How Globe University advisers were trained to manipulate students

According to a former Globe University academic adviser, the for-profit college's idea of counseling was using psychological coercion to get students to enroll.

According to a former Globe University academic adviser, the for-profit college's idea of counseling was using psychological coercion to get students to enroll.

Yes! Lisa Patten had just scored her first real job. She'd been underemployed since earning her bachelor's from Metro State, making $17,000 a year as a receptionist.

Globe University would be her employer now. It's the very same Globe University, which, earlier this month, was found guilty of committing fraud in marketing and recruiting for its now-closed criminal justice program. Minnesota's Office of Higher Education is moving forward on pulling the school's authorization to operate. 

Light years beforehand, there was Patten, who was understandably pumped about her new career. As an academic adviser at the for-profit college headquartered in Woodbury, her new $40,000 salary included a full benefits package.

The year was 2010.

"A friend of mine had a cousin who worked there," she says. "She was the one who recommended that I should apply there. I thought it was going to be a dream job. I should have done my due diligence."

Patten, along with about 30 other new hires, underwent intensive training for four weeks. For those trainees who lived a certain distance away from Globe's campus, the company even paid to put them up at a hotel. 

Week one's curriculum was innocuous enough. Company history. What it offered. Acclimating to the school's physical layout.    

But Patten's feelings of excitement got twisted into discomfort the second week. That's when she learned that Globe's academic advisers didn't help students in the traditional sense. Instead of guiding students and majors, the for-profit college's approach "almost felt like brainwashing," Patten says.

"What they were teaching us was an interviewing technique where you get people to make a change. You have to gauge where a person is at about making the decision, and then you kind of paint them into a corner. There was a sales element to it too. I started to get this really uneasy feeling."

Patten would initially suppress her misgivings. But during the last two weeks of instruction, Patton says trainees were schooled in making prospects essentially feel like shit.

The dad and husband struggling to make enough to pay the bills, for instance, would be grilled about how he could no longer let his family down. The young waitress, who'd dropped out of college once already, would be asked how she felt about working in restaurants for the rest of her life.

The job, according to Patten, was to probe, manipulate, close the deal.

"And there was a big emphasis on the financial aid part," she says.

Which stands to reason. For-profit colleges have depended on federal student loan and grant monies for up to 90 percent of all revenues. According to the U.S. Department of Education, Globe took in about $170 million in federal student aid between 2011 and 2012. 

Once on the job, Patten found herself in a room in Woodbury with eight or nine other advisers. They each were required to make no less than 90 cold calls per day, and were expected to convince at least a handful of prospects to come in for a face-to-face.

Closing the deal, according to Patten, meant an enrollment and at least a few weeks of the student attending class, thus allowing the school to turn the enrollee's federal student aid into company income.     

Patten lasted six weeks. A supervisor fired her, explaining that she was spending too much time in the bathroom and not enough on the phone. Patten suspects it was more about the fact she had yet to ink one new student.

"At first, I was devastated," she says. "But it was the best thing that could've happened to me. That place was a hell hole. What we were told to do was sleazy, unethical. It doesn't surprise at all that it's in trouble now. What surprises me is it took so long."

Globe responded to Patten's charges with a statement, which read, in part, "we are saddened to hear Ms. Patton felt that way."

The school also noted a recent court ruling in which the judge said "that the admissions representatives generally acted… [with] the students' best interests at heart."