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Public radio vies for airtime on WREK-FM

Keeping station as learning lab important to faculty, alumni

Georgia Public Broadcasting has made an offer to Georgia Tech's student-run WREK-FM (91.1) to lease airtime during the ratings-important morning and evening drive-time slots.

Although there is a long-standing public radio station in Atlanta, WABE-FM's 90.1, it broadcasts few NPR programs and instead concentrates on classical music. It is owned by Public Broadcasting Atlanta.

Last week, the Georgia Tech Radio Communications Board, which oversees the student-run station, met with GPB officials. Individuals who attended the meeting and WREK insiders say GPB offered a nebulous proposal of a partnership without making a formal presentation.

"[GPB] wants a station in Atlanta, there's no question about it," says Glenn Sirkis, a WREK-FM alum. "They were there to find a signal. They think 91.1 is available."

The two public radio companies have had a bit of a rivalry over the years. "GPB and [WABE] have never played nice," Sirkis says. "GPB doesn't have a signal in Atlanta and they want one."

The GPB proposal comes on the heels of an idea floated by the athletic department to broadcast Georgia Tech games on commercial radio in order to generate income. Concerned alumni say WREK should keep its traditional role as a learning lab for college students instead of evolving into a moneymaking enterprise for the university.

Georgia Tech President Wayne Clough invited GPB to meet with the communications board. At the Feb. 7 meeting, Sirkis says GPB repeatedly said it wanted to get a signal into Atlanta and kept asking, "What does WREK want?" They offered to give students internships in exchange for airtime; critics say that could reduce student involvement from getting experience actually running a station to performing errands for GPB personnel.

GPB didn't return CL's calls.

Georgia Tech's James Fetig, an associate vice president, told concerned alums in an e-mail that the school will hold a town hall meeting near the end of the semester to discuss the future of WREK-FM. He wrote, "I want to assure you that we are guided by what is best for the students of Georgia Tech."



More By This Writer

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Cost of a six-pack of Bud Light: $5.29

Number of plastic cups needed for a game of beer pong: 12

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Sources: Finaid.org, Government Accountability Office, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, www.gatech.edu, www.emory.edu, Toco Giant Package Store, American Beer Pong Association of America, www.alacer.com

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Sources: Finaid.org, Government Accountability Office, Best Buy, Bed Bath & Beyond, www.gatech.edu, www.emory.edu, Toco Giant Package Store, American Beer Pong Association of America, www.alacer.com

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Wednesday August 15, 2007 04:04 am EDT
The cost of college | more...
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  string(1616) "TURNER BROADCASTING

Get your feet wet in the entertainment business by applying for the Turner Trainee Team program, an 11-month paid position with benefits that allows recent grads to try their hand at the company's divisions, including Cartoon Network, TBS and TNT.

ALSTON & BIRD

Not sure if you're ready for law school yet? Get a taste as a paralegal or staff employee for Alston & Bird, whose clients include Delta and the city of Atlanta. The megafirm has topped Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list eight years in a row for "work-life balance." The company even offers annual bonuses to hourly employees.

CARE INTERNATIONAL

The global poverty fighter offers a variety of opportunities for do-gooders, from social networkers who promote CARE through MySpace, to auditing positions and health adviser jobs.

DEFINITION 6

The Atlanta-based Internet consulting and development firm creates websites for businesses across the country. It's a big design house that creates innovative Web concepts in a laid-back atmosphere. (Employees even bring their pets to work sometimes.)

CHILDREN'S HEALTHCARE OF ATLANTA

It's topped the list of U.S. News and World Report's "Best Pediatric Hospitals" list and the Atlanta Business Chronicle's "Best Places to Work in Atlanta" list for the wellness programs it offers to its employees. The company also lists several programs to help recent college grads start a career in pediatrics, including the 10-week summer nurse extern program, which sets nursing students up with mentors to help them find their health-care niches.

Click here for more College Guide "
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Get your feet wet in the entertainment business by applying for the Turner Trainee Team program, an 11-month paid position with benefits that allows recent grads to try their hand at the company's divisions, including Cartoon Network, TBS and TNT.

__ALSTON & BIRD__

Not sure if you're ready for law school yet? Get a taste as a paralegal or staff employee for Alston & Bird, whose clients include Delta and the city of Atlanta. The megafirm has topped ''Fortune'''s "100 Best Companies to Work For" list eight years in a row for "work-life balance." The company even offers annual bonuses to hourly employees.

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It's topped the list of ''U.S. News and World Report'''s "Best Pediatric Hospitals" list and the ''Atlanta Business Chronicle'''s "Best Places to Work in Atlanta" list for the wellness programs it offers to its employees. The company also lists several programs to help recent college grads start a career in pediatrics, including the 10-week summer nurse extern program, which sets nursing students up with mentors to help them find their health-care niches.

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Get your feet wet in the entertainment business by applying for the Turner Trainee Team program, an 11-month paid position with benefits that allows recent grads to try their hand at the company's divisions, including Cartoon Network, TBS and TNT.

ALSTON & BIRD

Not sure if you're ready for law school yet? Get a taste as a paralegal or staff employee for Alston & Bird, whose clients include Delta and the city of Atlanta. The megafirm has topped Fortune's "100 Best Companies to Work For" list eight years in a row for "work-life balance." The company even offers annual bonuses to hourly employees.

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Wednesday August 15, 2007 04:04 am EDT
Five interesting local companies to work for | more...
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  string(3815) "Figuring out what to do after college graduation is absolutely terrifying. No one wants to face reality: that the denouement of life when you really didn't have a care in the world has arrived and the angst of not knowing what the future holds rapidly sets in. Perhaps it's your grand expectations, lack of grand expectations, pressure from parents or competition with colleagues that makes postgraduation so unknown.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 51 percent of students who graduated in 2007 had jobs lined up by commencement. So here's a list of nontraditional opportunities that might help you find yourself and, perhaps, stave off that mundane desk job where a Miltonesque co-worker covets his stapler.

Peace Corps: For more than 40 years, the Peace Corps has sent thousands of people across the world to volunteer. Adam Cohen, a 2004 Georgia Tech graduate who returned in July, spent two years as a math and science teacher in Burkina Faso, a small country in West Africa. "I was applying to grad schools like everyone else," he recalls, "but then I realized I wasn't really ready to go." While in Burkina Faso, Cohen learned how to adapt to strenuous living situations and figured out what he wanted to do. He'll follow his dream in the fall at a graduate program in medical physics at Duke.

Teach for America: In May, Business Week ranked Teach for America No. 10 on its top 25 places for college grads to work. The 17-year-old program has helped close the education gap in some of the nation's underprivileged school districts while launching the careers of nearly 20,000 college graduates. "It has defined my life," says Katie Wcislo, a Teach for America participant and Emory graduate. "It's amazing how so many individual children have impacted me." Her advice for college grads: "You can always go and be a doctor, get your MBA or start out at that amazing dream job, but an opportunity to affect the change in the classrooms of children now is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and one you won't regret."

Wanderlust: Attention, all adventurous spirits: It's time for you to pack your bags and indulge in a year of travel. Work can wait while you scale the ruins in Machu Picchu, walk along the Great Wall of China and bunk up in a dingy hostel in Paris. There's no better way to clear your head and learn than to try to find out where a restroom is when you can't speak a lick of a country's predominant language. It'll give you a refreshing perspective on life.

Fellowships, fellowships, fellowships: One of the best ways to figure out what the hell you want to do on someone else's nickel and help people in the process is to apply for a fellowship. There are hundreds available. Choose from the prestigious government-funded Fulbright program, which offers recipients the chance to hone in on a specific research project outside of the United States, to niche opportunities in religion, politics, environmentalism and health care both here or as far away as New Zealand. Be sure to plan early, because there's usually an application process that can take several months. For a list of fellowships, visit www.idealist.org.

Join a political campaign: Barack or Hillary, Mitt or Rudy. Whatever your political affiliations, this is the year to join the political bandwagons of '08 candidates. Daniel Rosenthal, a 2004 Emory graduate who will start law school this fall at the University of Virginia, says he learned how to work with different personalities and manage stress when he landed an internship as the assistant to the national field director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. "It allows you to be idealistic and passionate," he says. "You work for a cause you believe in instead of just working for a boss."

Click here for more College Guide "
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According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 51 percent of students who graduated in 2007 had jobs lined up by commencement. So here's a list of nontraditional opportunities that might help you find yourself and, perhaps, stave off that mundane desk job where a Miltonesque co-worker covets his stapler.

__Peace Corps:__ For more than 40 years, the Peace Corps has sent thousands of people across the world to volunteer. Adam Cohen, a 2004 Georgia Tech graduate who returned in July, spent two years as a math and science teacher in Burkina Faso, a small country in West Africa. "I was applying to grad schools like everyone else," he recalls, "but then I realized I wasn't really ready to go." While in Burkina Faso, Cohen learned how to adapt to strenuous living situations and figured out what he wanted to do. He'll follow his dream in the fall at a graduate program in medical physics at Duke.

__Teach for America:__ In May, ''Business Week'' ranked Teach for America No. 10 on its top 25 places for college grads to work. The 17-year-old program has helped close the education gap in some of the nation's underprivileged school districts while launching the careers of nearly 20,000 college graduates. "It has defined my life," says Katie Wcislo, a Teach for America participant and Emory graduate. "It's amazing how so many individual children have impacted me." Her advice for college grads: "You can always go and be a doctor, get your MBA or start out at that amazing dream job, but an opportunity to affect the change in the classrooms of children now is a once-in-a-lifetime experience -- and one you won't regret."

__Wanderlust:__ Attention, all adventurous spirits: It's time for you to pack your bags and indulge in a year of travel. Work can wait while you scale the ruins in Machu Picchu, walk along the Great Wall of China and bunk up in a dingy hostel in Paris. There's no better way to clear your head and learn than to try to find out where a restroom is when you can't speak a lick of a country's predominant language. It'll give you a refreshing perspective on life.

__Fellowships, fellowships, fellowships:__ One of the best ways to figure out what the hell you want to do on someone else's nickel and help people in the process is to apply for a fellowship. There are hundreds available. Choose from the prestigious government-funded Fulbright program, which offers recipients the chance to hone in on a specific research project outside of the United States, to niche opportunities in religion, politics, environmentalism and health care both here or as far away as New Zealand. Be sure to plan early, because there's usually an application process that can take several months. For a list of fellowships, visit [http://www.idealist.org/|www.idealist.org].

__Join a political campaign:__ Barack or Hillary, Mitt or Rudy. Whatever your political affiliations, this is the year to join the political bandwagons of '08 candidates. Daniel Rosenthal, a 2004 Emory graduate who will start law school this fall at the University of Virginia, says he learned how to work with different personalities and manage stress when he landed an internship as the assistant to the national field director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. "It allows you to be idealistic and passionate," he says. "You work for a cause you believe in instead of just working for a boss."

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  string(4049) "    Finding yourself after graduation   2007-08-15T08:04:00+00:00 College Guide - The afterlife   Alyssa Abkowitz 1224003 2007-08-15T08:04:00+00:00  Figuring out what to do after college graduation is absolutely terrifying. No one wants to face reality: that the denouement of life when you really didn't have a care in the world has arrived and the angst of not knowing what the future holds rapidly sets in. Perhaps it's your grand expectations, lack of grand expectations, pressure from parents or competition with colleagues that makes postgraduation so unknown.

According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, only 51 percent of students who graduated in 2007 had jobs lined up by commencement. So here's a list of nontraditional opportunities that might help you find yourself and, perhaps, stave off that mundane desk job where a Miltonesque co-worker covets his stapler.

Peace Corps: For more than 40 years, the Peace Corps has sent thousands of people across the world to volunteer. Adam Cohen, a 2004 Georgia Tech graduate who returned in July, spent two years as a math and science teacher in Burkina Faso, a small country in West Africa. "I was applying to grad schools like everyone else," he recalls, "but then I realized I wasn't really ready to go." While in Burkina Faso, Cohen learned how to adapt to strenuous living situations and figured out what he wanted to do. He'll follow his dream in the fall at a graduate program in medical physics at Duke.

Teach for America: In May, Business Week ranked Teach for America No. 10 on its top 25 places for college grads to work. The 17-year-old program has helped close the education gap in some of the nation's underprivileged school districts while launching the careers of nearly 20,000 college graduates. "It has defined my life," says Katie Wcislo, a Teach for America participant and Emory graduate. "It's amazing how so many individual children have impacted me." Her advice for college grads: "You can always go and be a doctor, get your MBA or start out at that amazing dream job, but an opportunity to affect the change in the classrooms of children now is a once-in-a-lifetime experience — and one you won't regret."

Wanderlust: Attention, all adventurous spirits: It's time for you to pack your bags and indulge in a year of travel. Work can wait while you scale the ruins in Machu Picchu, walk along the Great Wall of China and bunk up in a dingy hostel in Paris. There's no better way to clear your head and learn than to try to find out where a restroom is when you can't speak a lick of a country's predominant language. It'll give you a refreshing perspective on life.

Fellowships, fellowships, fellowships: One of the best ways to figure out what the hell you want to do on someone else's nickel and help people in the process is to apply for a fellowship. There are hundreds available. Choose from the prestigious government-funded Fulbright program, which offers recipients the chance to hone in on a specific research project outside of the United States, to niche opportunities in religion, politics, environmentalism and health care both here or as far away as New Zealand. Be sure to plan early, because there's usually an application process that can take several months. For a list of fellowships, visit www.idealist.org.

Join a political campaign: Barack or Hillary, Mitt or Rudy. Whatever your political affiliations, this is the year to join the political bandwagons of '08 candidates. Daniel Rosenthal, a 2004 Emory graduate who will start law school this fall at the University of Virginia, says he learned how to work with different personalities and manage stress when he landed an internship as the assistant to the national field director for the Kerry-Edwards campaign. "It allows you to be idealistic and passionate," he says. "You work for a cause you believe in instead of just working for a boss."

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Article

Wednesday August 15, 2007 04:04 am EDT
Finding yourself after graduation | more...
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  string(4850) "Metro Atlanta has topped the nation's foreclosure list for several years. Last month, the area ranked No. 8 for the highest number of foreclosures (when lenders take back a home once an owner can no longer pay the mortgage) in the nation, according to RealtyTrac, a national foreclosure database.

"It'll probably be 2008 before we begin to see foreclosures slow down," Frank Alexander, a housing expert and law professor at Emory, has told CL.

Let's be honest: A foreclosure means someone has lost a home, and that's nothing to get excited about. What it also means, though, is that the house is for sale – and at a great price nonetheless. Housing experts say most foreclosed homes sell at 10 percent to 40 percent below market value.

But buying a foreclosed home is trickier than simply purchasing through a real-estate agent. First of all, many foreclosed homes need major renovations – usually because the previous homeowner didn't have enough money to keep the house, period, let alone in good condition. Also, individuals who purchase foreclosed homes aren't always afforded the same disclosures as those who buy properties on the market. For example, it can be difficult to get the house inspected, so there's no telling how old the appliances or heating and cooling systems are or if the roof is in good condition. As a result, home buyers who purchase foreclosed properties can have trouble obtaining a mortgage because mortgage companies usually require property inspections before approving loans. Since it's high-risk, housing experts advise first-time home buyers to steer clear of foreclosed homes.

But experienced home buyers – those who don't mind rolling up their sleeves to do some fixer-upper work – can get a steal on some great properties, says Todd Mark of the Greater Atlanta Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Especially with the right knowledge of how foreclosures work and the options available.

Every month in Georgia, foreclosed properties are auctioned off on each county's courthouse steps; in Fulton County, it occurs on the first Tuesday of the month. About four weeks before going to auction, says Bill Brennan, an Atlanta Legal Aid Society attorney, properties must be publicly listed in the county's legal papers, such as the Fulton County Daily Report.

"There are thousands of listings each month," Brennan says. "It's astounding how many properties are available."

In July, for example, there were more than 4,000 listed on the Daily Report's website.

Fulton County auctions typically last about six hours, from around 10 a.m.-4 p.m., rain or shine. The buzz revs up around 11 a.m., when most of the real-estate investors, interested home buyers and law firms who represent the lenders have gathered outside. It's essential to pay attention at auctions. The bidding process starts without any bells or whistles as attorneys casually stand on the steps, whip out a piece of paper and start to read each property's fine print quickly and monotonously. Often, several attorneys will auction off properties at the same time, leaving people to dart up and down the stairs, from lawyer to lawyer, to pick up bits and pieces of information. In order to stay on top of a specific property, find out which law firm will be auctioning it off and note the parcel ID. Hungry and savvy real-estate investors usually swarm the courthouse steps to gobble up as many homes as possible. Don't be surprised as people elbow their way into a tight circle around the lawyer and yell at him or her to speak up. Finally, be prepared to pay immediately: Properties bought at auctions must be paid for in cash.

For individuals who want a good deal with less risk, real-estate-owned property is a good option. Real-estate-owned property is any home that real-estate investors or banks bought at auction and are reselling. On RealtyTrac, for example, more than 6,500 bank-owned properties were up for grabs as of the end of July. The real-estate route offers a home buyer the chance to have the house inspected and therefore qualify for a mortgage. Sure, the price won't be as deeply discounted, but it's a much safer option.

urban.living@creativeloafing.com

 
??More Urban Living                                              Urban Living               Nature's bounty               From the street, Allen and Kerri Rodgers' 1926 cottage looks like a predictable Avondale Estates...                                  BY RENEE STREVENS                              08.01.07                                                                                                             Urban Living               Building blocks               Home base history lives on at the corners of Peachtree and Ponce                                   BY LAURA MCMILLAN                              08.01.07                            "
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  string(5087) "Metro Atlanta has topped the nation's foreclosure list for several years. Last month, the area ranked No. 8 for the highest number of foreclosures (when lenders take back a home once an owner can no longer pay the mortgage) in the nation, according to RealtyTrac, a national foreclosure database.

"It'll probably be 2008 before we begin to see foreclosures slow down," Frank Alexander, a housing expert and law professor at Emory, has told ''CL''.

Let's be honest: A foreclosure means someone has lost a home, and that's nothing to get excited about. What it also means, though, is that the house is for sale – and at a great price nonetheless. Housing experts say most foreclosed homes sell at 10 percent to 40 percent below market value.

But buying a foreclosed home is trickier than simply purchasing through a real-estate agent. First of all, many foreclosed homes need major renovations – usually because the previous homeowner didn't have enough money to keep the house, period, let alone in good condition. Also, individuals who purchase foreclosed homes aren't always afforded the same disclosures as those who buy properties on the market. For example, it can be difficult to get the house inspected, so there's no telling how old the appliances or heating and cooling systems are or if the roof is in good condition. As a result, home buyers who purchase foreclosed properties can have trouble obtaining a mortgage because mortgage companies usually require property inspections before approving loans. Since it's high-risk, housing experts advise first-time home buyers to steer clear of foreclosed homes.

But experienced home buyers – those who don't mind rolling up their sleeves to do some fixer-upper work – can get a steal on some great properties, says Todd Mark of the Greater Atlanta Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Especially with the right knowledge of how foreclosures work and the options available.

Every month in Georgia, foreclosed properties are auctioned off on each county's courthouse steps; in Fulton County, it occurs on the first Tuesday of the month. About four weeks before going to auction, says Bill Brennan, an Atlanta Legal Aid Society attorney, properties must be publicly listed in the county's legal papers, such as the Fulton County ''Daily Report''.

"There are thousands of listings each month," Brennan says. "It's astounding how many properties are available."

In July, for example, there were more than 4,000 listed on the ''Daily Report'''s website.

Fulton County auctions typically last about six hours, from around 10 a.m.-4 p.m., rain or shine. The buzz revs up around 11 a.m., when most of the real-estate investors, interested home buyers and law firms who represent the lenders have gathered outside. It's essential to pay attention at auctions. The bidding process starts without any bells or whistles as attorneys casually stand on the steps, whip out a piece of paper and start to read each property's fine print quickly and monotonously. Often, several attorneys will auction off properties at the same time, leaving people to dart up and down the stairs, from lawyer to lawyer, to pick up bits and pieces of information. In order to stay on top of a specific property, find out which law firm will be auctioning it off and note the parcel ID. Hungry and savvy real-estate investors usually swarm the courthouse steps to gobble up as many homes as possible. Don't be surprised as people elbow their way into a tight circle around the lawyer and yell at him or her to speak up. Finally, be prepared to pay immediately: Properties bought at auctions must be paid for in cash.

For individuals who want a good deal with less risk, real-estate-owned property is a good option. Real-estate-owned property is any home that real-estate investors or banks bought at auction and are reselling. On RealtyTrac, for example, more than 6,500 bank-owned properties were up for grabs as of the end of July. The real-estate route offers a home buyer the chance to have the house inspected and therefore qualify for a mortgage. Sure, the price won't be as deeply discounted, but it's a much safer option.

''[mailto:urban.living@creativeloafing.com|urban.living@creativeloafing.com]''

 
??More Urban Living    {img src="../binary/b3c4/urbliv_qanda1-1_13.jpg"}                                          Urban Living               [../gyrobase/Content?oid=oid:277442|Nature's bounty]               From the street, Allen and Kerri Rodgers' 1926 cottage looks like a predictable Avondale Estates...                                  BY RENEE STREVENS                              08.01.07                                                                    {img src="../binary/9a56/urbliv_neighborhood1-1_13.jpg"}                                         Urban Living               [../gyrobase/Content?oid=oid:277439|Building blocks]               Home base history lives on at the corners of Peachtree and Ponce                                   BY LAURA MCMILLAN                              08.01.07                            "
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  string(5062) "    Style sheet   2007-08-01T04:04:00+00:00 Urban Living - Lost and found   Alyssa Abkowitz 1224003 2007-08-01T04:04:00+00:00  Metro Atlanta has topped the nation's foreclosure list for several years. Last month, the area ranked No. 8 for the highest number of foreclosures (when lenders take back a home once an owner can no longer pay the mortgage) in the nation, according to RealtyTrac, a national foreclosure database.

"It'll probably be 2008 before we begin to see foreclosures slow down," Frank Alexander, a housing expert and law professor at Emory, has told CL.

Let's be honest: A foreclosure means someone has lost a home, and that's nothing to get excited about. What it also means, though, is that the house is for sale – and at a great price nonetheless. Housing experts say most foreclosed homes sell at 10 percent to 40 percent below market value.

But buying a foreclosed home is trickier than simply purchasing through a real-estate agent. First of all, many foreclosed homes need major renovations – usually because the previous homeowner didn't have enough money to keep the house, period, let alone in good condition. Also, individuals who purchase foreclosed homes aren't always afforded the same disclosures as those who buy properties on the market. For example, it can be difficult to get the house inspected, so there's no telling how old the appliances or heating and cooling systems are or if the roof is in good condition. As a result, home buyers who purchase foreclosed properties can have trouble obtaining a mortgage because mortgage companies usually require property inspections before approving loans. Since it's high-risk, housing experts advise first-time home buyers to steer clear of foreclosed homes.

But experienced home buyers – those who don't mind rolling up their sleeves to do some fixer-upper work – can get a steal on some great properties, says Todd Mark of the Greater Atlanta Consumer Credit Counseling Service. Especially with the right knowledge of how foreclosures work and the options available.

Every month in Georgia, foreclosed properties are auctioned off on each county's courthouse steps; in Fulton County, it occurs on the first Tuesday of the month. About four weeks before going to auction, says Bill Brennan, an Atlanta Legal Aid Society attorney, properties must be publicly listed in the county's legal papers, such as the Fulton County Daily Report.

"There are thousands of listings each month," Brennan says. "It's astounding how many properties are available."

In July, for example, there were more than 4,000 listed on the Daily Report's website.

Fulton County auctions typically last about six hours, from around 10 a.m.-4 p.m., rain or shine. The buzz revs up around 11 a.m., when most of the real-estate investors, interested home buyers and law firms who represent the lenders have gathered outside. It's essential to pay attention at auctions. The bidding process starts without any bells or whistles as attorneys casually stand on the steps, whip out a piece of paper and start to read each property's fine print quickly and monotonously. Often, several attorneys will auction off properties at the same time, leaving people to dart up and down the stairs, from lawyer to lawyer, to pick up bits and pieces of information. In order to stay on top of a specific property, find out which law firm will be auctioning it off and note the parcel ID. Hungry and savvy real-estate investors usually swarm the courthouse steps to gobble up as many homes as possible. Don't be surprised as people elbow their way into a tight circle around the lawyer and yell at him or her to speak up. Finally, be prepared to pay immediately: Properties bought at auctions must be paid for in cash.

For individuals who want a good deal with less risk, real-estate-owned property is a good option. Real-estate-owned property is any home that real-estate investors or banks bought at auction and are reselling. On RealtyTrac, for example, more than 6,500 bank-owned properties were up for grabs as of the end of July. The real-estate route offers a home buyer the chance to have the house inspected and therefore qualify for a mortgage. Sure, the price won't be as deeply discounted, but it's a much safer option.

urban.living@creativeloafing.com

 
??More Urban Living                                              Urban Living               Nature's bounty               From the street, Allen and Kerri Rodgers' 1926 cottage looks like a predictable Avondale Estates...                                  BY RENEE STREVENS                              08.01.07                                                                                                             Urban Living               Building blocks               Home base history lives on at the corners of Peachtree and Ponce                                   BY LAURA MCMILLAN                              08.01.07                                         13025164 1268749                          Urban Living - Lost and found "
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Wednesday August 1, 2007 12:04 am EDT
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  string(160) "As American InterContinental University fights to keep its accreditation, students on the Buckhead campus wonder if they've received the education they paid for"
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  string(21476) "Eighteen months ago, Ronnecia Jones sat in the glossy administration building of American InterContinental University's Buckhead campus. On a big screen in front of a couch in the waiting area, she watched a video of the senior-class fashion show, complete with lean models clad in chic outfits strutting down the runway.</
AIU seemed to be everything she wanted in a college. "I needed to go to a fashion school," Jones says, "and it looked fairly impressive."</
image-1Jones, 22 at the time, had always been interested in fashion. She'd already launched her own Southern Girl clothing line. What she didn't know was how to market her products. AIU offered an associate's degree program in fashion marketing that she thought could help her reach that goal.</
A recruiter called her into his office and pulled out sheets to show her the cost to attend AIU – about $5,000 per quarter. Then he escorted her up the tree-lined sidewalk to the school's main building on Peachtree Road near Lenox Square. They rode the elevator to the third and fifth floors to view a few classrooms and to watch fashion students work on their projects. Jones was sold.</
Only two weeks after she toured the campus and called a lender to take out student loans, Jones went to the university's orientation and began classes. It didn't take her long, however, to second-guess her decision.</
She says some of her teachers taught by reading aloud from the textbook. They couldn't answer such basic questions as how to find models for a fashion show or how to plan a public-relations event. And for a final project, she says, every instructor required the same assignment: a report, PowerPoint presentation and poster-board display.</
Although Jones received her degree last month, she wonders whether she needs to go back to a different school to learn the basics of fashion marketing.</
"I taught myself everything I learned," she says. "I don't feel satisfied."</
WHEN ATLANTA ENTREPRENEUR Steve Bostic bought the American College of Applied Arts in 1996, the institution primarily offered courses in fashion and interior design at four locations: Atlanta, Los Angeles, London and, of all places, Dubai. Former students say it was an intimate, creative environment that fostered learning.</
"There were one or two admissions people in a small office and only 15 students in the classroom," says Carey Hicks, a former fashion student at the college. "It was inviting."</
Bostic quickly added new educational tracks, increased class sizes and raised tuition. And he adopted a grander name: American InterContinental University. Bostic didn't respond to Creative Loafing's inquiries but, according to press reports, his company soon ran into financial problems.</
In 2000, he sold his schools for $81 million to Career Education Corp., a much larger, Illinois-based company. CEC, which was founded in 1994 and went public three years later, was becoming a powerhouse in the rapidly growing field of for-profit colleges. The company quickly accumulated smaller schools. It became the world's second-largest publicly traded chain of colleges.Shares skyrocketed from around $20 in early 2002 to more than $70 in June 2004. Last year, the company grossed $1.7 billion.</
Today, CEC operates 75 campuses, including seven under the AIU brand, four Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts branches in North America and 15 known as Sanford-Brown. The company has almost doubled its number of students since 2002, from 50,400 to about 90,000.</
But the stunning expansion has come hand-in-hand with stunning threats to the company's future. Between 2004 and 2007, CEC was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission. CEC says it's been cleared in those probes. But, according to a statement the company was required to file with the SEC, it still faces a Justice Department civil review in which the company "may have submitted false claims and statements."</
The company's AIU campuses face an even more pressing threat. In December 2005, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed all AIU campuses on probation for "failure to correct deficiencies of significant non-compliance." A year later, the commission extended the probation for another 12 months.</
In a scathing report from January 2007, the commission determined, among other things, that AIU still:</
• Had fundamental issues with "integrity in all operations."</
• Failed to offer degree programs that "embody a coherent course of study and are compatible with the institution's purpose."</
• Didn't have an adequate number of full-time faculty nor qualified administrative and academic officers.</
• Lacked "institutional effectiveness."</
The accrediting agency is scheduled to complete another review in October. By the end of the year, it either will take the school off probation or revoke AIU's accreditation.</
In an e-mail response to CL's questions, AIU CEO George Miller noted that the January report cleared the university of eight of the 15 shortcomings Southern Association of Colleges and Schools cited in its original report. He said the school is working on the remaining seven issues.</
"Significant changes have been instituted," he wrote, "and we are confident that the changes made will improve the educational experience for all of AIU's students."</
LOSING ITS ACCREDITATION would be a catastrophic blow for the university. Commission President Belle Wheelan says SACS immediately notifies the U.S. Department of Education if that happens. At that point, Wheelan says, "the college's students are no longer eligible for federal financial aid."</
That would threaten the very backbone of CEC. To understand why, you have to understand something about the business structure of for-profit colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education – a venerable publication of the education establishment – compares for-profit outfits to health clubs. They're often housed in leased office buildings and woo students through heavy advertising pitches that promise career success. Traditional public and nonprofit institutions spend about 2 percent of their revenues on recruiting; for-profits spend a whopping 23 percent.</
The schools differ just as much when it comes to where they get their money. Traditional colleges receive large chunks of government funding, research grants, and corporate and alumni donations. But for-profits, like chain gyms, succeed by generating numbers. So virtually every penny – from their operating budgets to how much profit they turn – comes from what students pay to go to school.</
"With tuition as their lifeline they certainly need to make sure they have all seats full in order to cover their expenses," says Bryan Cook of the American Council on Education.</
In addition, notes CEC spokeswoman Lynne Baker, "for-profit post-secondary schools serve a higher percentage of lower-income and minority students who have had less access to traditional institutions of higher education and less access to personal or parental funding for their education." So a lot of students at for-profit schools end up funding their education with federal loans.</
According to CEC's filings with the SEC, federal student loans and grants account for almost 60 percent of the corporation's revenue. Contrast that with public and nonprofit four-year institutions, which get only 10 percent to 15 percent of their revenue from federal loan sources, according to Melanie Corrigan at the American Council on Education.</
AIU wouldn't be the only loser if its accreditation were pulled. The students, many of whom are on the hook for thousands of dollars in loans, face their own risks. Those who want to complete their degrees could have a difficult time transferring their credits from AIU to another school. And independent of the accreditation issue, many students at AIU Buckhead are worried about the quality of education they're receiving.</
"I'm so mad at this school," says DeRon Miller, a fashion design and marketing major who is president of the Student Government Association. "I feel like I'm not prepared to go to work for a fashion house. I would know the terminology, but I don't think I'd be prepared."</
The student association president's advice to prospective students: "They should turn the other way and run."</
IT HASN'T HELPED Career Education Corp. that AIU and some of the company's other schools have attracted unfavorable media attention over the past few years. In a 2005 report, an undercover producer sent by CBS' "60 Minutes" told a recruiter at the Sanford-Brown Institute campus in New York City that she was interested in becoming a medical assistant. Even though she confided that she had a fear of blood and a history of drug use, the recruiter signed her up.</
image-2A year later, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the AIU campus in Los Angeles misled prospective students about the college's programs and classes, regularly admitted students who hadn't graduated from high school, and improperly counted in its enrollment numbers students who never showed up for class. (CEC's Baker wrote in an e-mail to CL that the issues in Los Angeles "have been addressed and most have long been resolved.")</
And just last month SF Weekly, an alternative newspaper in San Francisco, reported that recruiters at the CEC-owned California Culinary Academy oversold its programs by using high-pressure sales tactics and the paper quoted students complaining about the quality of their education.</
Most of the 18 current and former students, instructors and staff members interviewed by CL had similar complaints about AIU Buckhead. (Two current faculty members, as well as a student provided by the company, praised the school.) The former faculty and staff members would speak only on the condition of anonymity. One said he had to sign a nondisclosure statement as a term of receiving a severance package. Four others said they still worked in the for-profit college industry and feared losing their current jobs if they spoke on the record.</
"There are good students and good faculty there," says a former instructor who recently left the school. "They have everything in place, but the greed is what ruins it."</
Former employees said recruiters had quotas for signing up new students, and that the school's 90 percent acceptance rate meant almost anyone could enroll. Students and former students said they were unhappy with the gap between the education they were pitched by recruiters and the education they actually received.</
Sypher Tyler, a former student at AIU, says she became interested in the school in 2004 because her mother was a student in the interior design program. Even though she scored a 25 on her ACT (the average score is a 21) and earned good grades in high school, a recruiter told her the competition for admittance into the university's media-production program would be tough.</
Tyler says she soon realized the academic standards weren't as rigorous as she'd been led to believe. "They said they were very selective as far as the students they would let into the school," Tyler says. "But that was inaccurate. There were kids there who didn't even know what a syllable was."</
The former staff members said that when it came to reeling in prospective students, the name of the game at AIU was pushing volume. One former faculty adviser says the pressure to produce numbers was intense. After all, volume equals profit, and profit makes investors happy. "My job was to 'close' you, to get you to say 'yes,'" says a former recruiter. "It was a sale."</
The recruiter says she was expected to enroll 10 to 18 students each quarter and to convince prospective students to hand over the $50 application fee the day they visited campus. "It was a constant hustle to sell people," she says. "We painted the picture that there was a committee of people who had to review your application and interview you. But it wasn't like that."</
AIU CEO Miller responded to CL's questions by noting that former employees raised the concerns anonymously. "Thus we are unable to assist you in checking the credibility of your sources," Miller wrote. "... It is impossible to provide specific responses to vague and ambitious allegations."</
Miller did tell CL that AIU doesn't require high school transcripts for students to start classes. "Any student who does not provide documentation of high school graduation or its equivalency by the last day of the first term of study is subject to dismissal," he said, "... and any and all loan funds dispersed to the university on that student's behalf are promptly returned to the lender. AIU strictly enforces this policy."</
Former faculty and staff members didn't just complain about recruitment techniques but also the caliber of the recruits. "They don't want to call it 'open enrollment' but that's basically what it is," the former adviser says. "Anyone can come to school there."</
A recruiter, who says she was fired in 2006 for not making her enrollment quotas, says she was once asked by a colleague to close the deal on a young man who wanted to go into sports management. "We didn't even have sports management," she says. "But the recruiter was willing to enroll him at a campus that couldn't give him what he was looking for."</
THE U.S. SECURITIES and Exchange Commission requires publicly held companies to disclose information about lawsuits and other matters that might affect their financial future, and in recent years, CEC has had its share of disclosures.</
This May, the company reported that it faces six lawsuits filed by former students across the country. Although none of the suits cited appear to involve AIU Buckhead, the allegations have a familiar ring: that the company intentionally and negligently misrepresented the school's programs, engaged in misleading advertising, and skewed the institution's enrollment and application processes.</
In the same SEC filing, the company updated an earlier report that stockholders had filed six class-action lawsuits against the company. The lawsuits, which were consolidated into one large complaint in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois, allege that the company "made certain material misrepresentations and failed to disclose certain material facts about the condition of our business and prospects ... causing plaintiffs to purchase shares of our common stock at artificially inflated prices." In March, a judge dismissed the case, but the investors filed an appeal a month later.</
image-3"Any organization with 75 schools is likely to have issues that come up, some with merit and some without," says the CEC's Lynne Baker. "The resolution of regulatory and legal issues over the past 12 months is evidence that we are continually – and successfully – striving to better our compliance and admissions processes, as well as our academic programs."</
Company officials acknowledge, however, that all the controversy has taken its toll.</
"Declines in student starts, student population and revenue ... have been influenced by ... the continued probation status of our AIU schools, general competitive pressures for student leads and enrollments and the continued negative impact of legal and regulatory matters," the corporation told the SEC.</
After the SEC notified the company that it was conducting a formal investigation in June 2004, CEC's share price plummeted from around $70 to less than $30. (It closed last Friday at $33.78.) Between 2005 and 2006, the company's profit margin dropped from 21 percent to 9 percent. According to one SEC filing, new enrollments for the first quarter of 2007 in CEC's "university segment" – the branch of which AIU is a part – were down 15 percent from the first quarter of 2006. And the company attributed a 26 percent drop in revenue among its universities – from $243 million in the first quarter of 2006 to $180 million this year – to fewer students.</
In the wake of declining revenue and accreditation issues, CEC's founder John Larson unexpectedly stepped down as CEO last September. Six months later, the company hired Gary McCullough as the new president and CEO. Baker wrote in an e-mail that McCullough – who's served in management at the company that makes Wrigley's chewing gum and the corporation that produces the adult drink Ensure – has a "successful history of growing brands and business lines profitably" and is "very familiar with operating businesses in regulated areas." She said McCullough, who wasn't available for comment, "is focused on ensuring that CEC has the best organizational structure and processes in place for its operations."</
Among his immediate challenges will be to oversee AIU's battle to keep its accreditation. Losing it would be a severe blow to any institution. Marietta's Life University, the largest chiropractic college in the country, almost had to close its doors when it lost its accreditation in 2002. Life sued the accrediting agency and was placed back on probation. The university then fixed its problems and eventually regained its accreditation – but is now a much smaller school.</
George Miller, the CEO of AIU, is optimistic that the school will be in compliance with accreditation standards when it's reviewed again in October. "We have no reason to expect anything other than a favorable conclusion to the probation issue, although nothing is insured sic," he wrote in his e-mail response to CL's questions.</
Miller added that his colleges are braced for the worst. "While the institution's main goal and focus is to be removed from probation, the institution is looking at contingency plans." He didn't specify what those plans entail.</
MANY EMPLOYEES and students are pulling for the school. On AIU's Buckhead campus, Bhavya Mathur, a biology instructor, says the school is working hard to prepare for the accreditation review in October. "They're keeping us all in the loop," she says. "I feel very strongly that we'll definitely come out from this probation."</
And Chuck Lawson, who teaches art history, says remaining on probation for an extra year didn't hurt the school. Instead, he says it helped AIU change problems with the admissions process and with the marketing of the university.</
"It's like, we don't want you to make any fake changes and as soon as SACS looks away, then you change everything back," he says. "They're taking a whole different approach to things now."</
CEC's Baker provided a June 2006 graduate who attributes his current position as an assistant manager at Armani Exchange to his AIU education. In a conference call arranged by CEC, Kenneth Merriman said, "The greatest thing about the school is the faculty. They were completely dedicated and gave heart, mind and soul." An assistant dean even helped him land a job two weeks after he graduated.</
Although his fashion marketing major underwent a curriculum change in the middle of his studies, Merriman said he understood that "with any institution there's always going to be some complications."</
The opinions of other students contacted independently by CL ranged from indifferent to irate. Scott Kollarik is a 2001 graduate who works as a business programmer for a consulting firm in metro Atlanta. He says the majority of his learning didn't occur at AIU, but at his full-time job for a small startup firm where he worked while he was in school. Now he slowly chips away at his student loans, which total $350 each month.</
"The payment period ends sometime when I'm 60. By that point I will have paid about $89,000," Kollarik says. "I'm going to end up paying way more money than the whole experience was worth."</
DeRon Miller, the student body president, says he enrolled in AIU with the hope of designing for fashion powerhouses such as BCBG and Alexander McQueen. He thought the location of the school and its programs would put him a step ahead in the industry. Now he can't wait to graduate.</
"I don't even want to walk across the stage," he says. "I just want to get my diploma and go."</
And Sypher Tyler, the former AIU student, says she took out about $40,000 in loans to pay for her education. But she became fed up after two years there.</
Tyler says the classes didn't challenge her, and that the dean of the media-production program wouldn't take time to meet with her about internships despite her repeated requests. After her mother transferred to the Art Institute of Atlanta, Tyler followed her there in February 2006. She thought her AIU troubles were behind her, until she learned that the Art Institute wouldn't accept 32 – about a year's worth – of her AIU credits: "They said, 'As far as we know, AIU didn't prepare you for our classes.'"</
Now she won't graduate until 2009 – five years after she started her college career.</
"I didn't learn what I really needed to learn there," Tyler says. "A lot of people who graduate from there feel like they have a fake diploma. I'm just glad I got out."









































































































































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AIU seemed to be everything she wanted in a college. "I needed to go to a fashion school," Jones says, "and it looked fairly impressive."</
image-1Jones, 22 at the time, had always been interested in fashion. She'd already launched her own Southern Girl clothing line. What she didn't know was how to market her products. AIU offered an associate's degree program in fashion marketing that she thought could help her reach that goal.</
A recruiter called her into his office and pulled out sheets to show her the cost to attend AIU – about $5,000 per quarter. Then he escorted her up the tree-lined sidewalk to the school's main building on Peachtree Road near Lenox Square. They rode the elevator to the third and fifth floors to view a few classrooms and to watch fashion students work on their projects. Jones was sold.</
Only two weeks after she toured the campus and called a lender to take out student loans, Jones went to the university's orientation and began classes. It didn't take her long, however, to second-guess her decision.</
She says some of her teachers taught by reading aloud from the textbook. They couldn't answer such basic questions as how to find models for a fashion show or how to plan a public-relations event. And for a final project, she says, every instructor required the same assignment: a report, PowerPoint presentation and poster-board display.</
Although Jones received her degree last month, she wonders whether she needs to go back to a different school to learn the basics of fashion marketing.</
"I taught myself everything I learned," she says. "I don't feel satisfied."</
WHEN ATLANTA ENTREPRENEUR Steve Bostic bought the American College of Applied Arts in 1996, the institution primarily offered courses in fashion and interior design at four locations: Atlanta, Los Angeles, London and, of all places, Dubai. Former students say it was an intimate, creative environment that fostered learning.</
"There were one or two admissions people in a small office and only 15 students in the classroom," says Carey Hicks, a former fashion student at the college. "It was inviting."</
Bostic quickly added new educational tracks, increased class sizes and raised tuition. And he adopted a grander name: American InterContinental University. Bostic didn't respond to Creative Loafing's inquiries but, according to press reports, his company soon ran into financial problems.</
In 2000, he sold his schools for $81 million to Career Education Corp., a much larger, Illinois-based company. CEC, which was founded in 1994 and went public three years later, was becoming a powerhouse in the rapidly growing field of for-profit colleges. The company quickly accumulated smaller schools. It became the world's second-largest publicly traded chain of colleges.Shares skyrocketed from around $20 in early 2002 to more than $70 in June 2004. Last year, the company grossed $1.7 billion.</
Today, CEC operates 75 campuses, including seven under the AIU brand, four Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts branches in North America and 15 known as Sanford-Brown. The company has almost doubled its number of students since 2002, from 50,400 to about 90,000.</
But the stunning expansion has come hand-in-hand with stunning threats to the company's future. Between 2004 and 2007, CEC was investigated by the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Securities and Exchanges Commission. CEC says it's been cleared in those probes. But, according to a statement the company was required to file with the SEC, it still faces a Justice Department civil review in which the company "may have submitted false claims and statements."</
The company's AIU campuses face an even more pressing threat. In December 2005, the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools placed all AIU campuses on probation for "failure to correct deficiencies of significant non-compliance." A year later, the commission extended the probation for another 12 months.</
In a scathing report from January 2007, the commission determined, among other things, that AIU still:</
• Had fundamental issues with "integrity in all operations."</
• Failed to offer degree programs that "embody a coherent course of study and are compatible with the institution's purpose."</
• Didn't have an adequate number of full-time faculty nor qualified administrative and academic officers.</
• Lacked "institutional effectiveness."</
The accrediting agency is scheduled to complete another review in October. By the end of the year, it either will take the school off probation or revoke AIU's accreditation.</
In an e-mail response to CL's questions, AIU CEO George Miller noted that the January report cleared the university of eight of the 15 shortcomings Southern Association of Colleges and Schools cited in its original report. He said the school is working on the remaining seven issues.</
"Significant changes have been instituted," he wrote, "and we are confident that the changes made will improve the educational experience for all of AIU's students."</
LOSING ITS ACCREDITATION would be a catastrophic blow for the university. Commission President Belle Wheelan says SACS immediately notifies the U.S. Department of Education if that happens. At that point, Wheelan says, "the college's students are no longer eligible for federal financial aid."</
That would threaten the very backbone of CEC. To understand why, you have to understand something about the business structure of for-profit colleges. The Chronicle of Higher Education – a venerable publication of the education establishment – compares for-profit outfits to health clubs. They're often housed in leased office buildings and woo students through heavy advertising pitches that promise career success. Traditional public and nonprofit institutions spend about 2 percent of their revenues on recruiting; for-profits spend a whopping 23 percent.</
The schools differ just as much when it comes to where they get their money. Traditional colleges receive large chunks of government funding, research grants, and corporate and alumni donations. But for-profits, like chain gyms, succeed by generating numbers. So virtually every penny – from their operating budgets to how much profit they turn – comes from what students pay to go to school.</
"With tuition as their lifeline they certainly need to make sure they have all seats full in order to cover their expenses," says Bryan Cook of the American Council on Education.</
In addition, notes CEC spokeswoman Lynne Baker, "for-profit post-secondary schools serve a higher percentage of lower-income and minority students who have had less access to traditional institutions of higher education and less access to personal or parental funding for their education." So a lot of students at for-profit schools end up funding their education with federal loans.</
According to CEC's filings with the SEC, federal student loans and grants account for almost 60 percent of the corporation's revenue. Contrast that with public and nonprofit four-year institutions, which get only 10 percent to 15 percent of their revenue from federal loan sources, according to Melanie Corrigan at the American Council on Education.</
AIU wouldn't be the only loser if its accreditation were pulled. The students, many of whom are on the hook for thousands of dollars in loans, face their own risks. Those who want to complete their degrees could have a difficult time transferring their credits from AIU to another school. And independent of the accreditation issue, many students at AIU Buckhead are worried about the quality of education they're receiving.</
"I'm so mad at this school," says DeRon Miller, a fashion design and marketing major who is president of the Student Government Association. "I feel like I'm not prepared to go to work for a fashion house. I would know the terminology, but I don't think I'd be prepared."</
The student association president's advice to prospective students: "They should turn the other way and run."</
IT HASN'T HELPED Career Education Corp. that AIU and some of the company's other schools have attracted unfavorable media attention over the past few years. In a 2005 report, an undercover producer sent by CBS' "60 Minutes" told a recruiter at the Sanford-Brown Institute campus in New York City that she was interested in becoming a medical assistant. Even though she confided that she had a fear of blood and a history of drug use, the recruiter signed her up.</
image-2A year later, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported that the AIU campus in Los Angeles misled prospective students about the college's programs and classes, regularly admitted students who hadn't graduated from high school, and improperly counted in its enrollment numbers students who never showed up for class. (CEC's Baker wrote in an e-mail to CL that the issues in Los Angeles "have been addressed and most have long been resolved.")</
And just last month SF Weekly, an alternative newspaper in San Francisco, reported that recruiters at the CEC-owned California Culinary Academy oversold its programs by using high-pressure sales tactics and the paper quoted students complaining about the quality of their education.</
Most of the 18 current and former students, instructors and staff members interviewed by CL had similar complaints about AIU Buckhead. (Two current faculty members, as well as a student provided by the company, praised the school.) The former faculty and staff members would speak only on the condition of anonymity. One said he had to sign a nondisclosure statement as a term of receiving a severance package. Four others said they still worked in the for-profit college industry and feared losing their current jobs if they spoke on the record.</
"There are good students and good faculty there," says a former instructor who recently left the school. "They have everything in place, but the greed is what ruins it."</
Former employees said recruiters had quotas for signing up new students, and that the school's 90 percent acceptance rate meant almost anyone could enroll. Students and former students said they were unhappy with the gap between the education they were pitched by recruiters and the education they actually received.</
Sypher Tyler, a former student at AIU, says she became interested in the school in 2004 because her mother was a student in the interior design program. Even though she scored a 25 on her ACT (the average score is a 21) and earned good grades in high school, a recruiter told her the competition for admittance into the university's media-production program would be tough.</
Tyler says she soon realized the academic standards weren't as rigorous as she'd been led to believe. "They said they were very selective as far as the students they would let into the school," Tyler says. "But that was inaccurate. There were kids there who didn't even know what a syllable was."</
The former staff members said that when it came to reeling in prospective students, the name of the game at AIU was pushing volume. One former faculty adviser says the pressure to produce numbers was intense. After all, volume equals profit, and profit makes investors happy. "My job was to 'close' you, to get you to say 'yes,'" says a former recruiter. "It was a sale."</
The recruiter says she was expected to enroll 10 to 18 students each quarter and to convince prospective students to hand over the $50 application fee the day they visited campus. "It was a constant hustle to sell people," she says. "We painted the picture that there was a committee of people who had to review your application and interview you. But it wasn't like that."</
AIU CEO Miller responded to CL's questions by noting that former employees raised the concerns anonymously. "Thus we are unable to assist you in checking the credibility of your sources," Miller wrote. "... It is impossible to provide specific responses to vague and ambitious allegations."</
Miller did tell CL that AIU doesn't require high school transcripts for students to start classes. "Any student who does not provide documentation of high school graduation or its equivalency by the last day of the first term of study is subject to dismissal," he said, "... and any and all loan funds dispersed to the university on that student's behalf are promptly returned to the lender. AIU strictly enforces this policy."</
Former faculty and staff members didn't just complain about recruitment techniques but also the caliber of the recruits. "They don't want to call it 'open enrollment' but that's basically what it is," the former adviser says. "Anyone can come to school there."</
A recruiter, who says she was fired in 2006 for not making her enrollment quotas, says she was once asked by a colleague to close the deal on a young man who wanted to go into sports management. "We didn't even have sports management," she says. "But the recruiter was willing to enroll him at a campus that couldn't give him what he was looking for."</
THE U.S. SECURITIES and Exchange Commission requires publicly held companies to disclose information about lawsuits and other matters that might affect their financial future, and in recent years, CEC has had its share of disclosures.</
This May, the company reported that it faces six lawsuits filed by former students across the country. Although none of the suits cited appear to involve AIU Buckhead, the allegations have a familiar ring: that the company intentionally and negligently misrepresented the school's programs, engaged in misleading advertising, and skewed the institution's enrollment and application processes.</
In the same SEC filing, the company updated an earlier report that stockholders had filed six class-action lawsuits against the company. The lawsuits, which were consolidated into one large complaint in the U.S. District Court of Northern Illinois, allege that the company "made certain material misrepresentations and failed to disclose certain material facts about the condition of our business and prospects ... causing plaintiffs to purchase shares of our common stock at artificially inflated prices." In March, a judge dismissed the case, but the investors filed an appeal a month later.</
image-3"Any organization with 75 schools is likely to have issues that come up, some with merit and some without," says the CEC's Lynne Baker. "The resolution of regulatory and legal issues over the past 12 months is evidence that we are continually – and successfully – striving to better our compliance and admissions processes, as well as our academic programs."</
Company officials acknowledge, however, that all the controversy has taken its toll.</
"Declines in student starts, student population and revenue ... have been influenced by ... the continued probation status of our AIU schools, general competitive pressures for student leads and enrollments and the continued negative impact of legal and regulatory matters," the corporation told the SEC.</
After the SEC notified the company that it was conducting a formal investigation in June 2004, CEC's share price plummeted from around $70 to less than $30. (It closed last Friday at $33.78.) Between 2005 and 2006, the company's profit margin dropped from 21 percent to 9 percent. According to one SEC filing, new enrollments for the first quarter of 2007 in CEC's "university segment" – the branch of which AIU is a part – were down 15 percent from the first quarter of 2006. And the company attributed a 26 percent drop in revenue among its universities – from $243 million in the first quarter of 2006 to $180 million this year – to fewer students.</
In the wake of declining revenue and accreditation issues, CEC's founder John Larson unexpectedly stepped down as CEO last September. Six months later, the company hired Gary McCullough as the new president and CEO. Baker wrote in an e-mail that McCullough – who's served in management at the company that makes Wrigley's chewing gum and the corporation that produces the adult drink Ensure – has a "successful history of growing brands and business lines profitably" and is "very familiar with operating businesses in regulated areas." She said McCullough, who wasn't available for comment, "is focused on ensuring that CEC has the best organizational structure and processes in place for its operations."</
Among his immediate challenges will be to oversee AIU's battle to keep its accreditation. Losing it would be a severe blow to any institution. Marietta's Life University, the largest chiropractic college in the country, almost had to close its doors when it lost its accreditation in 2002. Life sued the accrediting agency and was placed back on probation. The university then fixed its problems and eventually regained its accreditation – but is now a much smaller school.</
George Miller, the CEO of AIU, is optimistic that the school will be in compliance with accreditation standards when it's reviewed again in October. "We have no reason to expect anything other than a favorable conclusion to the probation issue, although nothing is insured sic," he wrote in his e-mail response to CL's questions.</
Miller added that his colleges are braced for the worst. "While the institution's main goal and focus is to be removed from probation, the institution is looking at contingency plans." He didn't specify what those plans entail.</
MANY EMPLOYEES and students are pulling for the school. On AIU's Buckhead campus, Bhavya Mathur, a biology instructor, says the school is working hard to prepare for the accreditation review in October. "They're keeping us all in the loop," she says. "I feel very strongly that we'll definitely come out from this probation."</
And Chuck Lawson, who teaches art history, says remaining on probation for an extra year didn't hurt the school. Instead, he says it helped AIU change problems with the admissions process and with the marketing of the university.</
"It's like, we don't want you to make any fake changes and as soon as SACS looks away, then you change everything back," he says. "They're taking a whole different approach to things now."</
CEC's Baker provided a June 2006 graduate who attributes his current position as an assistant manager at Armani Exchange to his AIU education. In a conference call arranged by CEC, Kenneth Merriman said, "The greatest thing about the school is the faculty. They were completely dedicated and gave heart, mind and soul." An assistant dean even helped him land a job two weeks after he graduated.</
Although his fashion marketing major underwent a curriculum change in the middle of his studies, Merriman said he understood that "with any institution there's always going to be some complications."</
The opinions of other students contacted independently by CL ranged from indifferent to irate. Scott Kollarik is a 2001 graduate who works as a business programmer for a consulting firm in metro Atlanta. He says the majority of his learning didn't occur at AIU, but at his full-time job for a small startup firm where he worked while he was in school. Now he slowly chips away at his student loans, which total $350 each month.</
"The payment period ends sometime when I'm 60. By that point I will have paid about $89,000," Kollarik says. "I'm going to end up paying way more money than the whole experience was worth."</
DeRon Miller, the student body president, says he enrolled in AIU with the hope of designing for fashion powerhouses such as BCBG and Alexander McQueen. He thought the location of the school and its programs would put him a step ahead in the industry. Now he can't wait to graduate.</
"I don't even want to walk across the stage," he says. "I just want to get my diploma and go."</
And Sypher Tyler, the former AIU student, says she took out about $40,000 in loans to pay for her education. But she became fed up after two years there.</
Tyler says the classes didn't challenge her, and that the dean of the media-production program wouldn't take time to meet with her about internships despite her repeated requests. After her mother transferred to the Art Institute of Atlanta, Tyler followed her there in February 2006. She thought her AIU troubles were behind her, until she learned that the Art Institute wouldn't accept 32 – about a year's worth – of her AIU credits: "They said, 'As far as we know, AIU didn't prepare you for our classes.'"</
Now she won't graduate until 2009 – five years after she started her college career.</
"I didn't learn what I really needed to learn there," Tyler says. "A lot of people who graduate from there feel like they have a fake diploma. I'm just glad I got out."









































































































































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Article

Wednesday July 11, 2007 12:04 am EDT
As American InterContinental University fights to keep its accreditation, students on the Buckhead campus wonder if they've received the education they paid for | more...
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