A laptop keyboard is backlit in red.

For-profit online program management companies have become new predators in higher education, seeking to exploit vulnerable institutions and students for profit, according to Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.).

DeLauro argued that these companies, known as OPMs, are undermining academic standards, access, and affordability in the colleges and universities they manage online programs for. OPMs operate by taking a large percentage of tuition revenue from the schools that hire them to develop and manage online degree and certificate programs.

“They are increasingly inserting themselves as middlemen in the higher education landscape, extracting huge profits at the expense of students, faculty, and institutions,” DeLauro said in a statement. “OPMs are weakening the academic integrity of programs, alienating faculty, and creating perverse incentives that disadvantage students.”

DeLauro cited a report showing that OPMs take an average of 25-50% of tuition revenue from the programs they manage. This leaves less funding for schools to support vital student services, keep tuition low, or make needed investments in resources and faculty.

The companies also often require schools to make rapid changes to programs to boost enrollment and revenues, the congresswoman said. This can lead to “watering down” academic standards, diminishing program quality, and reducing student support services. Some OPMs pressure schools to adopt misleading marketing practices to enroll more students, DeLauro added.

Faculty report having little say in decision making for programs they developed and rely on for their livelihood, the congresswoman noted. Some have been pushed out altogether as OPMs take full control.

DeLauro called for increased transparency into the operations and financial interests of for-profit OPMs. She urged the Department of Education to protect students and schools, and prevent predatory practices, by ensuring OPMs prioritize academic standards, affordability, and services over profits.

Regulation and oversight are needed to re balance the higher education system in favor of students, faculty, non-profit institutions, and the public good, DeLauro argued. For-profit OPMs must be held accountable to prevent the emerging “online degree mills” from undermining the system further.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *