a longtime board member of Bridgepoint and a former executive with Wall Street's Warburg Pincus, which originally financed and still owns 64 percent of Bridgepoint.
Another of the top-five officials of the ventures fund was with Apollo, the largest for-profit university. (University of Phoenix is its major school.) The ventures fund has sent out studies talking favorably of for-profit colleges. When a Cleveland for-profit school, Chancellor University, run by San Diego for-profit entrepreneur Michael Clifford, closed down, students were transferred to Alliant (presumably for online education).
"We are only talking to University Ventures Fund about the Benefit Corporation idea," Cox wrote to his colleagues. And then came a line that frightened San Diego students: "The other strategic option we have been considering is to sell the San Diego campus as a way of raising capital."
This raises questions, because as the Reader's Susan Luzzaro has been reporting, Sweetwater school superintendent Ed Brand has been trying to line up a joint venture of Sweetwater with Alliant.
I spoke briefly with Cox this afternoon, October 16. He said, "We are involved in an exploratory conversation...there is no particular timeline [for a decision] and I don't anticipate one being made terribly soon."
There are about 1000 students at the San Diego campus — down from 3500 in better days.