Last updated on 2013.12.21
The South Dakota Board of Regents today announced the hiring of David B. Borofsky as Doug Knowlton's interim replacement as Dakota State University president. Borofsky likely welcomes the chance for a breath of fresh South Dakota air, since the employer he leaves, for-profit Westwood College based in Denver, faces a lawsuit filed Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The charge: Westwood misrepresented its accreditation and its costs to students at four Chicago-area campuses.
Madigan's lawsuit alleges that, through marketing its criminal justice program, Westwood falsely convinced students they could pursue a law enforcement career with agencies such as the Chicago Police Department, Illinois State Police and suburban police departments, even though those employers don't recognize a Westwood degree due to its lack of regional accreditation.
...The lawsuit also alleges that Westwood downplayed the ultimate total cost of attending the college and failed to provide students with sufficient information about their loans. Westwood is typically more expensive than most community colleges or state universities, with 2012 tuition rates for a Bachelor's of Applied Science totaling more than $71,000. Madigan said that when government and private loans did not cover a student's cost, Westwood financed the student's balance at exceedingly high interest rates — as much as 18 percent — and financial aid officers misrepresented the terms of the financing [Illinois Attorney General's Office, "Madigan Sues National For-Profit College," press release, 2012.01.18].
$71,610, financed at 18%, for a useless degree. Less than ten miles down the road, the College of DuPage offers regionally accredited and thus recognized criminal justice degrees for $12,672.
The Illinois AG's lawsuit isn't Westwood's first bad press. In 2010, a General Accounting Office investigation of for-profit colleges found Westwood "made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to G.A.O.'s undercover applicants." An admissions rep for Westwood's parent company Alta testified that the school used high-pressure sales tactics, deceptive pricing, and fictitious endorsements. That recruiter told the Senate these abusive practices were not isolated actions by a few bad apples but "rather a pattern of behavior encouraged by corporate leaders."
Dakota State University's new temporary leader takes the reins within the next couple weeks. Here's hoping interim DSU president Borofsky enjoys his return to a campus dedicated to people, not profits.
One bit of Borofsky's Westwood experience that students may hope Borofsky brings to DSU is the "Employment Pledge": last year Westwood promised to pay six months of its graduates' bills if they were unable to land jobs six months after finishing their coursework.