Bridgepoint Education, Inc. ("BPI") is a publicly held, for-profit education services company based in San Diego, California. It owns two accredited universities, Ashford University online and University of the Rockies.
Bridgepoint Education also owns Waypoint Outcomes, which provides learning and assessment software to educational institutions across the United States. The software combines rubric grading scales with technology to help educators teach writing, critical thinking, and cognitive skills.
Bridgepoint Educations' CEO is Andrew Clark. It employs 4,460 faculty and 3,200 non-faculty staff.
Bridgepoint Education trades on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BPI. For the year ending December 31, 2015, Bridgepoint Education announced a net loss of $70,454,000.
In 2012, national economic consulting firm The London Group was retained by the San Diego Regional Economic Corporation to conduct an economic impact and activity analysis of Bridgepoint Education within the San Diego region where BPI is headquartered. The report determined that Bridgepoint Education helped produce, through its operations, $489 million in areas such as travel and capital expenditures, supplies, advertising, and charitable contributions. That helped create 4,505 outside jobs in addition to Bridgepoint's 3,900 local employees. Its operations indirectly brought the region an additional $590 million through increased spending by the contractors and services it hired. According to the analysis, Bridgepoint Education's projected 10-year cumulative impact will bring approximately $10.8 billion in business output to the region.
The London Group was also retained by the Clinton Regional Development Corporation and the Clinton Chamber of Commerce to conduct an economic analysis of Bridgepoint's Ashford University within the state of Iowa. The report stated that, in 2009, Ashford University had an estimated economic impact of $40.9 million in business output, 782 jobs, $12.6 million in employee earnings, and $18.6 million in total value added to the state's GDP.
Bridgepoint Education directs its philanthropic efforts toward three aims: education, youth, and the military. Charitable organizations and programs Bridgepoint Education has partnered with include After-School All-Stars, Big Brothers Big Sisters of San Diego, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater San Diego, Computers 2 SD Kids, the Homefront Heroes Scholarship Program, the Jacobs & Cushman San Diego Food Bank, Junior Achievement, Make-A-Wish Foundation, A Salute to Teachers, the San Diego Office of Education, the Teacher Appreciation Scholarship Program, United Way of San Diego, and Warrior Foundation-Freedom Station.
The Bridgepoint Heroes program brings Bridgepoint employees together for large-scale volunteer efforts. Past Bridgepoint Heroes initiatives included cleaning Chollas Lake Park, cleaning Balboa Park, cleaning the San Diego River Garden, revitalizing the Mary Fay Pendleton School on Marine Corps Base, Camp Pendleton, and restoring Ruffin Canyon.
Bridgepoint Education was first incorporated in Delaware in May 1999 under the name TeleUniversity, Inc. Under the leadership of CEO and President Andrew Clark (and with an investment from private equity firm Warburg Pincus), the company changed its name to Bridgepoint Education, Inc. in February 2004.
Bridgepoint Education purchased The Franciscan University of the Prairies in 2005 and changed its name to Ashford University. In September 2007, Bridgepoint obtained the Colorado School of Professional Psychology, changing its name to University of the Rockies.
In 2008, Bridgepoint Education was named the fastest-growing private education company in the United States, as well as the fastest-growing private company in San Diego by Inc. Magazine.
The following year, the company went public. On April 15, 2009, Bridgepoint Education began trading on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol BPI.
In 2010, Bridgepoint Education became the title sponsor of the Holiday Bowl postseason college football game. Bridgepoint Education served as the Holiday Bowl title sponsor for three consecutive years.
In 2013, Bridgepoint Education's Ashford University announced an alliance with business publisher Forbes Media. Under the terms of the alliance, Ashford's College of Business and Professional Studies was renamed the Forbes School of Business at Ashford University.
On December 22, 2015, an agreement was made that Clinton Catalyst, LLC would buy the Ashford University campus properties for $1.6 million, according to the Clinton Herald. For the next 12 months afterward, Ashford University planned to lease the campus from Clinton Catalyst, LLC to make sure that the spring semester classes can continue, according to the Herald's report.
In recent years, Bridgepoint Education has faced and settled several lawsuits. It is currently under investigation in New York, North Carolina, California, and Massachusetts. A U.S. Department of Education Office of Inspector General probe is ongoing. On December 3, 2014, a lawsuit was filed in Arizona federal court charging that Bridgepoint Education is violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by robocalling sales prospects. Bridgepoint Education enrollment has dropped from a peak of 78,000 to 55,823 in the last quarter of 2014. BPI stock has also dropped more than 60% in value since its peak in 2011 after allegations of consumer fraud emerged.
In March 2017, Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos appointed Robert Eitel, a vice president at Bridgepoint, as an advisor.
In July 2017, an Iowa District Court affirmed the withdrawal of Ashford University’s online programs from GI Bill approval by the Iowa State Approving Agency. The Veterans Administration immediately sent notification to Ashford's military students about the status of their GI Bill education benefits and warned them that benefits could be interrupted. This ruling will become final on August 16, 2017 unless Ashford University appeals the decision and the court delays implementation.
In August 2017, the Department of Veterans Affairs warned Arizona officials about running afoul of federal law after the state approved Ashford University’s ability to accept GI Bill education benefits. The VA suggests that the state’s decision could put its own compliance with federal rules in jeopardy.
Bridgepoint faces numerous lawsuits and is under investigation in New York, North Carolina, California, and Massachusetts. A US Department of Education Office of Inspector General probe is ongoing. On December 3, 2014 a lawsuit was filed in Arizona federal court charging that Bridgepoint Education is violating the Telephone Consumer Protection Act by robocalling sales prospects.
In 2008, the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Inspector General (OIG) audit services division performed a compliance audit of Ashford University for the period March 10, 2005, through June 30, 2009. The OIG audit reached the following conclusions:
The stock of Bridgepoint Education fell the most in almost five months when the misuse of federal student aid was first publicly disclosed in 2009. When the official results were released in 2011, Senator Tom Harkin said this audit "reveals the same troubling pattern of for-profit colleges' taking advantage of students and taxpayers." The Department of Education has not yet responded to the findings.
On March 10, 2011, Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) chaired a hearing of the Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee that examined a "case study" of Bridgepoint Education, Inc., which has experienced near-exponential profit growth in the last few years despite low graduation rates. Bridgepoint owns two universities that it purchased when both were near bankruptcy, Ashford University in Iowa and the University of the Rockies in Colorado. When it purchased Ashford University in 2005, Bridgepoint grew from less than 300 students to more than 78,000 students at its peak, 99% of which were online.
Senator Harkin took issue with the fact that despite such growth, student success was lacking. According to information provided by Senator Harkin, 63% of students enrolled at Ashford University during the 2008–2009 school year withdrew before completion of their programs. Senator Harkin noted that Bridgepoint recorded $216 million in profits in 2010—of which 86.5% of its revenues came from federal funds. In reference to these figures, Senator Harkin was on record as saying, "In the world of for-profit higher education, spectacular business success is possible despite an equally spectacular record of student failure. Bridgepoint is a private company, but it is almost entirely dependent upon public funds ... I think this is a scam, an absolute scam."
Kathleen Tighe, Inspector General with the U.S. Department of Education, testified at the hearing that in an audit of Ashford, she discovered the university was improperly distributing federal financial aid to students. "Seventy-five percent of the improper disbursements to students in our sample were made to students who never became eligible," Tighe said. For the 2006–2007 award year during which the audit was performed, it is estimated Bridgepoint had not returned $1.1 million in improperly obtained student aid to the federal government. Tighe said on a recent report she had seen that Bridgepoint was "sitting on" $130 million in total credit balances.
Bridgepoint chose not to send executives to the HELP committee hearing while engaged in negotiations with Office of Federal Student Aid (FSA). Rather, Bridgepoint published a summary of responses called "Bridgepoint Education Transparency.
In 2014, Bridgepoint Education settled a lawsuit with the State of Iowa for $7.25 million, denying any "wrongdoing but agreed to not use any 'unconscionable or coercive tactics' to encourage students to enroll."
In 2016, a former Senior Vice President at Ashford University alleged that Bridgepoint falsified its financial reports by inaccurately projecting the student retention rate.
The December 22, 2015 agreement with Clinton Catalyst, LLC by Bridgepoint Education to sell the Ashford University campus properties has generated controversy in the Higher Education Community. Critics question Bridgepoint's original commitment to the on-ground college, especially since it no longer needed a physical presence in the Midwest to keep its accreditation, and to accuse Bridgepoint of having broken promises to maintain the Clinton, Iowa campus. Bridgepoint officials had previously stated that they were committed to retaining the Clinton, Iowa campus, and had essentially tripled its Iowa enrollment from 2005 to 2011 through investments in facilities (about $40 million), scholarships, and other financial aid of about $10 million a year (subsidized with revenues from online students), as well as expansion of academic and athletics programs. Bridgepoint now says the company can't continue to subsidize the campus operation.