Emily Auerbach wins national award for Odyssey Project

Emily Auerbach, a 2014 winner of a distinguished service award from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities Commission on Access, Diversity and Excellence.

Following the lead of attorneys general in different states, outgoing Wisconsin attorney general J.B. Van Hollen has sued a now-closed for-profit college in Milwaukee for misleading students about job placement rates and other outcomes.

Everest College operated briefly in Milwaukee before closing in 2013 after revelations that, in just two years, more than 60 percent of its students left without a degree and more than half of graduates were unemployed. The state’s Educational Approval Board initially brought about the closure.

In a civil complaint, the state Justice Department said the school’s “overriding focus was on enrollment.” Students were recruited and promised a degree that would yield employment in a variety of careers. Students commonly borrowed more than $20,000 for degrees that, in the end, they never earned or that proved nearly useless.

The Justice Department said some students came in barely able to read. Others came in with drug or felony convictions with a promise their degrees would yield jobs in health care fields. They weren’t told their rap sheets disqualified them from those fields.

The college sold students on job placement rates that were inflated and misleading, the Justice Department said. In one case, a graduate of the medical assistant program was counted as employed, but the graduate worked as a barber. The department wants the college to repay students who lost money, pay fines to the state and cover the state’s legal expenses.

Everest is part of a national chain of for-profits run by parent company Corinthian Colleges Inc. Corinthian spokesman Kent Conrad did not dispute the charges but wondered why the legal action was taken now. He said the school voluntarily closed in 2013, admitted wrongdoing and offered to reimburse former students.

Numerous other for-profit colleges with similarly dismal graduation and job placement rates continue to operate in the state, according to a recent report. 

‘Odyssey’ founder gets national award

UW-Madison English professor Emily Auerbach’s work with nontraditional students for more than three decades won her a distinguished service award from a division of the Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities. It recognized her Odyssey Project, which she founded in 2003, for providing access to 30 low-income students a year.

Odyssey students study literature, philosophy, history and art, gaining six credits in English from UW-Madison. Previous winners of the award, given since 1999, were all administrators. Auerbach is the first faculty recipient.

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