As part of my look last summer into recruiting practices at Globe University – Minnesota School of Business, I assessed how state officials viewed the regulation of for-profit colleges in Minnesota.
At the time, it appeared that only state Attorney General Lori Swanson and private litigators were prepared to carry out an aggressive watchdog role.
Swanson had already said she was looking into a handful of for-profits regarding deceptive practices — elaborating on that statement a few months later — and attorney Clayton Halunen was working on two whistleblower lawsuits against the school.
That summer I asked state Office of Higher Education Director Larry Pogemiller about this Minnesota statute:
136A.685 PRIVATE INSTITUTIONS; ADJUDICATION OF FRAUD OR MISREPRESENTATION.
The office shall not provide registration or degree or name approval to a school if there has been a criminal, civil, or administrative adjudication of fraud or misrepresentation in Minnesota or in another state or jurisdiction against the school or its owner, officers, agents, or sponsoring organization. Such an adjudication of fraud or misrepresentation shall be sufficient cause for the office to determine that a school:
(1) does not qualify for exemption under section 136A.657; or
(2) is not approved to grant degrees or to use the term “academy,” “institute,” or “university” in its name.
I noted that the Minnesota School of Business had twice settled lawsuits — one in 1983 and the other in 1997 — by former students who claimed the school had misled them. (In the 1983 case, the school was not under its current ownership.)
I could find no record of any state enforcement.
Pogemiller told me the office did not have the resources to carry out full-scale investigations, and that Minnesota schools might not have enough problems to warrant them. He said any extra state education money might be better spent on financial aid.
So with last week’s verdict in mind, I revisited the issue. I asked Pogemiller whether he saw enough smoke to warrant an investigation, and whether his office had the will and resources to carry one out.
Pogemiller, whose position was recently elevated to commissioner, said he’s monitoring the case. But he said he could not make a final decision until it’s fully adjudicated and his office knows all the facts.
(Globe’s attorney, Matt Damon, said he’s taking steps toward an appeal.)
I pressed him on just how far he’d be willing to go if the verdict stood. But he didn’t budge, saying only that he would “proceed appropriately.”