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The blog of Academe Magazine. Opinions published here do not necessarily represent the policies of the AAUP.

Mitt Romney and Full Sail University

The issue of for-profit colleges is a hot political debate, but until now, for-profits haven’t been mentioned in the presidential election (though they were a major issue in last year’s race for attorney general in Kentucky). But now, a leading candidate for the Republican nomination has injected himself into the debate on for-profit costs and outcomes.

A few days ago, the New York Times published a story about the financial connections between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and the for-profit Full Sail University. Full Sail’s CEO, Bill Heavener, is a Romney campaign co-chair in Florida and, with his wife, he has donated $50,000 to the campaign and to Mitt Romney “Super-PAC,” Restore Our Future. Full Sail is owned by a private equity firm called TA Associates; its chairman, C. Kevin Landry, has also given $40,000 to Restore Our Future.

Romney endorsed the school at appearances in both Iowa and New Hampshire, suggesting that students should consider it when looking at colleges. Here is Romney’s reason, according to the Times, for why students should attend Full Sail.

By increasing competition, for-profit institutions like Full Sail, which focuses on the entertainment field, “hold down the cost of education” and help students get jobs without saddling them with excessive debt, [Romney] said.

Romney is making two claims about Full Sail: One, that it helps students get jobs, and two, that it does so without putting them in much debt. He also implies that this is a better deal than a student would get at a not-for-profit school. How do these assertions compare to the facts?

Full Sail University has poor completion rates. It’s well hidden on their website, but you can find the information about the completion rates here. Of the fourteen associate’s or bachelor’s degree programs it offers on campus, none have on-time completion rates that are above 50%. “Game Art” has an on-time completion rate of 14 percent, “Computer Animation” is 23 percent. The numbers are worse for their online programs (though many have no data available “as students have not yet matriculated from the program.”).

Full Sail University students end up in debt. The median private loan debt for those Game Art graduates is more than $40,000. For Computer Animation, it’s more than $55,000. Graphic Design students, who have on average the lowest debt, still clock in with a median of $17,500 owed.

Romney said that “You’re going to find students saying: ‘You know what? That’s not a bad deal. I’m not willing to come out of college with a hundred thousand dollars in debt.’ ” No – but you may come out of college $55,000 in debt.

In addition, Full Sail’s tuition is significantly higher than that at public institutions. An associate’s degree at Full Sail costs about $40,000 for a year and half of school; the average public two-year college costs just $5,926. A bachelor’s degree at Full Sail will take two and a half to four years and cost $56,000 to $80,000; the average four-year public school costs $32,976 for in-state students (Full Sail tuition from its website; average public school information from The College Board).

Romney hasn’t commented on the story.

Follow me on twitter for more news from the for-profit college industry: @forprofitwatch

About Ezra Deutsch-Feldman

Communications Specialist at the AAUP; proprietor of the @forprofitwatch twitter feed.

6 comments on “Mitt Romney and Full Sail University

  1. Full Sail Student
    February 22, 2012

    Speaking from experience as a Full Sail student I have to say that the level of education received via their online platform is horrendous and the way they handle the financial aid is almost criminal. They massage the first “year’s” classes in such a way that they take money from your first and second academic year financial aid federal allotment and apply as much as possible to the first years tuition. After the first year is passed students are short of federal funds and are required to apply for additional private funding, in my case almost 6k for the second academic year. This makes the schooling appear to be within the budget of many who are later unable to receive more than the federal assistance. So these students are then saddled with debt for a program which the school counselors knew the student had no ability to pay for. To top this off the second and third academic year add a few thousand dollars on top of the first year. Perhaps this is why there is such a large disparity between enrollment and completion.

    So I would say this to people like Mitt Romney: Take the money from your contributors and be their mouth piece, but don’t for one second believe you are helping keep costs down. Schools like Full Sail are concerned about one thing, generating revenue. They have no concern for those the impact along the way.

  2. Full Sail Student 2
    March 21, 2012

    I am a student at Full Sail and believe that Mr. Romney is correct in what he says about for-profit colleges. Just because its for-profit doesn’t make the education bad and its people like ^above who slander full sail’s name. You obviously didn’t put any effort into learning and people don’t complete the program because they lack the dedication to do so. U and about to graduate and have already been accepted into Law School so I am obviously walking proof that full sail is a credited for-profit university that can get you to places and get you jobs you want. They line out everything your going to have to pay for and when you will have to pay for it and if you sign the dotted line that you can make the payments then with the financial aid they give you and loans you should be able to do so. They tell you how much it is and its no secret its expensive so if students don’t like it and can’t pass the classes or show up to class for that matter then don’t go to the university. Nobody forced the drop-outs hand to paper. Students graduate and are like “well what now” DO IT YOURSELF LIKE EVERYONE ELS! your not a kid anymore nobody will hand you a job so study hard pay your bills and stop pointing fingers at everyone but yourself!

  3. Full Sail Student 3
    August 10, 2012

    With regards to “on-time” completion rates, although your facts are accurate, they don’t tell the whole story. “On-time” refers to a student who goes through their entire program without taking a single month off from school. Full Sail prides itself on it’s “real world” education. This refers to the fact that students are completely immersed in their courses. In addition, each course is only a month long, and when that course ends, you immediately start a new course. In comparison to most schools, where you have fall break, winter break, spring break, summer break, and any other break they can think to give you, Full Sail’s students go to school year round without taking any break at all. What this all means is, if a student decides they need a break during their time at school, even if it’s just for one month, when graduation rolls around, they will no longer be considered an “on-time” student. So again, while your facts may be accurate, they by no means tell the whole story.

  4. Matt
    August 10, 2012

    I am a former Full Sail graduate, I have a good job in the industry and have been working for the past 4 years in this position. Now with that said, I am doing exactly what I went to Full Sail to do, I learned, I gained massive amounts of debt. Full Sail gave me opportunities to interact with companies but to say, “They found me a job” would be silly since all they did was bring in slot machine companies that folded a few years later. You reap what you sow at Full Sail, and the vast majority of those who fail at Full Sail can’t handle the schedule, try to play games and not study, or went for the wrong reasons. I can say, it would have been personally better in terms of cost, to go a 4 year institute with my 100% bright futures but Full Sail is not a bad school, but it will put you in debt.

  5. Marisela Perera
    October 4, 2012

    Please let me know what law school accepted you? My son graduated from Full Sail University and has decided to continue his education at other universities. Unfortunately, we haven’t found any that will transfer any of his credits. He works extremely hard, is in debt and has not received any guidance/help/placement from Full Sail.

  6. The Truth
    May 22, 2013

    There is no way “Full Sail Student 2″ got into law school using a Full Sail Degree in the United States. LSAC does not recognize Full Sail’s accreditation, which prevents LSAT registration a standard in Law School Admissions. I would be curious to know exactly how they registered and took their LSAT exam.

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