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Robert Shireman
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A Public Advocates "Voice of Conscience" honoree for his work to rein in abuses by for-profit colleges and student loan companies, Bob Shireman currently directs California Competes, a nonprofit project aimed at addressing the state's higher education challenges. Previously, Shireman spearheaded the Obama Administration's successful efforts to reform student lending, increase Pell Grants, simplify the financial aid process, strengthen consumer protections, and focus national attention on college completion. In 2004, Shireman launched the Institute for College Access and Success, where his early leadership on the issue of rising student debt prompted Congress to adopt income-based repayment for student loans. Inside and outside of government Bob Shireman has worked to improve campus diversity, reform high schools, recruit new teachers, and renovate crumbling schools. His efforts on student loans and college access earned him Money Magazine's "money hero" status in 2012. He holds a bachelor's degree in economics from the University of California at Berkeley, and master's degrees from the University of San Francisco (in public administration) and Harvard (in education).

Entries by Robert Shireman

I'll Have My Beer For-Profit, Please

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2015 | 3:20 PM


I was in northeast Portland over the weekend and decided to stop in at a brewery that Yelp users said not only had good beer but "it's a nonprofit too!" I assumed they just misinterpreted the brewpub's joke about its inadequate revenue. But...

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Behind the Fraud Charges Against ITT Education

(9) Comments | Posted May 13, 2015 | 1:24 PM


The Securities and Exchange Commission yesterday announced fraud charges against ITT Education Services, a for-profit company that operates career training schools. The SEC alleges that ITT executives engaged in a scheme to hide looming losses from loans the company guaranteed to...

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In Stock Plunge Coverage, an Illuminating Mistake

(1) Comments | Posted May 11, 2015 | 3:58 PM


For-profit schools have not been faring too well on Wall Street lately. The stock price of Apollo Group, the owner of the University of Phoenix, has dropped by 80 percent from its peak. Career Education Corporation is also down 80 percent; ITT Education,...

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College Owner: Greed Is Good

(5) Comments | Posted March 4, 2015 | 7:53 AM

In an article this week, New York Times reporter Patricia Cohen described how Arthur Keiser, the owner of colleges in Florida, is using a nonprofit shell corporation to evade consumer protection laws while drawing millions of federal financial aid dollars....

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A Nonprofit That Isn't

(0) Comments | Posted March 3, 2015 | 4:06 PM

We all know from watching the real-life stories of gangsters and cheats that it is often the paperwork that gets them in the end. They are put away for tax fraud or mail fraud, or fined for not including their ill-begotten gains on required financial disclosure forms. To avoid this...

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In Defense of the College Graduation Rate

(1) Comments | Posted October 24, 2014 | 12:18 PM

The way college graduation rates are measured is not perfect. But the claim that colleges enrolling a lot of part-time students are treated unfairly because these students are "overlooked" or "left out," as a recent article claimed, is pure bunk. The erroneous claim is not new. Officials at...

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Don't Ask About Your Kids' Grades in College

(10) Comments | Posted October 22, 2014 | 11:10 PM

One of the most useful tools we had while our kids were in middle and high school was the online access to their grades. On a daily basis, we could check to make sure they were turning in their assignments or if their study methods had paid off on the...

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How Not to Help Grads With Student Loans

(5) Comments | Posted October 13, 2014 | 10:40 AM


Four months after my niece's graduation party, she got an email with a subject line indicating that she would soon need to start making payments on her student loans. Employed only part time and sharing a room in a small apartment to keep...

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What Would You Change at the University?

(0) Comments | Posted September 10, 2014 | 3:20 PM

Governor Jerry Brown wants California's colleges and universities to do a better job getting students to graduation, and he wants it done without spending more. To entice college leaders along this efficiency path the governor has taken the unusual tack of offering...

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The Important Difference Between For-profit and Nonprofit Colleges

(2) Comments | Posted July 17, 2014 | 2:42 PM

I am sympathetic to the instinct to ignore the question of whether a college is accountable to owners (for-profit), or, alternatively, is answerable to a financially disinterested board (nonprofit or public). While there is a higher incidence of problematic behavior at for-profit colleges, there are also nonprofit and public institutions...

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For-Profit Colleges and the Washington Post

(0) Comments | Posted May 5, 2014 | 1:30 PM

Last month the newspaper that in 1974 launched my teenage interest in journalism as a route to justice and truth got into a tussle with the U.S. Department of Education over some data on college graduates' earnings. That debate was expertly dissected by Ben Miller at the New...

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Preparing California's Teachers: Is U.C. Doing Its Part?

(0) Comments | Posted February 10, 2014 | 9:38 AM

California's 1960 Master Plan famously carved out specific niches for each of the three public higher education segments. Top high school graduates were to be steered to the University of California's (now) nine undergraduate campuses where they would learn from "teacher-scholars" who are preeminent researchers in their fields. The next...

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Diversity, Napolitano, and the University of California

(2) Comments | Posted January 22, 2014 | 12:22 PM

Last week I had the privilege of joining President Obama and the first lady at a White House summit designed to spur efforts to make sure that higher education serves as an engine of upward mobility rather than a replicator of inequality. One hundred college presidents came with...

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How Much Is College Worth? A Brainstorming Exercise

(3) Comments | Posted December 11, 2013 | 10:30 AM

To the extent that college is aimed at preparing people for careers, its monetary value can be estimated by comparing a graduate's projected future earnings to the wages of a worker with a high school diploma. But most people acknowledge that the traditional undergraduate experience is designed to do something...

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Vision and Mission at Community Colleges

(0) Comments | Posted November 3, 2013 | 4:59 PM

For the past quarter century I have been one of those policy wonks trying to figure out how to judge whether a college is doing a good job. People who work at colleges, especially the faculty, tend to be annoyed by those of us who ask about effectiveness, because it...

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Billboards That Do Damage

(2) Comments | Posted September 24, 2013 | 4:18 PM

2013-09-22-Loomingdropouts.jpgThe blood-red billboard pictured here looms ominously over a busy thoroughfare in a troubled neighborhood near my office in Oakland, California. A creation of the Ad Council, which links advertising firms with charities to create campaigns designed to address social issues, this ad...

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San Francisco Mayor's Opportunity to Create a New City University

(0) Comments | Posted August 6, 2013 | 2:42 PM

With all of the attention on the infighting and poor management at City College of San Francisco, city residents could be excused for forgetting that San Francisco has another large public institution serving undergraduate students. Toiling quietly amid the hullabaloo has been San Francisco State University, under the leadership of...

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What the Jane Fonda Fitness Revolution Tells Us About Success in College

(0) Comments | Posted July 24, 2013 | 4:01 PM

Every time I hear about the online revolution that is occurring in higher education, I have a vision of the family room in my parents' home in the suburbs in the 1980s. There, underneath the television, was the remarkable technological innovation of its day, the VCR. And sitting on top...

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To Get Value From For-Profit Colleges, Create the Right Incentives

(12) Comments | Posted May 31, 2013 | 4:14 PM

At the beginning of the Obama Administration, I led the U.S. Department of Education's efforts to protect consumers from predatory practices by colleges. The for-profit companies that operate colleges in particular took umbrage and have been fighting in court and in Congress ever since. On Thursday I was able to...

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Why Arguments Blow Up Instead of Blow Over

(2) Comments | Posted March 8, 2013 | 5:45 PM


There is no surer way to turn two siblings against each other than to tell both of them they are in charge. That truism is the best explanation for the epidemic of dysfunction at community colleges in California, where conflicting laws mean any disagreement...

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