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For-profit college financier Clifford drops out

Rancho Santa Fe education mogul blames federal government

Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford

Dr. Michael Clifford of Rancho Santa Fe, the oft-quoted and celebrated financier of for-profit universities, has dropped out of the business. On his website, he lashes out at the "unfair and hostile attacks on financial sponsors of for-profit education by the United States government."

Then, he writes, "Our family has completely exited the for-profit education sector due to the unconstitutional treatment of the United States government toward this particular business segment in America." (Clifford did not attend college but got the "Dr." title as a result of an honorary degree. Clifford makes much of being a born-again Christian and often finances religious schools.)

As reported by the Reader, Clifford has suffered some setbacks in recent years. He bought a Christian college in Memphis and renamed it Victory University. But it got into accreditation difficulty and in March of this year closed down.

He founded American Way Education, which owned Los Angeles College International, which shut down in late 2012. He had significant equity in Chula Vista's United States University, which has also had accreditation problems. He was a cofounder of the predecessor of San Diego's controversial Bridgepoint University, which has had difficulties with accreditors, state governments, and the federal government. Its financial results have slumped in recent quarters.

His note was posted on his website June 20, but I cannot find that other media have picked up the story.

In an email, I asked Clifford several questions, such as whether he had debt and financial loss problems. His response: "Get lost...you are a dishonest journalist." The only previous time I communicated with him was by phone; as soon as I asked some tough questions, he uttered some pejoratives and hung up.

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Michael Clifford
Michael Clifford

Dr. Michael Clifford of Rancho Santa Fe, the oft-quoted and celebrated financier of for-profit universities, has dropped out of the business. On his website, he lashes out at the "unfair and hostile attacks on financial sponsors of for-profit education by the United States government."

Then, he writes, "Our family has completely exited the for-profit education sector due to the unconstitutional treatment of the United States government toward this particular business segment in America." (Clifford did not attend college but got the "Dr." title as a result of an honorary degree. Clifford makes much of being a born-again Christian and often finances religious schools.)

As reported by the Reader, Clifford has suffered some setbacks in recent years. He bought a Christian college in Memphis and renamed it Victory University. But it got into accreditation difficulty and in March of this year closed down.

He founded American Way Education, which owned Los Angeles College International, which shut down in late 2012. He had significant equity in Chula Vista's United States University, which has also had accreditation problems. He was a cofounder of the predecessor of San Diego's controversial Bridgepoint University, which has had difficulties with accreditors, state governments, and the federal government. Its financial results have slumped in recent quarters.

His note was posted on his website June 20, but I cannot find that other media have picked up the story.

In an email, I asked Clifford several questions, such as whether he had debt and financial loss problems. His response: "Get lost...you are a dishonest journalist." The only previous time I communicated with him was by phone; as soon as I asked some tough questions, he uttered some pejoratives and hung up.

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Comments
16

I guess he thought it would be much easier to grab all those government funds via the students and their loans and grants.

I view this as a "victory"!!

Contrast Michael Clifford with Elizabeth Warren on the subject of education. It is time for all of us to really watch out for all the students and help them make decisions that will work for them in the long term.

Thanks for this, Don!

Oct. 3, 2014

eastlaker: Yes, the for-profit colleges generally get 85 percent of their funds from the federal government -- Pell grants and the like. Yet conservative businesspeople, who profess to be watchdogs of the public purse, root for the for-profits, which generally have dismal education records. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 3, 2014

What kind of "Dr." is he and what diploma mill did he get his "doctorate" from?

Oh, now i get it. "Though Clifford never attended college, he is the recipient of several honorary doctorates." Probably from his own scuzzy for-profits.

What a douche. Using the "Dr." as a formal title when he never even attended college.

Oct. 3, 2014

Ponzi: Clifford readily admits he didn't attend college, but does use that dubious "Dr." title. Yes, he has received several honorary doctorates from obscure schools. His use of the title rather annoys me, because my wife got a PhD in a very tough field, plant ecology, from UC-Davis/SDSU, and can genuinely use the title "Dr." Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 3, 2014

Handy con-man to English translator:

"unfair and hostile attacks... by the United States government"

really means, "The federal government finally wised up and stopped funneling millions of dollars of taxpayer money into my pocket via dodgy-to-fraudulent student loans."

Oct. 3, 2014

badcyclist: Right on. The for-profits spend huge amounts on marketing but not much on education. The dropout rate is extremely high. The debt and default rates are very, very high. The ability of graduates to get a meaningful job is very low. Yet these so-called universities continue to get federal money. As you say, though, the federal government is wising up.

Some of the for-profits -- generally, the ones that offer narrow technical degrees -- seem to work out OK. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 4, 2014

Great article-- thank you for writing it and exposing Mr. Clifford to a little bit of uncomfortable sunlight.

Oct. 4, 2014

badcyclist: I have written several columns and blog items on Clifford. One of the columns is linked here. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 4, 2014

No one who is legit uses "Dr." for an honorary degree. Kind of reminds me of the "Papa" Doug Manchester thing, only worse. The for-profit people are a disgrace and any time the federal government gets smart, that's a good day. Thanks for exposing these con men.

Oct. 3, 2014

photog921: "Papa Doug" is rather gauche, but use of "Dr." by someone who never attended college is disgusting. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 4, 2014

My guess is that the dubious "Dr." dropped out because he wasn't making enough money. There are some things that for-profits do well and some things that should never be for-profit like health care and education.

Oct. 4, 2014

AlexClarke: I agree with you on education but not on healthcare. Doctors deserve their high pay. Pharmaceutical companies need profits to continue their research, although I concede there are a lot of abuses by Big Pharma.

Was Clifford not making enough money -- or was he losing money? He wouldn't answer. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 4, 2014

Shimizu Randall: The for-profit college model has failed in most cases. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 4, 2014

For profit universities. You can't transfer credits to an accredited school but the debt follows you around like bad smell.

Still it's hard not to feel sorry for the good Doctor. After all he's done to the American education system. (snark implied if not explicit)

Oct. 4, 2014

Michael Valentine: For-profit students are about 10 percent of the total but account for about 50 percent of loan defaults. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 4, 2014

Palmer Muntz: In the blog item, in the second sentence, click the item in blue on his website. It says "our family" has completely backed out of the for-profit education business. He is out. I don't know specifically about Grand Canyon, but if he is abandoning the business, he has to be leaving if he is still in. Best, Don Bauder

Oct. 6, 2014

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