For-Profit College Shakeup: Top Bridgepoint Executive Leaving

One of Bridgepoint Education’s (BPI) top officials, Chief Admissions Officer Christopher L. Spohn, is leaving the company effective tomorrow.

The company said Spohn had "decided to pursue other opportunities."

"This was his choice," said Paul Goodson, associate vice president of investor relations. "He’s not being forced out. He was an original member of the management team that founded the company. I think he’s just decided he’s ready to do something else."

The company released the news of Spohn’s departure in a federal filing earlier this month.

Spohn manages all admissions for Bridgepoint’s two academic institutions, Ashford University and the University of the Rockies.

Bridgepoint stock has performed better than any other major for-profit education company this year, rising 29%. Bridgepoint has been hurt less than competitors like Apollo Group (APOL) by investigations into the companies’ admissions practices and education quality, as well as federal proposals to place new restrictions on the industry.

But Bridgepoint certainly hasn’t escaped scrutiny or derision, even though it hasn’t hurt the stock as much as peers. Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) singled the company out in a recent speech on the Senate floor. Bridgepoint’s associate degree programs have a “staggering” 84.4% withdrawal rate in the first year, Harkin said.

“What do you think happened to their loans? What do you think happened to their Pell grants? Students get those back? Not on your life. Bridgepoint kept them, the money went to their shareholders.”

Goodson said Harkin used data selectively to prove a point.

“We stand by our retention rates of 62 and 63 percent, which have been very consistent over the years.”

Harkin has been holding hearings on for-profit colleges in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, which he chairs. The Department of Education’s Inspector General is also reportedly investigating Bridgepoint Education.

BARRON’S

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