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November 02, 2010 11:00 AM “Really High Ethics”

By Daniel Luzer

This doesn’t look very good Kaplan University.

According to an article by Daniel Golden in Bloomberg News, Kaplan is particularly interested in recruiting military veterans, though perhaps not so good at educating them.

Formed in 2004, Kaplan’s military team has 300 admissions advisers, financial aid counselors, and academic advisers based in Florida and Chicago…. Admissions advisers are trained to recruit veterans by sowing “fear, uncertainty, doubt” about competing colleges, according to a 2009 Kaplan manual….

Two-thirds of Kaplan students never earn a degree and those who do earn lower salaries than those who manage to graduate from real colleges.

One veteran interviewed for the article explained that recruiters emphasized that there was a limited time frame and that he was in danger that the recruiter might let his “space go to another student.” This is despite the fact the open-admission program doesn’t appear to have real size limits.

Other interesting aspect of the article is the nature of the relationship between Kaplan and its parent corporation, the Washington Post Company. While the Washington Post is not exactly eager to publicize its relationship with the (highly lucrative) Kaplan, representatives of the for-profit school did sometimes attempt to trade off the paper’s reputation for legitimacy. Cameron Huff, who helped recruit the military for Kaplan for three years, explained:

One of the things that I always said was, “As you may know, Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post, a paper known for having really high ethics. As you can imagine, the Washington Post would never involve itself in anything that would reflect poorly on its reputation.”

Back in 1984 when someone asked Katharine Graham, the Washington Post publisher, if she was interested in buying Kaplan she reportedly responded, “I don’t give a shit about it.” Later that year the Post Company bought Kaplan, then mostly a test-preparation company, for about $40 million.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer