MANKATO — Rasmussen College was among the for-profit colleges criticized in a recent 1,100-page U.S. Senate report for taking tens of millions of taxpayer dollars for marketing and profits, while a large number of students dropped out.
Led by Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, the two-year investigation looked into 30 for-profit colleges, which included Rasmussen College. With Rasmussen, the report focused on high dropout rates, high costs and high default rates on student loans in certain programs.
With a student population of more than 700, Mankato’s Rasmussen campus reported Tuesday it has not had a quarterly retention rate below 85 percent in the past two years, according to Erin Werthman, assistant director of communications. The rate is much better than Minnetonka-based Rasmussen’s overall dropout rate, reported by the government as 63 percent in its associate degree programs and 64.2 percent in its bachelor’s degree programs.
Also, Werthman reported, in spring quarter this year, 87.3 percent of Mankato campus graduates either went on to continue their education or found jobs in their fields of study.
Werthman also noted the campus has a 90.65 percent pass rate on the Practical Nursing National Council Licensure Examination.
Campus director Kathy Sanger issued a statement in response to the Harkin investigation:
“As an institution of higher education, Rasmussen College is committed to continual improvement. As with all organizations, both private and public, there is always room to learn and improve in order to achieve greater results. We have achieved great things at our Mankato campus and our results prove the success of our students,” Sanger wrote.
Almost 2 million students nationwide attend for-profit colleges. According to a Star Tribune and Washington Post story, the colleges reviewed in the report received about 80 percent of their revenue from federal sources.
The report accuses the schools of spending public money “intended to support student educational opportunities” on marketing and to buttress profits, the Star Tribune reported.
“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of exorbitant tuition, aggressive recruiting practices, abysmal student outcomes, taxpayer dollars spent on marketing and pocketed as profit, and regulatory evasion and manipulation,” Harkin said in the article. “These practices are not the exception — they are the norm.”
Rasmussen has begun a “qualified enrollment” program to reduce dropouts. Instead of admitting anyone with a high school diploma or GED, students undergo a weeklong screening course. If they don’t pass the course, they are not admitted.
Sanger’s statement went on to say: “Our students are our top priority and we are committed to taking the necessary steps to deliver quality student outcomes that will help lead them to greater success. The hundreds of graduates we have in our community, and the success they are having in their careers is a testament to the high level of education they receive while at Rasmussen. I am very proud to be a part of this college — our business is education and we do a great job at it.”