Thursday, December 20, 2012

Harrisburg University fails to meet it's financial obligations again

I know, I know.... just SHOCKING, right? You would think with all the terrific leadershipinternational students, new apartments and art school students that HU would simply be rolling in $$$$$. /sarcasm

But alas no, HU keeps swirling the financial drain:

HU Bond Notice of Intent to Draw Under Guaranty dated 12/14/2012
HU Bond Notice of Intent to Draw Under Guaranty dated 12/14/2012

Yep, that means the good people of Dauphin County will get to cough up money (again) to a poorly run self-indulgent Steve Reed legacy project.

Friday, October 26, 2012

HU Leadership. Still stupid.

Once again HU's leadership is so out of touch with reality that they actually decided to do this:
"Hussian School of Art and Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Offer 4 New Degree Programs in Philadelphia." (Read the press release)

Yep, HU has decided to partner with a 2 year, for-profit art school that lacks regional (the most stringent) accreditation. They are accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges though. The nice folks at Hussian should run away before HU ruins their reputation. (No seriously, run Hussian,...run!)

Maybe HU could recruit some art students from China! Or maybe we can get the art students to paint some murals on the apartment buildings HU is remodeling with our tax dollars. That would be awesome. No need to worry about all that silly STEM education nonsense.

Guess who got big fat raises?

Harrisburg University's 990 financial forms are now available for 2010. Form 990 is an annual reporting return that certain federally tax-exempt organizations must file with the IRS. It provides information on the filing organization's mission, programs, and finances. You can find Harrisburg University's at Guidestar.

I'm not going to comment too much, you guys can look at the reports yourself. You'll see that all of administrators got raises, some as much as $25,000 over the previous year. Keep in mind that this data is almost 2 years old.

HU 2009 Form 990
HU 2010 Form 990
Well, at least we know why they keep raising tuition.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Harrisburg University fails to make bond payment. Again.


Source: HU Bond trustee report 8-24-12



Source: HU report to bondholders 8-24-12 


The Patriot-News Aug 8, 2012

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Saturday, August 18, 2012

Attention HU Freshman

Some free advice:

-You should read this: How the Provost screws every single freshman.
-Take another class or two (if you can find any) so you aren't a freshman next year.
-If you found this blog, you probably already realize that the University is in deep financial trouble. If they go under, your degree will be worthless
- You should read this: Harrisburg University and financial exigency.
- You should read this: HU in danger of losing federal financial aid.
-You are getting seriously screwed on the cost of a university sponsored apartment. You can rent a really nice two bedroom apartment in the city for about $1K/month. (See The Apartment Guide.)
-You are getting screwed on parking fees. Leave your car at home if you can.
- Most of your credits from your freshman year won't transfer. So if like the majority of freshman before you, you decide to not come back for a second year, you will have $10K+ in debt and 3 college credits to your name.
- HU will most likely lose accreditation in the near future. HU violates virtually every standard of accreditation. I've personally prepared a comprehensive complaint detailing HU's failures to meet these standards and will file the complaint with The Middle States Commission on Higher Education in the near future. Without accreditation your degree would be worthless and you won't be able to get financial aid. 

Do you guys really need all of this BS? It's your freshman year at college. You shouldn't have to worry about all this nonsense.
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Harrisburg University Defaults on Bonds


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Thursday, August 16, 2012

Harrisburg University fails to increase freshman enrollment.

According to the Central Penn Business Journal, HU has stated there is no growth in their freshman enrollment over last year. "HU announced Tuesday that it has commitments from 151 freshmen" said Heather Stauffer, a CPBJ reporter. In the Fall of 2011, HU had 148 commitments from freshman, with only 91 actually enrolling. (See my last post.)
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Is Eric Darr misrepresenting enrollment numbers again?! Is Harrisburg University making fraudulent claims to bond holders?

You may recall that the Editorial Board over at the Patriot-News decided to throw any type of journalistic integrity out the window and let HU use them for some much needed positive PR. Apparently, all those pencil holders HU keeps sending over to the Patriot-News really paid off. The July 2012 article includes this gem:

Source: Patriot-News July 2012

Did ya' catch that? Notice how Darr quickly equates "commitments" to enrolled freshman? That's extremely disingenuous. I'm just a blogger and I know commitments don't equate to enrollments. Do you think Darr, the acting president of a university doesn't know that? Is he incompetent or is he a liar? Here are HU's historical commitments:


HU's Enrollment data for the quarter ending 6/30/2012

You'll notice that in the Fall of 2011, HU had 148 commitments, but only 91 students actually enrolled. In the Fall of 2010, HU had 126 commitments, but only 78 students actually enrolled. The story is the same for every other year.

But wait, there's more! Below is a chart that HU submitted as part of their financial documents related to their bonds. Notice anything about the chart?

HU's Enrollment data for the quarter ending 6/30/2012

If you said "HU is comparing commitments to actual past enrollment to make it appear that there is growth" give yourself a cookie! This appears to be an attempt to mislead bondholders into thinking HU is in a better position than it really is. This could very well be fraudulent. I wonder who prepared that chart?

The reality is that HU had 148 commitments last year and currently has about 157 commitments. You don't need to be a university president to figure out that that is extremely poor growth and falls far short of the enrollment numbers HU needs to become financially sound.

[Edit 8/13] Darr continues his deceptive numbers game in an Op Ed printed by the Patriot-News. He states "From 2011 to 2012, HU’s first-year student commitments leapt by 38 percent." I guess it sounds a lot better than "We got 8 more freshman than last year!"
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Harrisburg University "technically" defaults on bond payments

On Aug 8, 2012 the Patriot-News reported "Harrisburg University's trustee says 'technical default' caused by failure to make early debt payment." Harrisburg University has failed to meet their obligations regarding bonds again. HU has failed to meet their financial obligations because apparently Interim-President Eric Darr thinks the terms HU agreed to are "ridiculous." The terms:

HU Bond Limited Offering Memorandum Page E25

Darr claims that in the past, under the university’s arrangement with its former trustee, T.D. Bank, it was not required to make the advance payment as long as it made the payment on time. A report from Roxbury News in May of 2012 seems to contradict Darr's claims:

 "...on January 6, 2012, Dauphin County Commissioner Chairman Jeff Haste and Harrisburg University's Vice President of Finance/CFO Duane Maun received a letter from TD Wealth's Vice President Joan Wallett's informing the parties that per the Guaranty Agreement and the Credit Support Agreement, TD Wealth was giving the Guarantor Dauphin County the required 55 days notice of the need to transfer its obligation of $1.5 million into the debt service account since Harrisburg University was deficient. Unwilling to adjust its conditions, TD Wealth stated it expected the funds to be deposited no later than 3 days before the March 1st due date."

In other words, TD Bank was going after the guarantor (Dauphin County) 55 days before the due date, because those were the terms of the agreement. It does not appear that TD bank altered the terms of the bond agreement as Darr claims.
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Harrisburg University of Science and Technology unaudited balance sheets June 30, 2012 and 2011


Check out the last set of balance sheets

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Thursday, July 26, 2012

Harrisburg University misses payroll

I've received numerous reports that Harrisburg University missed payroll on July 13th. Apparently the University secured another loan to make payroll a few days later. HU has also failed to pay faculty overload pay which was due July 13th, instead telling faculty that they would be paid around at the end of August.
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Sunday, July 15, 2012

It's only a matter of time for Harrisburg University...

You may recall back in December I reported:

Dickinson State University's president was fired for inflating enrollment numbers and for creating an intimidating environment. Those who were misidentified as enrolled students included members of the general public and high-school students seeking dual credit. An auditor's reports said "The....leadership has created a campus culture that is divided, one of distrust, disrespect, and staff being pressured to engage in unethical, suspect, or wasteful activities to meet demands."

On July 11, 2012 Dickinson State University was put "On Notice" (probation) by it's accrediting body. Their report states:

On July 11, 2012, the Higher Learning Commission placed Dickinson State University on
Notice. The Commission’s Board of Trustees took this action because of concerns related to the
University’s oversight of admissions and transfer procedures; its gathering and reporting of
enrollment and related data; its accountability for, and oversight of, contractual relationships
related to its academic program; the integrity of the program provided to certain international
students; and its articulation of, and consistent adherence to, policies and procedures at the
University or other levels.
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Friday, July 13, 2012

Harrisburg University fails to address poor student outcomes

You've heard me talk ad nauseum about enrollment. I've talked some about outcomes, but it's hard to understand what I mean without clear evidence.  The chart below should give you some idea about why I've been crying foul over HU's poor performance as an academic institution.                                                                                                                        
Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics
The figures tell us that HU only awarded 20 Bachelors degrees in all of 2010-11. That is a very small senior class --that's not even 10% of the undergraduate student body.

Most of the graduate degrees were awarded in Project Management, which isn't even a STEM discipline.

You can also see from the chart that there are a few programs that are very, very dead. eBusiness only had ONE graduate and Geospatial Technology (AKA GIS) once again had NONE. Learning Technologies managed to have a couple of graduates. These three programs cost the University somewhere in the neighborhood of $300K a year, just in director salaries, yet they managed to produce only THREE graduates. This is a testament to HU's lack of assessment and inability to act to improve student outcomes.
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Thursday, July 12, 2012

Harrisburg University of Science and Technology Unaudited Balance Sheets March 31, 2012 and 2011


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Harrisburg University responsible for population growth?

Seriously? HU is claiming credit for population growth?!

And BTW a 2% change in population over 10 years is not statistically significant.
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Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's just a matter of time.....

The Chronicle of Higher Education reported yesterday that Mountain State University's accreditation will be withdrawn:

Mountain State University, a small private institution in West Virginia that paid its president like an Ivy League chief, will lose its accreditation next month...Explaining its decision in a report, the Higher Learning Commission cited violations of three of its accreditation criteria, including "mission and integrity," "preparing for the future," and "student learning and effective teaching."

The violations struck at the heart of the academic enterprise of Mountain State, where the agency found that teaching and learning were compromised by a lack of faculty oversight and insufficient resources.

The university's graduation rate of 8 percent, while skewed because of its large number of part-time students, remains below that of many of the institution's peers, the commission found.

The commission determined that Mountain State's Board of Trustees has been lax in its oversight of the institution, which was for years under the tight control of Mr. Polk and a small group of administrators. Several of those administrators, who remain employed, "lack credentials and previous employment experience consistent with their job titles and responsibilities," the commission found.
- The Chronicle of Higher Education July, 2012, Mountain State U.'s Regional Accreditation Will Be Withdrawn

Humm...anyone else know of any other university with overpaid leadership that "lack credentials and previous employment experience consistent with their job titles and responsibilities," has a graduation rate around 9%, hasn't met their mission, have failed to prepare for the future, have failed at student learning and effective teaching, have a lack of faculty oversight and insufficient resources?
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Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Harrisburg University faculty...confused?

Note: I make references in this post to the recent discussion at the Midtown Scholar Bookstore about Harrisburg University. You will see time stamps that look like this (00:00). You can match the time stamp to the recording to find the source of the quote.
_________________________________________

As many of you know, on June 21, 2012 there was a public panel discussion about the issues surrounding Harrisburg University. The event was at full capacity. The tone of the discussion was generally cordial and respectful. There was a lot of good information and a lot of good questions -- there was so much information, the discussion ran long and probably would have run well into the night if the moderator hadn't kept it to a reasonable length.

There was one full-time adjunct instructor that attended the discussion. I don't know if he was there on his own accord or if he was acting on behalf of Harrisburg University. At (1:11:50), he asked me "How many faculty members are at HU?" even though 1) He's a faculty member so he should already know the answer and 2) a few minutes prior to his question I answered the same question with "12 faculty and 28 or so adjuncts" (58:18). He was driving at the fact that I don't agree with the numbers that HU puts out there in terms of faculty members, so I often don't quote the official figures. I explained why I don't quote the official figures, but I again said "12 full-time faculty" and "roughly 29 adjuncts". Those numbers are in line with what is listed with the U.S. Department of Education for the Fall of 2011, the most recent year data is available. (See: What is faculty?) He later goes on to state "...there are about 50 faculty members" at HU (1:17:35) which is simply not true. You can't count everyone that HU has listed as faculty, as many have never taught a class at HU (like David Burns, Mel Shiavelli or Stephen Reed) and  you can't count people that don't work there anymore.

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

He then asks "You're talking about retention numbers and you're equating that to declining enrollment numbers. Isn't it a fact that enrollment of freshman has about doubled each year in the last few years? I know we are going to have approximately 200 over the last year's 100?" (1:13:57) It appears he is confusing "enrollment" (student body) with "first-time first-year enrollment" (freshman). Sheila Dow-Ford eventually fields the question by explaining that the total enrollment numbers (even if freshman enrollment has increased) don't meet the projected levels of growth in order to meet the debt service. She explains that it's a "very basic arithmetic calculation."

Additionally, it isn't true that freshman enrollment has doubled each year for the past few years, nor was there even 100 of them last year. (See "Harrisburg University caught in another questionable statement about enrollment") Eric Darr stated that the first-time first-year (freshmen) undergraduate enrollment for 2009 was 69. So if that doubled for 2010 that would be 138 for Fall of 2010, 276 for Fall of 2011 and 552 for Fall of 2012. I'm going to go out on a limb and make a crazy prediction: HU will not have 552 freshman this fall.  The reality is that there were 69 freshman (according to Darr) in Fall 2009 and there where 92 in Fall 2011 (according to the audit.) That is only a 25% increase over three years. Darr recently claimed their were "140 committed" freshman (not 200) for Fall 2012. Historically about a third of those won't actually enroll, so HU will be back to a freshman class of 90 something again for Fall 2012. Growing first-time first-year students is a sign of better marketing, but retention is an indicator of the institution's health/quality. HU has seen modest increases in freshman enrollment, yet many of them still don't return for a second year. That's why retention is related to enrollment.

A member of the audience asks the adjunct faculty member "Are you seeing that your students are making it through the semesters when you say your numbers are up? Do the kids stick it out or do they have a hard time sticking in there?" (1:29:36) The adjunct replies with "Most of the students,  yes...there are few students that run into very specific problems...it's always one of three things: It's either a financial disaster within their family....they aren't prepared for college, their high school or whatever did not prepare them and then there is a third type of student that just doesn't want to work." Has Horatio Alger returned from the grave? Apparently in the adjunct's view, HU bears no responsibly for retention issues. Students drop out because of their own problems: Financial issues, not being prepared or not having a strong work ethic. I would say that a school that has a mission to serve underrepresented students and has open admission should anticipate that those students will have those types of issues and have a strong program in place to address them. If the institution fails to anticipate and address these issues, it's a fundamental failure on the part of the faculty and the institution, not the students.

The audience member then asks if the adjunct taught upper level courses and if those numbers carry over to the upper level classes. The adjunct states he taught a "400 level" class with "four students who entered it" (Did they finish it?) He also claimed that is was "normal" and apparently tried to explain away the low number of students by claiming it was a "graduate" class. (1:32:03) According to the Harrisburg University Catalog, 400 level classes are undergraduate classes.

A handy chart for future reference



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Friday, July 6, 2012

Harrisburg University achieves a 9% overall graduation rate

According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Department of Education, the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology has an overall graduation rate of 9%.

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

Those numbers are not what you would typically see from a 4-year university. For comparison, here are some graduation rates form other local 4-year institutions:

Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics for Fall 2010
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Harrisburg University: Enrollment. Again.

You may recall last month I reported that Harrisburg University had a decline in enrollment.  The official reports are now available, check it out for yourself. Here are HU's historical enrollment numbers:

Source: Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics June 2012

This is the official government data that was just released:

Source: Institute of Education Sciences National Center for Education Statistics June 2012

Enrollment fell from 373 in Fall 2010 to 322 in Fall 2011. HU had a loss of about 50 students

Current Enrollment
31 students graduated in 2011.
Retention rates tell us that about 35 1st-year students won't return for Fall 2012. So...

322-31=291-35=256

Therefore a fair estimate of current student enrollment at HU is still around 256. If you include students that are "committed", but not enrolled (140 according to Darr) and pretend that all first-year students from the Fall of 2011 are going to return, you get a different number.

Source: Patriot News July 2012 Harrisburg University sees partnerships as vital.

In reality it doesn't matter all that much if HU has 256 or 440 students though, since neither of those numbers even approach what HU needs to be sustainable. HU's business plan calls for 983 students by the Fall of 2013. I'm guessing that they are gonna' miss that goal.
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Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Harrisburg University and the Patriot News

The Patriot News has a long history of publishing fluff for HU and deleting comments that aren't favorable to HU (not just mine). They do get it right on occasion, but more often then not, they are simply serving as a platform for HU's PR department. Case in point: The Patriot -News recently published an interview with Robert Dolan and Eric Darr. It gave Darr and Dolan a nice platform to pontificate (but fodder for me since they state "facts" and figures.) I wrote a comment in response to other comments:

Even though the University has taken $50+ million of our tax money, they are a private institution and don't need to offer us any details about their finances. As a non-profit, they do need to file 990 forms though (http://foundationcenter.org/findfunders/990finder/) The 990s will give you an idea how they pay themselves (they pay themselves well!). You can also see their financial audits related to the bonds (http://emma.msrb.org/IssueView/IssueDetails.aspx?id=MS102267) Clearly HU is a financial disaster, Darr's prediction about "breaking even" in 18 months is about as reliable as the rest of his financial predictions (read the business plan, it's laughable.) HU needs three times the students they currently have to even have a chance at survival. Historically, they have been unable to recruit or retain students to reach those levels and they won’t as long as they keep their current leadership and trustees.

Yes, SciTech students can go to HU tuition free, although most of them elect not to (that should tell you something). The Harrisburg School District supported HU with millions of $ -- the claim was that ALL CITY students could go to college for free. That was never honored though, it's just SciTech graduates. The HSD would have been better off just paying the student’s tuition outright. HU is having a problem recruiting locally, because their academic reputation is not a good one.

HU has no significant endowment, they are tuition driven. Recruiting international students would be a great idea if they had already met their mission to serve the Commonwealth. HU needs to improve as an institution before it recruits internationally though, it can't even keep LOCAL students. HU has worse-in-class retention rates because it's a terrible institution; it clearly has little chance of retaining international students. Competent leadership could have predicted that very easily.  Real universities that recruit internationally understand that there are cultural differences and offer help and support to that end. At HU it was just another half-baked ridiculous plan to make money. The bottom line is that it doesn't matter how many students (international or otherwise) are suckered into enrolling each year if they don't come back the next year. Reeling students in and spitting them out is classic behavior of a for-profit predatory institution.

It should be obvious to anyone that takes a sincere look at HU that it is nothing more than another Steve Reed financial boondoggle. They spent something like $73 million for an "academic center" that contains a total of EIGHT class rooms and a few labs. Heck, floors 3-9 are a PARKING GARAGE that the HPA owns and floors 10 and 11 were never finished. They spent $73 million for that? Now HU is spending more of our tax dollars (check out roxburynews.com) to remodel apartment buildings they don't even own. At the same time, the people of Dauphin County were forced to pay $1.5 million towards HU’s bonds. Dauphin county has also been loaning them money since 2010 to meet operating costs (which HU never paid back.) Where else would local government be paying the mortgage and operating costs for a private university besides Harrisburg? HU's leadership has been academically inept and financially irresponsible since day one -- defaulting on loans and borrowing new money to pay old debt that they couldn't pay back is nothing new to HU.  

The Patriot-News deleted the comment. 
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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Harrisburg University hires another administrator

The Central Penn Business Journal reports that HU has hired an "associate vice president to manage its growing list of university centers." Did they hire more faculty? Did they hire someone to fix the retention problem? Did they step up programs to help disadvantage students? Nope, they hired another BS administrator. Is there no end to the incompetent leadership at HU?
______________________________
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Harrisburg University raises tuition again

The Patriot-News reported today that Harrisburg University increased its tuition by $1400 for 2012-13. Undergraduate tuition will now be $23,900 per year. That's $95,600 for a four year degree from a less-than-stellar institution.

There is no shortage of good schools in the Harrisburg area with more reasonable tuition:
York College of PA - $16,520
Penn State Harrisburg - $13,900 
Harrisburg Area Community College (2-year) - $4,440
Messiah College - $29,460


[7/3: Correction(s): fixed math errors. I shouldn't drink so early in the day ;)]
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Monday, June 25, 2012

Feds determine Harrisburg University not "financially responsible." Eligibility for federal financial aid seriously threatened.

Source: HU Audit for year ending 6-30-2011, Smith, Elliot, Kearns & Co 
Source: HU Audit for year ending 6-30-2011, Smith, Elliot, Kearns & Co 

This information comes from an audit from last year for the time period prior to HU's failure to make a bond payment and a default on a loan from Dauphin County. According to this document, HU did not meet the standards to be considered financially responsible for both the years ending on June 30, 2010 and 2011. HU violated the conditions of the zone alternative in 2012 by defaulting on a loan from Dauphin County and failing to make a bond payment in March of 2012. Additionally, it appears that HU's current poor financial position will once again disqualify it as a financially responsible institution. Thus, it will have participating in the Title IV program under the zone alternative standards for the maximum number of three years by the end of the year ending on June 30, 2012.
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Harrisburg University caught in another questionable statement about enrollment

Source: HU Audit for year ending 6-30-2011, Smith, Elliot, Kearns & Co 

"The school welcomed 125 first-year undergraduates to its Market Street campus this week, compared with 69 last year, said Eric Darr, provost and executive vice president for the school." - Patriot-News, Harrisburg University doubles enrollment, Sept, 2010.

If Harrisburg University had 125 first-year undergraduates in the fall of 2010, then why do they say a class of 92 first-time students was the "largest freshman class in the University's history" in the fall of 2011?
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Saturday, June 23, 2012

Watching HU has a new URL

The Watching HU blog can now be found at www.watchingHU.com.  It is still accessible @ watchinghu.blogspot.com though, so no need to update links.
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Harrisburg University panel discussion

If you are interested in hearing the recent panel discussion about Harrisburg University that took place at the Midtown Scholar on June 21, 2012 you can find the podcast here. You can watch a recording of the live stream here. I'll give you my take on the discussion ASAP, but I encourage you to watch/listen for yourself.
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Friday, June 22, 2012

Harrisburg University is open admission

I've had some inquires about this. And yes, HU has an open admission policy. You can see this yourself by pulling up HU's institutional profile in the IPEDS Data Center. Go to nces.ed.gov/ipeds/datacenter, "Look up an Institution", click "continue", type in the name of the institution, then click on "reported data." You'll see this in the Institutional Characteristics section:

Source: Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Statistics

The National Center for Education Statistics defines "open admission" like this: "Admission policy whereby the school will accept any student who applies." In Pennsylvania, students must at least have a high school diploma or GED to be admitted to a post secondary institution.

Harrisburg University's posted admissions procedures reflect this:
  • Apply online
  • Request that your high school and all undergraduate transcripts (if you’ve attended post-secondary school already) are sent to:

  •      Harrisburg University
         Office of Admissions
         326 Market Street
         Harrisburg PA 17101

  • Set up a personal interview (optional)
  • Submit SAT or ACT scores (optional) 
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What is faculty?

There seems to be some confusion about what constitutes "faculty". So here goes. The U.S Department of Education defines faculty like this:

"Persons identified by the institution as such and typically those whose initial assignments are made for the purpose of conducting instruction, research or public service as a principal activity (or activities). They may hold academic rank titles of professor, associate professor, assistant professor, instructor, lecturer or the equivalent of any of those academic ranks. Faculty may also include the chancellor/president, provost, vice provosts, deans, directors or the equivalent, as well as associate deans, assistant deans and executive officers of academic departments (chairpersons, heads or the equivalent) if their principal activity is instruction combined with research and/or public service. The designation as "faculty" is separate from the activities to which they may be currently assigned. For example, a newly appointed president of an institution may also be appointed as a faculty member. Graduate, instruction, and research assistants are not included in this category."

The Harrisburg University Catalog looks like this:

By my count that's 18 faculty members. 

Here is the same image minus 1 fake professor, 2 professors that don't work there anymore, 1 Provost that hasn't taught a class in at least three years (And BTW Dr. Darr, how did you get to be a "Professor"-- did faculty grant you the rank?), 4 "Administrative Faculty" (HU claims they aren't full-time faculty), and one President who never taught a class at HU.


But what about "Corporate Faculty"? 

In academia they are more properly called "adjunct faculty": 

"Non-tenure track faculty serving in a temporary or auxiliary capacity to teach specific courses on a course-by-course basis."

The HU faculty profiles page list about 30 or so adjuncts. I'm not familiar enough with the adjuncts to know how many of them still teach at HU or if they ever taught at all. For example, HU lists Stephen Reed as Corporate Faculty. To my knowledge he's never taught a class and doesn't even have a college degree. Is it fair to count him as faculty?

This is how the U.S Department of Education lists HU faculty in the Fall of 2011:

Source: IPEDS
I'm sure the numbers have changed since last fall, so these numbers are no longer accurate. The exact number isn't even particularly relevant. What is relevant is that students arrive at HU expecting to find 40+ professors and that simply isn't the case.

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Hello! Again.

I think my first post on this blog is worth repeating:

"I've chosen to exercise my right to free speech. Institutions that accept government funding and don't pay taxes need to be held accountable for how they spend our money. And students that invest $20K a year (much of it in government-backed loans or grants) have a right to know if their institution is acting in their best interest.

My wish is to help students get the education they deserve and improve working conditions for the faculty and staff. If I must expose questionable practices at the Harrisburg University of Science and Technology, then so be it. I have no desire to harm the institution or defame anyone. Therefore, if I have posted any information that you feel is not factual, let me know and I'll make a correction or remove the information. There are no trade secrets, internal documents or material obtain illegally posted or discussed in this blog."

Many, many people have contributed to this blog, it should be obvious that I couldn't possibly have discovered  much of what is exposed here on my own. But let me clarify: I'm 100% responsible for everything that appears on this blog. I authored every single word and no one else. To the best of my knowledge, everything is true. This blog by its very nature is a platform for my views and as such, I never claimed it was "fair". I don't publish all the comments I receive as many of them are libelous, ad hominem attacks or not relevant to the discussion.  That's the reality of it and I don't pretend it's anything else. 

Writing this blog has been an interesting journey for me, I was initially naive enough to think that the institution could be saved. After hundreds of hours of research and many conversations with people more in tune with Harrisburg politics and Harrisburg University politics, I no longer believe the University can be saved in its current form. The University currently mimics a predatory for-profit institution -- it lures the most vulnerable students, saddles them with student debt and spits 'em out at an alarming rate. This hits home for me since I made some bad education choices as a younger man and I'm literally still paying for those mistakes 20 years later. I suffered a back injury a few years ago which was financially devastating as I was unable to work at my chosen occupation. My wife was the sole provider in our home for a couple of years and embarrassingly, it has pushed us to the brink of bankruptcy. Even if we do end up filing Chapter 11, I'll still have tens of thousands of dollars of student debt. I don't want to see any more college kids make the same stupid mistakes I did.

I was pleased to see the nice turnout at the Midtown Scholar for a panel discussion on the reality of Harrisburg University on June 21st. I felt like a bit of a chump though when I saw so many members from the Harrisburg community expressing genuine concern about the issues surrounding Harrisburg University. I feel I haven' treated the matter with the seriousness that it deserve, so after today, no more Sandusky jokes, cry eagles or F-bombs.  I was reminded of the many honest and hard working people that poured their hearts and souls into making HU a reality. I hope they understand that my issues with HU are not an affront to their efforts, but rather I support them 100%. Harrisburg University is just going to be a footnote in the Harrisburg financial fiasco if we don't take a critical look at the institution right now and consider viable options to save what should be a valuable asset to the Commonwealth.

Sincerly,
Steve Barrows

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Harrisburg University, weasels.

You might recall how I've called foul on HU in the past for lying about...well pretty much everything. I recently called out the university for lying about graduate and undergraduate programs. Eric Darr, HU's Provost and soon to be Interim President claimed that "Harrisburg University offers 24 undergraduate and 35 graduate programs." While HU press releases claimed "Harrisburg University offers 24 undergraduate and 35 graduate programs." Of course, both claims are patently false. HU only has eight programs. HU stopped making the false claims for awhile, most likely due to complaints to the Pennsylvania Department of Education.

Ahh, but they are back at it again, trying to deceive the public into thinking they have more to offer than they really do. In a press release dated June 21, 2012, HU claims it "offers 24 undergraduate and 35 graduate program options". As if the lie is somehow acceptable if they stick the word "options" on the end of it.

This is exactly the kind of deceptive advertising that you would expect from a predatory institution.
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watchinghu@gmail.com

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Harrisburg University enrollment declines, does anyone care?

As many of you recall, I said back in October of last year that Harrisburg University "had a decrease in student enrollment in the neighborhood of 40-70 students". Harrisburg administration has been claiming otherwise. HU's Chairman of the Board of Trustees, Robert Dolan praised Eric Darr for "the recent growth in our enrollments". President Mel Schiavelli claimed in a June 6th radio interview that there was a "40% increase in enrollment each year for the past three years." 

So what's the truth?
We can't examine the official figures on IPEDS (Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System) as the fall 2011 data has not yet been released. However, there is another reliable source of enrollment data. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), HU's accrediting body, reports fall enrollment data. MSCHE updated those figures in June of 2012. This is what they report in their statement of accreditation status regarding HU:

Source: MSCHE 6/19/2012

That puts Harrisburg University's fall of 2011 enrollment at 321, which is a decrease of about 50 students over the previous year.


Source: IPEDS
Source: HU Report of Self-Study 2008-09
Harrisburg University has missed enrollment projections for every year they made projections. It's clear that HU will not make its future enrollment projections. HU's failure to recruit and retain students is a fundamental failure of their tuition driven business. No students=No $.

Just a Ponzi Scheme?
Why is the Board of Trustees failing to act in the best interest of the University? The school's falling enrollment is a direct result of Darr's incompetence, yet the Board continues to support him. Mel Schiavelli has reached a level of public dishonesty where I can say "he's a liar" without fear of a lawsuit. Yet, the trustees have always fully support him. Which trustees are looking at HU and thinking "We need more of that! More lawsuits, more falling enrollment, more lies, more horrible retention, more loan defaults!"

Maybe the Board, Schiavelli and Darr simply don't care if the institution legitimately succeeds? After all, they have been wildly successful in getting over $100,000,000.00 from investors and the government. What do they have to show for all that money? A shiny parking garage with eight classrooms, comfortable chairs, a Hamster Ball of Science and a few dozen plasma TVs. Heck Senior administration has been stuffing their pocket with $5,000 a week paychecks for years. Who cares if there aren't any students?

The University appears to be nothing more than a Ponzi scheme at this point -- they keep up appearances in hopes of getting new money to pay off old debt, with no real hope of sustainability and no real substance to the institution. Since HU's genesis, that's been their modus operandi. Prior to 2007, the University had already "experienced several covenant defaults under its loan agreements" and had "requested several extensions of the maturity dates." (See the HU bond Limited Offering Memorandum) Here we are in 2012, and HU is still doing exactly the same thing with Dauphin County. They borrowed money, couldn't pay it back yet kept asking for extensions and more money.

Not only are our tax dollars directly funding HU, students are also using education grants and loans backed by the government. There are millions upon millions of our tax dollars flowing into a bogus institution. It's important that our local, state and federal representatives know the true state of affairs at Harrisburg University. HU does not deserve one more cent of our money.
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watchinghu@gmail.com

Calling all HU students, past and present...

Got something you wanna' say? The legitimate press (meaning not me) would like to hear your story. If you had a great experience at HU or a not so great experience, let 'em know. You can drop me a note with your contact info @ watchinghu@gmail.com and I'll pass it along. Or if you prefer, drop me a note and I'll send you their contact info.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

$700,000...missing?

In 2010, Harrisburg University was awarded $400,000 by the United States government for "curriculum development and for laboratory upgrades, including the purchase of equipment and technology." The bill was sponsored by Holden, Casey and Specter. 




So where is the money? The labs where just built in 2009. The chemistry and biotech labs are still equipped at a high school level. They have never been upgraded. There is no computer science or physics lab. So where did the money go? Tim Holden also managed to arrange for the University to receive $286,899.00 in 2008 for "instructional programs that may include equipment and technology." Where is that money?

That's almost $700,000 from the Federal government and HU still lacks college level laboratories and equipment?! Maybe the money went for the $1400 Dyson Airblade hand dryers in the bathrooms and $900 Herman Miller chairs?
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watchinghu@gmail.com

Wa Ching Who? Find out on June 21st! Will Harrisburg University administration defend themselves?

Friday, June 15, 2012

HU, we have a problem. Did Eric Darr overstate his qualifications?

Now that Mel Schiavelli has decided to flee Harrisburg University in search of better retirement benefits, HU is left with Eric Darr running the institution. Robert Dolan, Chair of the Harrisburg University Board of Trustees said about Darr:

"His experience will be essential as he guides the university during this period of transition.”

Well said there Bob! Shall we take a peek at Dr. Darr's curriculum vitae?

Humm it looks like his last job at HU was to "Maintain the effective and careful stewardship of University resources and the efficient administration of the University’s administrative and business affairs....Serve as Chief Financial Officer and hold responsibility for financial reporting, budgeting, investment management, and debt management."

How's that working out for you there Bob? You know about the 2006 audit from Brown Schultz Sheridan and Fritz that found multiple "reportable conditions" regarding "significant deficiencies". You know the ones where they say "Certain cash disbursements where not adequately monitored" and documentation for "draws on the construction loans where not adequately enforced..." oh and the other reportable condition where they said "Management did not adequately monitor the allowability of program expenditures and ...did not not document certain cash disbursements..." I'm sure you guys figured out what happened to all those undocumented "cash disbursements" right? Darr's leadership set the standard for HU's financial success, right?

I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that Darr's experience at HU in "the effective and careful stewardship of University resources" is not as good as it could be.

Oh, maybe Dolan is talking about Darr's past experience as a Chief Operating Officer? According to his official biography:

"Prior to joining Harrisburg University he was Chief Operating Officer from 2000 until 2004 at KnowledgePlanet, Inc., a software company located in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania."

Huh. That's strange. According to the curriculum vitae (CV) Darr submitted to the Middle States Commission of Higher Education, not only was he not the COO of KnowledgePlanet from 2000 to 2004, he didn't even work there for four years. [Correction: This CV was submitted to the faculty when Darr was appointed Provost. Sorry for the error.]

Eric Darr's CV 2008
Furthermore, Darr's claims on his CV don't agree with information from KnowledgePlanet:

-In December of 2000, Scott Mumma is listed as KnowledgePlanet's COO, Darr is not listed as a member of the management team.
- In February of 2001, Darr is still not listed as a member of the management team.
-In February of 2002, Dick Anderson is listed as the COO, Darr is listed as "VP and General Manager, Services".
- In August of 2003, Darr is no longer listed as a member of the management team. (That would coincide with Darr's claim of starting a "technology services company" in September of 2003)

The evidence suggest Darr worked at KnowledgePlanet from sometime in 2001 to mid 2003. There is no evidence to support Darr's claims that he was COO for four years or the Senior VP of Operations at  KnowledgePlanet.  (An interesting side note: Alan Todd, Knowledge Planet's Founder and CEO serves on the HU Board of Trustees.) It appears Darr is publicly overstating his qualifications.

Humm.. Darr also claims he co-founded "Kalsher & Darr, Inc., (January 1989 - May 1992) Co-Founder, Pittsburgh, PA." Maybe he was the COO there? Oddly, I was unable to locate any record of this company being in operation. It was never registered or incorporated in Pennsylvania, New York or Delaware. Kalsher also does not mention the company in his CV. Odd.

What did Darr do between Jan 2004 and Jan 2005 when he claims he was hired at HU?

There seems to be some very questionable claims on Darr's CV. Even jobs that nobody cares about are a bit sketchy. Consider his claim of being a Test Examiner in the 1980's: "New York State Civil Service, (September 1988 - November 1989). Examiner, Testing Division, Albany, NY. Developed, administered, and examined job analysis to determine critical skills, knowledge and abilities associated with entry-level New York policemen. Generated police test questions and simulation exercises based upon job analysis results." Really? So someone that was a Test Examiner for a year mucked about with the New York policeman's civil service exam? Does that ring true to you?

Dolan also said about Darr:

"He has had primary responsibility for our academic programs and the recent growth in our enrollments."

I don't think that is the compliment that Dolan thinks it is. Since Harrisburg University has missed enrollment projections for at least the past three years, it's not exactly the growth HU needs. This is probably because Darr has exactly ZERO EXPERIENCE in the administration of a university. None, nada, zip. This might also explain the worse-in-class retention rates at HU.

According to his CV, Darr did a 4-year stint as an Assistant Professor at UCLA between 1994 and 1998. Apparently, he was not tenured and decided to move on. He also claims he worked for Arthur Andersen as a Senior Manager from November 1995 through June 1997 and at Ernst Young from July 1997 through July of 2000. How was he working as an Assistant Professor in California, researching and teaching and developing classes while at the same time working as a "Senior Manager" in Atlanta or a "Co-Leader" in Philly? Something seems wrong there.


Conclusion
I can't say with any authority if Darr's claims are true or not. At the vary least, his claims are very questionable to me. We've already seen he has no problem telling a public lie when it suits him. He also has no problem lying to HU's accrediting body. Can this guy be trusted at all? If you believe his CV, he never held a job more than a few years in the business world. It appears his longest employment stint was as an Assistant Professor. Certainly he wouldn't be qualified as a Provost or President at any university based on either his business or educational experience. His dishonesty alone would disqualify him from any position at a real university.


So if a blogger can figure this out, why can't the Trustees?

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You can reach me at watchinghu@gmail.com