An Ayn Rand Acolyte Selling Students a Self-Made Dream

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“You demeanour like you’re initial in a lot of things,” a lift user replies.

Soon enough, Mr. Barney is gliding down a mountain, listening on his earbuds to a favorite Broadway tune, “One Day More,” from “Les Misérables,” with a call to a masses to male a barricades.

An ‘Atlas Shrugged’ Worldview

“The biggest tragedy in all schools currently is a ‘D.D.D.’” — a castaway who is in debt and doesn’t get a degree, Mr. Barney pronounced over an artistically organised dessert plate. The tenure is one of a many expressions that his staff refers to as “Carl Barneyisms,” a abbreviations, aphorisms, quotations and discipline that peppers a boss’s daily review and fill worker binders.

For years, Mr. Barney worked six-and-a-half-day weeks promulgation records to colleagues and friends during all hours about newly detected enthusiasms — videos, books, middle-of-the-night brainstorms or even gadgets, like a MagicJack, a as-seen-on-TV device to bond a phone to a mechanism for inexpensive calls.

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“If he finds something that he unequivocally likes, he’ll send it to 10 of his friends,” pronounced John Allison, a former arch of a bank BBT and a longtime crony who once perceived a Keurig coffee builder from him.

Many of his work ideas are cataloged in “P.D.s” (procedure directives), “D.L.s” (data letters), “I.L.s,” (information letters) and “M.M.s” (management memos). “M.M. 302,” for example, is patrician “Student Satisfaction and Success — S.S.S.” and offers a remedy to what he calls a “dreaded D.D.D.”

“If something worked, we afterwards systematized it,” Mr. Barney said.

“P.D. 154 R” lays out a two-year training module for employees who wish to allege to associate directors. Among other things, they will be approaching to review Rand’s manifesto, a 1,200-page novel “Atlas Shrugged,” that depicts a rotted-out America where artistic geniuses theatre a national strike opposite hurtful “moochers and looters.”

Rand finished her approach to a United States after evading a Soviet Union’s terrors in a 1920s, an knowledge that left her with a habitual dread of government. She extolled laissez-faire capitalism, cruel aspiration and individualism in her novels, including “The Fountainhead,” and a truth famous as objectivism.

Mr. Barney detected Rand in midlife. He grew adult with 5 siblings in postwar London.

His father was a sequence entrepreneur, opening a nightclub, a motel and a gas station. “He was good during formulating things. He wasn’t good during carrying through,” Mr. Barney said.

Rationing of food, gas and wardrobe finished damage a fact of daily life. The contentment portrayed in American cinema offering an alluring contrast.

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Models used by a respiratory therapy module during Stevens-Henager College in Murray, Utah.

Credit
Kim Raff for The New York Times

As a teenager, he trafficked to Australia, where he sole encyclopedias doorway to doorway and picked grapes (“I was good during it”). He toured India, and after finished adult in California — dabbling briefly, he admits with some embarrassment, in Scientology — seeking definition here and there while enchanting in a good American tradition of self-improvement.

By a 1970s, he participated in another American tradition: creation income in genuine estate. Then a teenager business transaction came along that became a seminal moment. After legally terminating a lease, he offering some additional remuneration for a inconvenience.

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The leaseholder was annoyed and said, “I don’t wish anything that isn’t warranted or deserved,” Mr. Barney recalls. She was describing Rand’s “trader principle,” that binds that dual people enchanting in a trade shouldn’t take any more, or less, from any other than is deserved.

Mr. Barney was bewildered.

Her explanation? “You need to review ‘Atlas Shrugged.’”

He began training himself about Rand and objectivism. Attending her final open coming in 1981 in New Orleans, he listened orator after orator declare, “She altered my life.”

It was testimony Mr. Barney would eventually echo. “This is what Rand taught me — brand that values that are critical to we and use a virtues to grasp that,” he said. It infused him with “a executive purpose.”

That led him to pursue a business in education. So when a crony told him about a existence of for-profit colleges, he was struck. “Wow,” he pronounced he thought, “you could indeed buy a college? That’s what we wish to do.”

In time, he finished adult shopping and substantiating several colleges including CollegeAmerica, Stevens-Henager and California College. He grown an online division, Independence University.

It was meditative about a destiny of that business and his bequest that Mr. Barney pronounced led him to combine his colleges in 2012 with a Center for Excellence in Higher Education, a nonprofit that supports free-market ideas in aloft education. The core bought all a schools for about $630 million.

The income came from Mr. Barney himself in a form of loans and tax-deductible donations. Today, a colleges are no longer deliberate for-profit entities, and a core supports programs during brand-name universities like Tufts, Clemson and Duke.

Mr. Barney has stepped behind from day-to-day oversight, though zero altered in a approach a colleges are operated. “We woke adult a subsequent day with a accurate same supervision team,” pronounced Eric Juhlin, who continued as arch executive.

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The sale, that is available Education Department approval, has a critics. Industry watchdogs point, for example, to a whistle-blower lawsuit brought by dual former recruiters in 2014 that charges a partnership was finished “at slightest in part, to hedge certain regulatory mandate that ask to for-profit schools.”

Todd Zywicki, executive executive of George Mason Law and Economics Center and a longtime keeper during a Center for Excellence in Higher Education, called a idea “insulting,” observant “it totally misrepresents what we were doing.”

Mr. Barney likewise dismisses a accusations: “I could be a billionaire currently if we hadn’t converted to nonprofit.”

Guilt-Free Capitalism

The Salt Lake City bend of Stevens-Henager College occupies a modern, four-story building off Highway 15, about a 45-minute expostulate from Deer Valley. At night it bustles with students nearing for category after clocking out of their day jobs.

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Elsa Pool, a medical specialties instructor during Stevens-Henager College, display students how to use a stethoscope.

Credit
Kim Raff for The New York Times

All are looking to improved their lives, observant they’re spending from about $30,000 for an associate grade to about $70,000 for an M.B.A., and are holding on thousands of dollars in debt to make it happen.

Almost everybody who relates is accepted. As Mr. Barney acknowledged, removing some of these students — those with a lowest credentials or sophistry work, family and propagandize — to connoisseur is difficult. “We don’t name a best. We take who comes there and do a best we can,” he said.

Of a approximately dual dozen students interviewed during pointless during a new visit, scarcely all praised a school’s instruction. They quite favourite that a trail to a grade was clearly mapped — no electives, no march catalog to interpret — and that category work was structured around short, four-week modules.

Thomas Hillier, 46, pronounced he and his daughter finished adult enrolling during a same time. She graduated with an associate grade in medical specialties and has a good job, while he is finishing his bachelor’s in network security. Cynthia Turgeon, 42, who is majoring in accounting forensics, said, “It has a best repute in a Valley.”

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She and other prime classmates pronounced they had seen several dropouts, quite younger students, whom they described as mostly lacking concentration and joining — usually as they themselves used to. “This is my third time behind in school,” Ms. Turgeon said. “It’s usually clicking now.”

There were dissenters. “I didn’t know what we got myself into,” Felicia Robbins, 21, pronounced during a mangle in her medical specialties class. She had listened about a propagandize on radio ads. “They’re unequivocally enticing,” she said.

Ms. Robbins pronounced she didn’t comprehend that a march was mostly self-taught, with an instructor providing guidance. “I suspicion it was going to be like college.”

Only after dropping out, she said, did she learn other colleges would not accept her credits. Rather than chuck out her investment, she returned. “I feel like you’re stuck,” she said.

Unhappy students can be found during any school, though a darker design is portrayed in lawsuits destined during Mr. Barney’s other colleges. The Colorado profession general’s office, for example, has indicted CollegeAmerica in Denver of false promotion and fibbing about pursuit placements and graduation rates. Former students have pronounced in justice papers that they were misled about a transferability of credits, courses and instruction, and practice prospects. Former employees have filed affidavits observant they placed dubious advertisements and were pushed to connoisseur unwell students and distortion to eccentric auditors. The Justice Department has assimilated one whistle-blower fit that says Stevens-Henager recruiters were illegally awarded bonuses for signing adult students.

Linda Carter, a former vanguard of a Cheyenne campus in Wyoming, for example, quiescent in 2012, observant she was pressured to falsify information to propagandize accreditation panels and was uneasy about what she called dubious advertising.

When a brawl arose over either she competent for stagnation benefits, a Division of Appeals of a Wyoming Department of Workforce Services hold a hearing. It resolved that Ms. Carter had “proved, by a majority of a evidence, a employer’s prevalent operative conditions concerned deception on a partial of a employer.”

The colleges are fighting a suits, characterizing them as though merit.

Mr. Barney removed his greeting to some of a accusations. “They are all horrific. If anybody was reading those you’d say, ‘Those were unequivocally bad guys.’” He pronounced that when he investigated, however, he resolved that all a complaints were unjustified. “We’re not perfect,” he said, “but when we find something that’s wrong, we repair it.”

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What Mr. Barney pronounced he refused to accept was shame that was not deserved. In a Rand worldview, that would be “unearned guilt” and same to a sin. A abounding male should not feel shame for hard-earned wealth, he said; a profound lady should not feel shame for carrying an abortion.

So when it comes to a “D.D.D.s” — a dropouts and debtors — Mr. Barney said, “I’m unequivocally unhappy about that, though I’m not guilty. We do all to assistance them graduate.” He compared his Denver school’s on-time graduation rate of 34 percent with a internal village college’s of 10 percent.

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Carl Barney says he is unapproachable of a purpose for-profit credentials has played in catering to students mostly abandoned by normal colleges.

Credit
Kim Raff for The New York Times

As for a censure brought by a Colorado’s profession general’s office, Mr. Barney pronounced it was “invented for domestic purposes” and designed “to force us into a allotment of millions of dollars.”

The school’s ask to get a box discharged failed. But Mr. Barney points out that, during one proceeding, a decider in Denver decider wrote that a school’s admissions routine ensured “prospective students get a accurate information they need to make an sensitive preference about either to enroll.”

At a same time, Mr. Barney said, students infrequently did not compensate courtesy to a mandate and costs even when they were explained.

In Mr. Barney’s view, a debate opposite for-profit colleges is encouraged by rancour opposite their outsize profits. He traces this passion to a 2008 financial predicament and recession.

The bad economy incited out to be good for his business. Stranded though jobs, people flocked to enroll in college. Yet a budgets of many state-run schools were slashed as a economy contracted.

People incited to for-profit schools. “The phones were toll off a hook,” Mr. Barney said. “Along with a students came a lot of money. There is no doubt it was massive.”

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Many of a winners were on Wall Street. Private equity and other investors bought several of a largest for-profit systems after realizing a sovereign supervision was providing a probably unconstrained source of cash, customarily in a form of tyro loans. Students during for-profit institutions went from receiving 13 percent of a superb sovereign tyro loan balances in 2003-4 to 21 percent 10 years later. This incited teachers’ unions and some open officials opposite a industry, Mr. Barney said.

Not usually does Mr. Barney know a indignation about profiting off open funds, in one sense, he shares it. “I don’t consider taxpayers should compensate for a students,” he said. He says he believes that supervision should get out of tyro loans and grants altogether and leave a financing to a schools, intensity employers and banks.

It is a perspective that is echoed in “Atlas Shrugged.” In a novel, a mythological tyrannise titan Nathaniel Taggart is pronounced to have tossed a supervision central down 3 flights of stairs merely for seeking if Mr. Taggart would like a supervision loan.

‘A Few Good Apples’

To some critics, a for-profit college business represents a exploitative side of Randian philosophy, in that exposed students’ ambitions are manipulated for personal gain.

The problem is not usually a few bad apples, pronounced A. J. Angulo, a story highbrow and a author of “Diploma Mills: How For-Profit Colleges Stiffed Students, Taxpayers and a American Dream.” Mr. Angulo says, “We’re unequivocally articulate about a few good apples.”

That was a end of a 2012 Senate investigation, a latest in a array of congressional and eccentric inquiries into for-profit schools’ advertising, pursuit chain and graduation rates, and recruitment strategies that date to a 1980s.

To Mr. Angulo, a problem is systemic. “There is a elemental dispute of interest, and it’s combined by a distinction motive,” he said. It leads to cost-cutting, and “the thing that gets shortchanged evenly is instruction.”

Such feeling to a distinction ground is precisely what sets off Mr. Barney’s alarm bells. He argues that for-profit schools offer an choice to failing, packed village colleges and an educational salvation to operative adults.

Free craving is what has propelled a United States to prosperity, Mr. Barney said, sitting in a bar chair in a loll during Deer Valley, after a day on ski trails with names like Tycoon, Lucky Star and of course, Success. “Yes, there are things to criticize,” he said.

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But there were “two good philosophical experiments of a age,” he pronounced — a Soviet Union, and America. “Since a first of this country, when a aristocrat was told to hum off,” he said, laughing, “it’s been a smashing float in America, hasn’t it?”

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