Sponsor: Bridgepoint Education ( BPI)
Location: San Diego
Matchup: Baylor vs. UCLA
Payout: $2.4 million Think what you will of Baylor and UCLA, but they're universities with solid histories and serious reputations. They have sprawling campuses, honored faculty and a student body that matriculates, graduates and becomes a proud, multigenerational alumni base. Bridgepoint Education and its for-profit Ashford University and University of the Rockies don't quite match up. These regionally accredited, cash-gulping, mostly online diploma mills (Ashford University has a campus in Clinton, Iowa; University of the Rockies has a building in Colorado Springs, Colo.) clear more than $200 million in profits, but drew an audit from the Department of Education in 2008 that found Bridgepoint was paying recruiters based on enrollments, improperly clinging to $1.1 million in federal funding and sitting on financial aid payments made to students who'd already withdrawn. That's no small chunk of financial aid, either, as a Senate hearing chaired by Iowa Democrat Tom Harkin found that more than 60% of Bridgepoint students withdraw before completing their programs. Of Bridgepoint's hundreds of millions in profits, more than 86% come from federal funds. While for-profit University of Phoenix's stadium will be empty during this year's bowl season, students and athletes from each of the schools in this bowl should consider themselves fortunate that members of Congress have never had to say the following about their universities: "In the world of for-profit higher education, spectacular business success is possible despite an equally spectacular record of student failure," Harkin said. "Bridgepoint is a private company, but it is almost entirely dependent upon public funds ... I think this is a scam, an absolute scam."