Friday, April 23, 2010

Ohio Board of Career Colleges -- Serving or Self-Serving?

An article was published in the Dayton Daily News on March, 26, 2010. Written by Dave Larsen and entitled "Miami-Jacobs Nursing Program Accreditation in Jeopardy," it stated that the Education Liaison of the Ohio Board of Nursing had recommended to the board that Miami-Jacobs Career College's nursing program approval be withdrawn. The article had been well researched and Larsen had contacted the Ohio Board of Nursing and had quotes from Lisa Emrich, MSN BN, of the Education and Practices division.

I decided to call John Ware, Executive Director of the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges and Schools to ask a few questions about Miami-Jacobs. In specific, I was curious to find out if they had violated any laws by not disclosing to prospective students that the program was in jeopardy at the time of enrollment, and if not, why not?

I have to admit that I was not impressed with Mr. Ware from the moment that he returned my phone call. His blasé attitude got me at hello, as the old saying goes. I even commented on how "enthusiastic" he sounded in returning my call. Within minutes, he had gotten my curiosity up. When I brought up the Education Liaison's decision at the nursing board, he indicated that Dave Larsen's article was not factual.

During the hour long conversation, he did not sound like the "Executive Director" of a regulatory board to protect career college students, but the director of an association to protect career colleges -- a walking, talking brochure for career colleges in the state, as I flatly told him. Several times during the conversation, I asked him why he was being so argumentative when we were both supposedly on the same side -- protecting the students of the state of Ohio from unscrupulous schools. Read more about our conversation here.

He was so defensive that I asked him if he lunched or socialized with Darlene Waite, Miami-Jacob's "college president" after board meetings. Either Waite or Joan Krein, or both, are at every meeting. Of course, Miami-Jacobs Career College has been very busy in the last year with board business, getting several new programs or new locations approved at every meeting.

In fact, even though the nursing program at MJCC has been under a "Consent Agreement" with the Ohio Board of Nursing for two years at this point, at the November 2009 board meeting, the board approved adding the practical nursing program to the Columbus Miami-Jacobs location. Of course, we know why that program has not been implemented to date.

Thanks to that phone call, I decided to do some research on the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges and John Ware. This is the second of two articles based on that research. In the first article, we found a disproportionate balance in the board due to two seat vacancies: the graduated former career college student (vacant 5 years!) and either the Chancellor or a Vice-Chancellor (vacant 2 years), along with the Dept. of Education appointee, Dr. Steven Puckett, who was absent 4 out of 6 meetings in the past year.

Out of the 5 remaining seats, 3 were career college representatives, including Dennis Bartels and Kenneth Miller, and 2 were supposed to be public members. However, Dr. Kenneth Searfoss, public member and the Chairperson of the board is actually affiliated with for-profit Davis College in Toledo as Chairman of the Board -- a governing board, according to their website. That leaves only one member who attends regularly who has nothing to gain by serving on the board: Dr. Jerome Brockway, superintendent of Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School, a public school.

Then there is John Ware. According to him, he has been with the board for over 13 years. Why is John so defensive of career colleges? I believe that is because, in the 13 years of his employment at the board, he has had a lot more time and opportunity to get cozy with school administrators than with the students.

John wears quite a few hats at the board. At the board's website is a directory of "Who to Ask About What." John is the contact for all of this: administrative approvals, agency policy and procedure, bill processor, compliance issues, financial statements, fiscal (agency, budget), interpretation of rules and regulations, payroll, the Student Tuition Recovery Fund, unlicensed and unregistered schools and website maintenance.

The Ohio Association of Career Colleges and Schools (OACCS) should actually be considered the opposite of the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges. This non-governmental agency is a membership-based organization of which the members are career colleges in the state of Ohio. Like all other organizations of its kind, including the national group, the Career College Association (CCA), it exists to promote the interests of its members -- career colleges. Miami-Jacobs is a member of both associations.

This excerpt is from the OACCS:

The Ohio Association of Career Colleges and Schools is the active voice of postsecondary career education colleges and schools of Ohio, which are non-tax supported, privately owned and administered. Membership is strictly voluntary, thus participating colleges and schools consider the Association’s mission important to their success. The Ohio Association is dedicated to bringing about improved excellence in career education in Ohio through encouraging high standards of program quality in member institutions by:

Establishing and developing liaison between the private career education industry,State Licensing Boards, State Agencies, the General Assembly, State and Regional Professional Agencies, State Commerce and Industry, National Associations, Accrediting Commissions and the United States Department of Education.

Providing conferences, institutes, workshops and seminars for professional development of member school administrators, instructors, admissions representatives and placement specialists.

Reviewing current research, and suggested new research in such areas as techniques to improve management, instruction, admissions and student service functions and outcomes.

Providing monitoring of member and non-member schools activities to assure compliance with regulatory requirements and accrediting standards. Encourage regular training and updating of all personnel.

Providing the State Legislature up-to-date information regarding the needs of our schools and the students they serve in order to assure participation of all appropriate funding and support. The Association provides the access of information to the Legislature and our member schools.

What does the OACCS have to do with the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges? Obviously, quite a bit, as it seems like they are interchangeable. The board newsletter, put out twice a year -- except for the year 2008, which by not being posted along with 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2009, I am going to assume were not produced. By reading the June 2005 newsletter, it appears that one of the 3 school representative State board members who was also secretary, Kenneth Miller, of RETS Tech Center in Centerville, Ohio, was also the President Elect and Secretary of the OACCS at the very same time! Dennis Bartels, the President at that time, is now a member of the State Board of Career Colleges as well. By the time the 2006 Annual Report was produced, Dennis Bartels, of Bradford School, Columbus, was listed as a school representative member of the board. I consider Miller's dual posts to be a grave conflict of interest.

This is the kind of double dipping that really makes me mad. How could these two members of the board, especially Miller, who served both at the same time, be truly impartial when making crucial decisions at the board that affected -- and was supposed to protect -- the career college students of the state? Because the two organizations are in each other's pockets, there is no way that John Ware, Executive Director, and the other board members did not know that Miller had a definite conflict of interest. Do you think the governor who appointed him knew that or did he become the Chairman of the Board of Davis College after he was appointed?

However, Miller is not the only double dipper at the Ohio State Board of Career Colleges. I found out why John Ware was so defensive of career colleges. That is because both John Ware and his employee, Kim Stein, Investigator, are faculty members of MaxKnowledge,a company that provides training to college administrators, their faculty and staff. Both John Ware and Kim Stein are listed on this website, along with their pictures and their professional backgrounds.

According to their website, MaxKnowledge partnered with the national Career College Association in 2003. This has helped MaxKnowledge to recruit "renowned career college experts under CCA's guidance...." The training company has also partnered with state associations "to create an effective network of training delivery channels. MaxKnowledge state association partners provide training to their members through online training centers powered by MaxKnowledge."

Indeed, in the state of Ohio, the compliance course, by "facilitators" John Ware and Kimberly Stein, CM202 Ohio Rules and Regulations for Admissions Agents is "Required for new admissions representatives and Agents in Ohio," according to the course description. This course "powered by MaxKnowledge" can also be accessed by clicking on the "Online Training" tab at the OACCS website.

While I am outraged by Ware and Stein's affiliation with the CCA and the OACCS as "faculty" members of MaxKnowledge, I do not really think I was surprised to discover it. As I said, John Ware was just too defensive of career colleges -- and of Miami-Jacobs Career College. Ware, not counting benefits, brings home very close to $75,000 a year. His last gross bi-monthly check was $3,099.20. Stein's check was $2,166.40.

While I do not begrudge a man or woman his or her hard earned paycheck, in this instance, I am wondering if either one is deserving of it. Whose idea was it to make Ware and Stein's CM202 required training for new agents and admissions reps? While I am almost sure that the admissions rep training would be paid for by the school, the cost of the program is $129. I wonder what the cut -- or salary -- is for Stein and Ware when this program is accessed. It seems unethical to me for the Executive Director and his employee to make money off of a program that is required by his office.

It is comical to me that my daughter and all the other students who attend Miami-Jacobs have to take an ethics class in order to graduate. We have to look at this school, the administration and the board that regulates them and wonder....are they serving or self-serving?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Ohio Board of Career Colleges -- Just Who are They Serving?

Straight from the 2008 Annual Report of the Ohio Board of Career Colleges, the last report available, these are the duties of the board:

1. Maintaining the viability of registered schools through oversight of their programs and curricula along with their business practices, including advertising and recruiting.
2. Monitoring schools that provide educational and related services to a population of students who might not be served in the non-profit or public sector.
3. Protecting reputable schools from unfair competitive practices of unscrupulous school operators and their representatives.
4. Protecting the investment of students who have paid for education and training services.
5. Protecting the citizens of Ohio from fraudulent and unscrupulous school operators and their representatives.
In carrying out these responsibilities, the Board’s goals are to offer help, encouragement, and guidance to registered schools so that those Ohioans who choose them will be assured of quality education and training. In that process, the Board strives to uniformly deliver a consistent, fair, and equitable administration of its responsibilities.

The Ohio Board of Career Colleges is a governing -- or regulating -- board. The board was created by legislation and all of the rules that address this and the duties of the board are found in the Ohio Revised Code (ORC) Chapter 3332: Career Colleges and Schools.

The board is responsible for regulation and oversight of more than 290 schools in the state and to protect over 70,000 students with that oversight. I have concluded that the board is not doing the job of maintaining "viability through oversight of their programs and curricula" not to mention the business practices. They have also done a very sad job of protecting the investment of at least some of the students. Fraudulent and unscrupulous school operators and their representatives abound in at least five locations around the state at the campuses of Miami-Jacobs Career College.

If the board were overseeing the programs and curricula, then they would have known a long time ago that Miami-Jacobs was having problems with their Practical Nursing program. Indeed, the program has been under a Consent Agreement with the Ohio Board of Nursing since March of 2008, along with a Conditional Approval instead of the Full Approval it would have been granted if the program was up to par. We are not even mentioning the Respiratory Therapy or Surgical Tech program....

John Ware, Executive Director and employee, of the board was quite defensive of the program on March 26, 2010 after an article appeared in the Dayton Daily News reporting that the program was in jeopardy. Dave Larsen, staff writer, also reported that the Education Liaison had recommended withdrawing even Conditional Approval to the nursing board, effectively cancelling the program if the board agreed. It cannot operate without the Ohio Board of Nursing's approval.

Still, John Ware hinted that the article was not factual -- something I knew to be untrue since I had already gone to the Ohio Board of Nursing's website and read the recommendation for myself. I wonder if that was because over TWENTY months after the Consent Agreement was in place, the board, at the November 18, 2009 meeting, approved a Practical Nursing program for the Columbus Miami-Jacobs campus, effective for January 1, 2010?

Hello? Anybody home at the board? What were you thinking or were you just unaware of the problems with the nursing program? Whose responsibility is it to notify the board? Are there any sanctions for trying to get a program started at another school location when the ones you are already operating are sub-par? If no, why aren't there? It certainly makes the board appear to be foolish, at the very least.

What about protecting those students? Mr. Board Members and Mr. Ware, are you aware of how a sub-standard program affects the student's ability to benefit from that education? How is that "protecting the investment?"

I think that the Ohio Board of Career Colleges does not have much needed oversight themselves. Who is watching the Roosters who are overseeing the henhouses? I believe that because of the lack of oversight, that the board has gotten much too cozy with the hens, in this case, the schools that they are mandated to regulate.

The Ohio Board of Career College members are appointed by the governor("with the advice and consent of the senate"),according to the Ohio Revised Code(ORC)3332.0, for a term of five years, with the exception of two mandated members:

One member shall be either the Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents -- or a vice-Chancellor who is appointed by the Chancellor. THERE HAS NOT BEEN AN OBR REPRESENTATIVE FOR 2008, 2009 OR THE FIRST BOARD MEETING OF 2010.

One member will be the state superintendent of the Ohio Department of Education -- or an assistant superintendent who is appointed by the superintendent. This is Dr. Steven Puckett of the Ohio Board of Education. DR. PUCKETT HAS MISSED FOUR OUT OF THE LAST SIX BOARD MEETINGS.

Three of the members (called school representatives) are supposed to have at least five years in an "executive or managerial position" at a type of school (for-profit) that the board oversees. They have not missed any meetings.

Two members of the public who "shall be representatives of the general public and shall have had no affiliation with, or direct or indirect interest in, schools subject to this chapter for at least two years prior to appointment." DR. SEARFOSS, PUBLIC MEMBER AND CHAIRPERSON OF THE BOARD IS ALSO CHAIRMAN OF THE (Governing) BOARD AT DAVIS COLLEGE, A FOR-PROFIT COLLEGE IN TOLEDO.

One member, appointed by the governor, is supposed to be a former student who shall be a representative of students and shall have graduated with an associate or baccalaureate degree, within five years prior to appointment, from a school subject to this chapter. Unfortunately, this member DOES NOT have voting rights, which I think is totally wrong. Even more of a problem is that THERE HAS BEEN NO STUDENT REPRESENTATIVE FOR THE LAST FIVE YEARS!

The students of the state who are spending over $20,000 and more to get an education through career colleges deserve more than this. For two years in a row, the Board of Regent's seat is vacant and for at least five years in a row, the student seat is vacant? This is unacceptable.

So....who is guarding the hen house? That would NOT be Dr. Steven Puckett of the Ohio Department of Education, that other mandated seat. He missed FOUR out of SIX board meetings in 2009-2010. That leaves five members to make the decisions that affect over 70,000 Ohio students. Remember, three of these members have a vested interest in career colleges as they are affiliated in the administration of career colleges. Then of course, there are two public members, the minority, who "shall have no affiliation with....", these schools for at least two years.

But, wait! As you see above, this is really not the case. The Chairperson of the board, Dr. Kenneth Searfoss, is actually affiliated with a for-profit school! Dr. Searfoss is also the Chairman of the Board at Davis College in Toledo, a for-profit school. Folks, I think we need to ask the governor to request that this member, who is clearly NOT eligible, to resign his post.

That leaves one member, Dr. Jerome Brockway, superintendent of the Ashtabula County Joint Vocational School, a public school. So, we actually have only ONE disinterested member (who actually attends the meetings on a regular basis), who does not have something to gain by favorable legislation for career colleges. Remember, one of the jobs of the board is to make recommendations to the legislators about legislation. That legislation is actually supposed to protect the students, not the career colleges, by the way. Remember, folks, these board members are the regulators of the state for career colleges, a sector of higher education that is big business and puts the "PROFIT$" in for-profit schools.

So....Just whose responsibility is it to ensure that the board seats are filled so that the board has an equitable balance? Is it the governor's? While it is true that he appoints six members, how does that process work? Does the governor have time to research all his appointments? In a perfect world, maybe so, but we all know that the worlds of both politics and career colleges are definitely not perfect!

Since we had to have an answer to those questions, I called up Governor Strickland's office and asked Jared Port, Special Assistant of the Board and Commissions office. It appears to be a haphazard process at best.

I mentioned the Board of Regents seat that has gone vacant, as well as the student seat. First of all, like an idiot, I tried to find out what happens if the Chancellor doesn't do his job and protect the career college students of the state by having his own watchdog there. However, we know that rarely are government officials held accountable for not doing their jobs. I didn't get a clear answer....

I then asked Port how they find out what seats are vacant. Port said, "Well, for one, phone calls like these are helpful." Okay.....

I asked Port why the student vacancy on the Board of Career Colleges that has been left vacant for over five years, even though it was mandated by legislation. How does that get filled? Of course, the governor appoints the person for all these board positions, but he only does so because they have applied or have been recommended by others.

Port said that they had trouble filling it as no one seemed to want it. I replied that I had a hard time believing that out of the 70,000+ students who attend career colleges, that there was not a graduate of a career college out there somewhere who would not like to add that to his résumé. What were they doing to find one for a seat that has been vacant for five years? Port said that they asked the Ohio Association of Career Colleges (OACC) to help them find someone.

Huh? The OACC is not a state organization. Instead, it is a membership-based organization for the for-profit schools operating in Ohio. It is not a government agency!
The OACC, according to their website, "is the active voice of postsecondary career education colleges and schools of Ohio." They work "to keep legislators and regulators, both in Columbus and Washington, on our member schools unique ability to achieve successful results for Ohio’s students and employers."

This is an organization whose function is to promote career colleges -- period. In other words, this is another self-serving organization that exists to protect the members of the association. The members of the association are for-profit colleges, not students. OACCS lobbies legislators and regulators on issues that pertain to their members.

In keeping with that, David Rankin, president of OACCS, not only attends every board meeting, he also speaks at every board meeting, during the general session. I was very curious on what he had to talk about so I called up a representative of another agency, Terry Worsted of SAA, this one is governmental, who also speaks at most meetings. He told me that Rankin speaks of subjects that affect career colleges, like financial aid and legislation. Rankin is obviously lobbying for the colleges at every board meeting.

In fact, the OACCS is so tied up in the affairs of the board that the first page of their last newsletter posted on their internet website, is mostly a report from John Ware, executive director of the Ohio Board of Career Colleges. Why the OACCS is apprised of the Board of Career Colleges budget over other agencies is beyond me -- unless the Ohio Board of Career Colleges is a little too buddy-buddy with a membership association of career colleges. Remember this agency, folks, because we are going to talk about them again. We have more, much more, to say.

Besides asking the OACCS for help, one way that board seats can be filled is by simply applying for one. Who knew? Port affirmed that this is correct. I, Connie Smith -- if I were currently a resident of the state of Ohio -- could actually apply personally for any vacancy on any board in the state. Surely, I would be eligible for at least one. At the Governor's website, under the Boards and Commissions page, there is an application that can be downloaded to apply for a position.

I actually have a former student in mind for the student vacancy. Since the seat is for a student who has already graduated, who would be more suited for it than one of the 7 students who are suing the school over lack of accreditation in the Surgical Tech program? We need to make changes to the laws concerning for-profit schools and no one has more insight to some of the problems that can occur at for-profit schools than those 7 students. I also suggest that one of the nursing students who spent $22,000 on a sub-standard education in Practical Nursing might be interested in applying as well.

The only way we can be truly effective to make the changes that are clearly needed is to have the ear of those who can make recommendations to the legislature so that we may be heard. By applying to become a student member of the Board, a former student who understands how a for-profit school can operate under the radar and have as many unsatisfied students as Miami-Jacobs does, can be of great benefit to the Ohio Board of Career Colleges -- who according to their 2008 annual report, thinks that 57 complaints out of 70,000 students is normal.

Though the student position is a non-voting one, a former dissatisfied Miami-Jacobs student could really make a difference for all future students in the state. Also, it will go a long way to off-set that sub-standard education that the student received at the school.

I hope that, in the future, we can lobby for the former student seat to become a full voting member. It is very condescending to think that an educated former graduate of a career school is not intelligent enough to make decisions along with the rest of the learned gentlemen on the board.

If you are interested in applying for the seat or want to make a recommendation for the seat or any other, go to the Board and Commissions page of the governor's website to print out an application:

While the ORC says that a public member cannot have any affiliation with a for-profit school for at least two years, I think that the law needs to be rewritten to say NEVER. There are plenty of retired people who are interested in education who would be qualified to sit on that board.

People, write your legislators over this. Again, this is the only regulatory board for career colleges in the state and it is part of the reason that these for-profit schools go unchecked. While it appears that Dr. Searfoss's background is exemplary, I think we all need to demand that he step down as the Chair of the Ohio Board of Career Colleges and resign his post. He is not a "Public" member! We need people in that position who looking out for the best interests of the over 70,000 students who attend for-profit colleges in the state of Ohio. Can those students possibly be served under these circumstances?