Educationworldonline reported on October 9, 2012 that in Chile, the only university owned by the global arm of US for-profit education giant, the Apollo Group has had its accreditation withdrawn (http://www.educationworldonline.net/index.php/page-article-choice-more-id-3352).

On July 18, 2012 following an unsuccessful appeal, Chile’s National Education Council confirmed a decision of the National Accreditation Commission to stop accrediting the University for Arts, Sciences and Communication (UNIACC), the Apollo franchise (read University of Phoenix here in the US) in Chile.

In the National Education Council’s judgment, the council said UNIACC’s goals and planning lacked clarity, and it criticized internal quality assurance mechanisms. It also expressed uncertainty over the institution’s long-term sustainability and concern that its large projections of growth in e-learning would not guarantee adequate levels of quality.

Juan Enrique Froemel, the rector of the for-profit university, said the situation has “no implication for the validity of certificates and degrees awarded by the university or for the continuity of the institution”. He described the decision “unjustified and inexplicable” and said the university could count on the unconditional support of its backers.

Sure, that is what the ‘rector’, little more than a CEO for the drive-by disaster school is paid to say.  The ‘backers’ are of course the one percent in Chile who profit substantially off stealing government funds for phony colleges.

The cost and quality of for-profit universities were among the targets of the Chilean student movement whose protests brought much of the country’s capital, Santiago, to a halt. But it seems that the loss of accreditation is only one of several recent problems for UNIACC.

Apollo Global purchased the Santiago-based institution, UNIACC in 2008.  Where did they get the money for the acquisition?  From American taxpayers who subsidize the Apollo Group’s University of Phoenix to the tune of 89%, that’s where.

In 2008 UNIACC was accused by the Chilean government of profiting from a fellowship program for victims, and descendants of victims, of human rights violations during Chile’s Pinochet military dictatorship.

Sound like the US where Apollo and others in the for-profit educational cartel are preying off of veterans, the poor, minorities, and those who cannot find a slot at the hollowed out public universities?  Sure it does.

In an out-of-court settlement in 2009, the university agreed to repay $4.8 million (Rs.25.9 crore) to the Chilean ministry of education, which further exacerbated the financial difficulties, which eventually led to more than 100 job losses in May this year.  Another fine paid for by taxpayers, this time Chilean taxpayers.  The world tentacles of the for-profit sludge that is Apollo, owned partially by the Carlyle group is unconscionable, if not criminal.

Along with the UK’s BPP University College, UNIACC is one of three institutions outside the US owned by Apollo Global, a majority-owned subsidiary of Apollo Group.

Chilean Justice Minister ousted over corruption scandal involving for-profit colleges

Chile‘s student movement gained up a major victory as the country’s justice minister, Teodoro Ribera, was forced from office over a corruption scandal that has engulfed several private universities.

The resignation of Teodoro Ribera in December of last year was the latest in an ongoing history that prompted massive street demonstrations, criminal investigations and the jailing of a dean suspected of money laundering and a former government official accused of selling university accreditations (http://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/dec/19/victory-chilean-students-minister-resigns).

Students have marched dozens of times and protested since March 2011, taking to the streets in actions that often end in running battles with riot police. The students were and are demanding an end to what they describe as “diploma mills” which throw out thousands of students every year, many of whom receive substandard education.

Picture of ousted crook, Teodora Ribera

The students accuse private universities of operating for-profit scams that cheat students and taxpayers. Coming amid a highly charged ideological debate about the future of Chilean education, these claims were initially treated with skepticism, but the unfolding corruption revelations have proved many of the allegations to be true (ibid).

Ribera was forced to resign when it was revealed that he had close ties to a private university and a former official at the heart of the controversy, Luis Eugenio Díaz. Ribera is also under investigation for ties between a private university and a construction company.  Several universities were also discovered to have structured deals with property developers who would build the educational institutions then rent them back to the university.  All at taxpayer expense revealing once more how ‘accreditation’ is little more than a ruse to either strip public colleges of their accreditation so they cannot compete with the for-profit sector and show accreditation is used to allow criminals to operate these sleazy criminal enterprises.

Selling accreditation is big business for ruthless and corrupt politicians, both here in the US and abroad.  Díaz – who was previously in charge of accrediting private universities – is now imprisoned and suspected of bribery and coercion. A series of emails from Díaz uncovered by Chilean police outlined how he proposed to charge hundreds of thousands of dollars for accreditation approval.  The monthly rent – often paid to members of the same university management team – was used to asset strip money from the institution.

Once a Chilean university has been accredited, the institution becomes eligible for millions of dollars in government funding.

Again, if this all sounds like what is happening in the US, it should.  For as we have seen, City College of San Francisco (CCSF) was recently denied accreditation by the ACCJC while the for-profit behemoths are allowed to ruthlessly operate under the mantle of accreditation.

CiperChile, a journalism collective, has uncovered and published evidence of corruption and money laundering within the Chilean educational system.  Here in the US we have no policing of these sordid institutions for the Department of Education, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges and the myriad accrediting agencies are wholly owned subsidiaries of Wall Street.

Chilean Students are organized and US students can learn a great deal from their efforts

In Chile, students are organized big time! Student leaders accused the government of a piecemeal response and an unwillingness to discuss the broader issues of whether market-orientated companies should be in charge of educating the next generation of Chilean students.

This forced  Chilean authorities, who have been foot dragging on the issue and have been  unwilling to crack down on the for-profit universities, to recommend that the Universidad del Mar, another criminal enterprise, be stripped of its government accreditation based on rankings of educational quality that put the university dead last. Testing of Universidad del Mar students also found widespread deficiencies in knowledge of basic curricula material. The recommendation is likely to lead to a shutdown and the transfer of the university’s estimated 18,000 students. Hector Zuniga, the former dean of Universidad del Mar, was arrested and imprisoned and is under investigation for bribery and money laundering (ibid).

Diego Vela, president of the powerful Catholic University student federation stated in December of last year:

“The government and the [education] ministry act like they are facing the shutdown of a company.  Education is not a business. This is about families, frustrated projects, economic struggles and waste of human talent. We are talking about 18,000 Chileans [students at Universidad del Mar] who had their rights violated and were handed over to the fluctuations of the market in total uncertainty about their future. All so that a few gentlemen can have their BMWs” (ibid).

Patricio Basso, the former executive secretary of the accreditation committee who was forced out when he publicly denounced the misuse of student tuition fees, concurred with the student leaders:

“There is collusion between the [accreditation] commission, the government and the owners of the private universities who all want to silence those who denounce the irregularities” (ibid).

Further revelations by Basso led the Chilean government to announce in December of last year that an investigation into possible violations of regulations by two more universities including UNIACC University, owned by Apollo Global, which according to the company website is “a $1bn joint venture formed in 2007, 80.1% owned by Apollo Group Inc and 19.9% owned by a private equity firm, the Carlyle Group”, was necessary.

Can one even imagine quotes like this from the American educational community?  No, here the talk is about ‘cracking down’, ‘regulation’ and assuring the for-profits operate successfully.

It is time that students and communities in the US take to the streets to assure that education remain a human right, part of the public commons and that for-profit education is euthanized and public education is funded at maximum levels.

At the end of April of this year, a demonstration in the capital, organized by the Student Federation of Private Universities (Mesup) and also involving school pupil federations and worker unions, degenerated into violence after police tried to stop protestors from marching to the Education Ministry, The Santiago Times reported.

Carolina Schmidt was appointed Chile’s new education minister last month and will face a formidable challenge despite her impressive credentials. On Thursday, student protests ended in violent clashes with police.  However, the bristling and well-organized student movement in Chile does not like the draft bills she has put forth and has asked her to withdraw them from parliament (http://chronicle.com/article/article-content/138935/).

With Presidential elections this year in Chile, students will be a riotous voice in opposition to corruption and for-profit education.

Perhaps the demonstration where 26 people were arrested at City College of San Francisco to halt the denial of accreditation that threatens to close the college (http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/local/san_francisco&id=9213603), will be one of the first salvos in the spirit of the Chilean student resistance.  Without demonstrations in the street, nothing will change and if it does, it will be for the worst.

For more on Chile’s student movement visit: http://www.americasquarterly.org/node/3287