Statement in Response to Testimony at U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing June 7, 2011
Regarding Eric Schmitt's statements
Today, the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions heard testimony from a former Kaplan student who has had difficulty finding employment after receiving Associate's and Bachelor's degrees in paralegal training. The faculty, staff and administrators at Kaplan care about each one of our graduates and sympathize with the difficulties this student has faced. At the same time, it appears that this student's testimony is not an accurate reflection of his experience—nor does it at all reflect our students' overall experience, in Iowa or nationally.
First, the student today characterized his Kaplan-arranged 2004 externship experience as a"less than rewarding experience." That contrasts quite sharply with what this student wrote on a student survey at the time of his externship. At that time, when asked "What portion of your externship experience was most beneficial to you?" he answered: "The most beneficial experience was seeing what a paralegal really does." Asked "What portion of your externship experience was least beneficial to you?" he answered: "Can't help you. I have found it all very beneficial." Asked "What changes would you recommend to the externship program at the College?" he answered: "None. The externship program works reasonably well as is."
In today's testimony, this student fails to acknowledge that, in fact, he received and accepted a permanent offer of employment from the firm with which he had his externship. This student then resigned from this job.
Putting the student's own experience aside, the experience of other students in his class was decidedly different. Of the others who did not continue their education beyond the Associates degree, 13 of 16 were placed. In fact, the latest overall job placement rate for all programs at the Cedar Falls, Iowa campus is 94 percent.
Mr. Schmitt's difficulties in finding employment result from several factors. First, is the fact that he lives in a town of 4,200 that is not itself a legal center, and that he has apparently not applied for any of the significant number of paralegal positions within commuting distance of his home, much less in Des Moines, where the largest share of such jobs in the state are located. In fact, this witness has told us (and the H.E.L.P. committee staff) that he can only recall five paralegal vacancies for which he has applied since receiving his Bachelor's degree in paralegal studies in 2008.
Second, unfortunately this student has not availed himself of the services of the Kaplan University Cedar Falls career services office during this period. Had he done so the office could have directed him to the roughly 150 paralegal jobs posted on multiple job boards in Iowa during the last six months—many within commuting distance of his home. The career services office at Kaplan Cedar Falls is available to all graduates throughout their careers, and it remains prepared at any time to assist this witness in finding employment should he wish to avail himself of that assistance.
As we have said before: we welcome a serious national discussion around student debt that is grounded in fact, and seeks solutions across the full scope of higher education.
Statement about loan default email
In this morning's hearing, Senator Harkin referred to an internal Kaplan e-mail exchange and suggested that it contained a discussion of potential default rates for federal student loans. But the e-mail exchange did not discuss federal student loans, or even any institutional loans offered by Kaplan.
The e-mail exchange actually discussed Kaplan's understanding of projected default rates for student loans offered by private banks as loans of last resort, after students had exhausted their eligibility for federal loans and other financial aid.
Accordingly, the estimated default rates referenced in the e-mail exchange did not pertain in any way to federal student loans, and it would be misleading to correlate those default rates with any federal student loans received by Kaplan students.
Setting the record straight on Concord Law School
In his testimony, Mr. Schmitt said that a dean mentioned Concord Law School, but did not say that students can only sit for the bar in the state of California. According to Schmitt's written testimony, this was a casual encounter he had while he was in his associate's degree program, not an official conversation with a Concord admissions advisor. At that time, Mr. Schmitt was not eligible to apply to Concord, but had he looked at Concord's website or reviewed any Concord materials, he would have seen that Concord's accreditation was very clearly articulated.
In fact, Concord Law School is registered as a distance-learning law school with the Committee of Bar Examiners of the State Bar of California. Registration with the Committee permits Concord JD graduates, who meet the regulatory requirements, to apply for admission to the State Bar of California. At all times, this information has been available on the Concord Law School website, in its catalog and enrollment materials, and provided to prospective students by its admissions advisors.
Concord Law School has been selected by a highly educated and informed student population. For example, 40 percent of Concord Law School students have at least one graduate degree upon enrolling to pursue their studies there.
For additional information on Kaplan University, its Cedar Falls campus and workforce data on paralegal jobs in Iowa, go to: www.kaplan.com/IowaData
For the experience of other Kaplan students in Iowa, go to: www.kaplan.com/SuccessStories