During the past two years, some policy makers have debated the proper role of for-profit colleges and universities in educating working class, adult students for better careers. Politicians, traditional universities, Wall Street "short-sellers," consumer groups, and others have put increased media attention on the sector and the resulting torrent of claims and selective data has at times distorted the facts.
Here we present answers to key questions, so that you're armed with the real facts about Kaplan.
What are the facts behind recent reports about Kaplan College's dental assistant training program in North Carolina?
Kaplan Higher Education offers dental assistant training programs at 33 campuses across the country, including Charlotte, NC. Almost 12,000 graduates across the U.S. have successfully earned their Dental Assistant Diploma with us.
The rules and requirements for working as a dental assistant differ from state to state. North Carolina classifies dental assistants into two categories—Dental Assistants-Level 1 ("DA1") and Dental Assistants-Level 2 ("DA2")—which determine what types of duties a dental assistant can perform and whether a dentist's supervision is required in the performance of those procedures. Under North Carolina rules, those who wish to qualify as a DA2 need to either complete 3,000 work hours as a DA1 at a dental office; train in and graduate from a DA2 training program accredited by the American Dental Association's Commission on Dental Accreditation (CODA); or pass the Dental Assisting National Board exam after completing an additional 3,500 work hours as a DA1.
Our dental assistant diploma program at the Kaplan College-Charlotte campus began in 2010. The 960-hour program—which is based on curriculum used to train dental assistants at other Kaplan programs in other states, including four CODA-accredited campuses—educates students to work at the North Carolina-defined DA2 level. Each individual program choosing to be CODA-accredited needs its own accreditation. In this situation, the accreditor (CODA) requires us to have a graduating class before we could be accredited. This is not atypical. Thus, all of our students signed a disclosure that clearly states they would qualify only to work as a DA1 in North Carolina, despite the fact they took course work associated with a DA2 level of competency.
We recognize however that some of our dental assistant students misunderstood the accreditation process. So, we have taken some extraordinary steps to help them move successfully forward: (1) We are refunding the tuition for all our dental assistant program graduates and current students at the Charlotte campus; (2) They will receive a financial supplement to help bridge any potential gap in what they might earn as a DA1 versus a DA2, and (3) They will receive expanded career services support to help them secure jobs in the field.
In December 2011, we requested that the North Carolina Community College System (NCCCS) withdraw our Dental Assistant program license because we halted our new student enrollments. Without new enrollments, we are not eligible to pursue programmatic accreditation. We will reassess our plans for the Dental Assistant program after current students have graduated.
Withdrawing the license for this program has no effect on the campus' overall accreditation or other current programs.
What are the facts behind legal claims against Kaplan referenced in media reports?
Some media accounts have showcased old complaints made against the company, filed largely by several serial plaintiffs who have labeled themselves as "whistleblowers" and tried, without success, to shop their legal claims in different venues. These individuals stand to gain a financial windfall if their lawsuits are successful. It is disturbing to see these allegations—and that is all they are—presented as fact.
Here are the facts: no judge has ever ruled in favor of the plaintiffs on any of these claims, which have been pending for years. Of 16 complaints filed, 14 have been dismissed or withdrawn in their entirety. As for the remaining cases, we continue to believe they are without merit.
Further, one of these so-called "whistleblowers" was found guilty by a federal jury in December 2010 on six accounts of cybercrimes (computer hacking and threats) he committed against Kaplan, its students, and its employees. He has been sentenced to a prison term.
What specific steps did Kaplan take to resolve the problems identified by the GAO Report released in August 2010?
In the summer of 2010, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) presented a report that described unflattering admissions practices at 15 different schools, 2 of which were Kaplan campuses. These incidents involved employees acting completely outside of our procedures and training. We were embarrassed and disturbed. Upon learning of these allegations, Kaplan immediately began its own investigation. Further, we expanded our already robust compliance systems. Kaplan began a pilot third-party verification program for every student enrollment to ensure that each student has been provided with a complete and accurate picture of his or her financial and academic rights and responsibilities and is satisfied with his or her program choice. We initiated our own third-party "secret shopper" program to help ensure any inappropriate practices are quickly identified and fixed. We also implemented a new system of determining our admissions employees' performance and rewards, which eliminated any consideration of the number of enrollments.
We set up additional reporting mechanisms, so an employee who believes inappropriate behavior is taking place has multiple ways to immediately report it. We have re-doubled our training efforts and are re-training employees. We have also terminated employees who were not compliant with our accepted business practices, Code of Conduct, and companywide ethical standards.
We believe that these measures have been, and will continue to be, effective in preventing the types of incidents described in the GAO report.
On a related note, in December 2010, it was widely reported that the GAO's original report contained a number of substantive errors. In fact, most of the admissions interactions described in the August 2010 report were subsequently revised by the GAO. These revisions involved clarifications or changes that lessened, or even eliminated, the implication of unseemly practices reported in the original GAO report. The amount and degree of these revisions is not common for most GAO reports. The situation has led to an investigation of the GAO by a Congressional committee, and also is the subject of a lawsuit filed by some schools that believe they were inaccurately portrayed in the original GAO report.
What's the truth about press allegations that Kaplan signs students up for classes without their knowledge and then bills them for classes they never take?
These allegations are baseless. Among the services that Kaplan formerly offered its continuing students was called "courtesy registration," by which students who were in danger of missing a registration cut-off date for a coming term were pre-registered by their academic advisors for the next course or courses prescribed within their academic major. This "courtesy registration" could not result in a student being charged a single penny without the student's consent. That's because our students are never charged tuition for a course unless and until they actually join and participate in the class once the term has begun.
In any event, since mid-2009, Kaplan's policies have required advance permission from students to pre-register them for classes. But it has always been Kaplan's policy and practice that students cannot be charged for any class they do not attend and in which they do not participate.
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• "Building Futures One Success Story at A Time"— personal stories of achievement by Kaplan students and graduates
• Top 10 Facts about Kaplan Higher Education