The Neumont ‘University’ Scam: A Mormon, For-Profit, Career School Commits Fraud, Threatens Students
Is Neumont University a scam? That is the question asked online by a growing number of prospective students each year as they react to junk mail they’ve received from Utah-based Neumont University, a career institute focused on computer programming and video games, despite a lack of internationally-recognized ABET accreditation.
- See also: Interview: Jeme Deviny, Former Neumont University Director Of Financial Services, Spills The Beans
Unfortunately for many of them, Neumont seems to maintain a small army of spammers that troll the internet, posting “fake” student reviews on websites such as CollegeTimes, along with dozens of dubious comments on Yahoo Answers and other web forums. Below, we take a serious look into the foul practices of this fraudulent institution.
Fraud, Bullying, And Disinformation
Neumont University is not regionally accredited. Perhaps the biggest concern regarding Neumont University is that the school is not regionally accredited. Interestingly, at least one former student has alleged on CollegeTimes that Neumont University representatives have lied about this in order to convince prospective students to apply, but the truth remains that Neumont University is most definitely not regionally accredited in the United States. According to The New York Times’ About.com section, students should attend a regionally accredited college whenever possible, to assure their degree will be recognized by other universities as well as future employers.
“If you earn a degree from a school that is accredited by one of these [regional] associations, you can be assured that it will be valid … most employers and other universities will automatically accept your degree.” In contrast, the article continues, “many regionally accredited schools will not accept course credits” from schools that lack regional accreditation – plus, “some employers may be leery” of degrees issued by institutions (such as Neumont) that lack the respect and recognition that comes with being regionally-accredited. “Ultimately, regional accreditation remains the most widely accepted form of accreditation for degrees.”
The only positive media attention that Neumont University receives is from Mormon- saturated companies located in Utah. Searching Google News for “neumont university” presents extremely limited results – but the news articles that do appear (9/27/2012) are from just two newspapers: the Salt Lake Tribune, and Deseret News, both of which are Utah newspapers founded by Mormons (who, interestingly, also work together as part of their joint-operating agreement. It is illustrative to note that Google recently demoted the Salt Lake Tribune’s PageRank authority score to a measly level 3, one of the lowest scores among all newspapers currently operating in the United States.) Besides these two Mormon-centered publications, there does not seem to be any other national newspapers in the entire country that have written an in-depth article about anything going on at Neumont – unless of course we are counting this intern at Fox News who blogged about them once (unknown if she was paid), or this blogger at the LA Times who got accused of cruelty for posting legitimate photos of nerdy-looking Neumont students within his story, one of whom he quotes below:
“I don’t think anybody has enough fun at Neumont — it’s a bunch of people addicted to sitting in their mom’s basement playing World of Warcraft and drinking Dr Peppers,” said [Cameron] Murray, who himself was drinking a can of Dr Pepper at 8 a.m. on a Friday.”
Moving on to YouTube, searching for Neumont University displays nearly 300 results of self-promotional Neumont videos, nearly all of them uploaded admittedly by the institution’s own staff and administrators (albeit using many different usernames and accounts). Spam like this could perhaps be overlooked if not accompanied by blatant claims of endorsement by Fortune 500 companies and national news outlets. Not so long ago, Neumont displayed the logos of organizations such as Forbes Magazine, MSNBC, and InformationWeek on their homepage, claiming special recognition by these parties. After being outed by InsideHigherEd’s unforgiving exposé, it seems they eventually removed the graphics and instead began making subtle reference to some of these companies within a different page dedicated to informing the parents of prospective students.
Neumont University threatens and harasses their perceived critics. Among the many nasty tricks employed by for-profit scam schools in America, rarely do you see college administrators stoop to the unbelievably low level of Neumont University. Most recently, President and CEO (?) of Neumont, Edward Levine, sent his own private detective after the family members of Jesse Nickles, the founder of CollegeTimes’ former web hosting provider, Little Bizzy, with the apparent purpose of scaring the hosting company into deleting the CollegeTimes website from its servers. According to witnesses, Levine’s detective snuck up to his targets from behind, shouted at them, stalked them for 2 days using his car, repeatedly approached a residential private property without permission, and refused multiple times to leave when asked. Soon after, when bribing the CollegeTimes team with cash didn’t work, Levine filed a lawsuit in federal court against the web hosting company, attempting to shut down the CollegeTimes website with accusations of business disparagement.
- See also: Interview: Jason Aquino, Former Neumont University Student, Reveals Rampant Fraud, Lies, Harassment
Among other shameful instances, former Neumont student Ryan Elkins commented to the Salt Lake Tribune that Levine had also harassed him on multiple occasions. “My blog was all about Neumont. I would write about the things they did well or things I thought they did poorly – just about anything that was going on. At some point Mr. Levine decided that my blog was too negative and made moves to pressure me to shut it down or sell to Neumont. I refused to as I didn’t want to go down the path of censoring people. I received some vague threats about legal action but held my ground. The administration then resorted to making personal attacks against me through my blog’s comments by posing as students who allegedly knew me.” Along with dozens of other comments left on the Tribune website that questioned the morality of Neumont’s business practices, Elkins’ comment was promptly deleted.
On top of all this, Neumont University maintains and advertises multiple “fake” student review websites:
They also convinced the Salt Lake Tribune to write an article condemning CollegeTimes, while pushing readers to alternative websites. (Interestingly, the Tribune recommended the same exact websites that Neumont recommends at the above URLs.)
Neumont University’s “president” is also their “CEO” … not to mention a key investor. Anytime a higher education institution has a CEO, it should raise immediate red flags. But when that CEO is also the campus president, not to mentioned a main financier for Delaware-formed Neumont University LLC and Neumont Holdings LLC, well, it should pretty much make prospective students run as fast as they can in the opposite direction. Listen to these words from Neumont’s RipOffReport.com profile: “The [former] dean, Sam Puich, is business-minded; which means he does not care about your education or your satisfaction therewith. His sole concern is the success of Neumont as a business. The new president, Ned (Edward) Levine, was an investor who likely has no clue about how to run a school. If you are a prospective student, do not attend. Unless you have $100K+ to shell out for the bill, you’ll get stuck with a load of high-interest private loans. Additionally, the degree only means something to their partner companies (the vast majority of which are Utah-based start-ups destined to fail). Otherwise, you’ll have to spend 10 minutes of every job interview explaining why you decided to screw yourself by going to this expensive, unknown school. Yes, they are affiliated with IBM, but only on an investment level. IBM wouldn’t dare consider hiring an NU grad for a serious position.”
Even more revealing: one of the Mormon investors that initially launched Northface Learning (Neumont’s predecessor) was Gary D. Kennedy, a businessman from Salt Lake City, Utah, who has been sued by the Securities and Exchange Commission multiple times for accounting fraud and cooking the books at many different US companies. In fact, his reputation got so bad that Neumont was unable to acquire financial insurance until they fired him from their board of directors.
Over 95% of the extremely homogenous student body is white, male students. This statistic may interest any females or minorities considering Neumont University. According to quite recent US government data, Neumont University’s student body is made up of over 95% male students, and over 95% white students – one of the most non-diverse student bodies in the entire United States. Neumont, founded by a group of Mormon businessmen in the middle of Utah, has also been accused of purposefully making anyone who is not Mormon feel unwelcome at the campus. Said one Neumont graduate on CollegeTimes, “The staff is mostly Mormon and if your not a Mormon you get judged and look down upon. And it is true about the teacher laughing about the students they fail. The administration don’t give a shit about any of the student they just want the most money they can get.” Although, on the surface, Neumont attempts to market themselves as a purely secular institution, it is perhaps tell-tale that they are listed as an official donor to Mitt Romney For President, Inc, a political action committee (PAC), which appears to be their first and only political contribution to date.
None of the faculty members or administrators at Neumont University hold a PhD (doctoral degree). When a college or university recruits its faculty members by posting classified ads on Craigslist, it sounds like something out of a Hollywood comedy. Believe it or not, however, this is how Neumont University does things, according to reviews left on CollegeTimes. But the sad state of Neumont faculty doesn’t stop there. According to their very own online faculty database, not one of the administrators or faculty members at Neumont University holds a PhD of any sort, from any academic field whatsoever. In fact, it appears from their directory that:
- Their current President and CEO, Edward Levine, has only attended art school
- Their current Director of Admissions, Karick Heaton, has never attended college
- Their current Vice President of Academic Operations, Aaron Reed, has never attended college
- Other faculty members appear to merely hold degrees from the University of Phoenix, or from Neumont University itself
- Nearly all remaining faculty degrees come from Brigham Young University, the largest Mormon institution in the world
Neumont University will accept just about anyone. Strangely, not very many stick around. Going back to Department of Education statistics once more, it turns out that upwards of 85% of applicants to Neumont are accepted to attend, with constantly rolling admissions. Year after year, however, Neumont administrators seemingly refuse to report the average SAT scores of incoming students for unknown reasons. In fact, the school does not even appear to require any minimum testing scores for new applicants (they also accept GED certificates). According to a former student on RipOffReport.com, “This school will recruit anyone. Their minuscule 15% rejection rate is based solely on finance-based rejections, your academic record will remain safely unchecked.”
This same student explained further, “The advertised $60,000 a year salary is a blatant lie. Average starting income for a programmer at a respectable firm is around $20,000 per year and dropping. Their lesson plans consist of basics mixed with drawn-out gibberish which barely passes as an education. You’ll learn the same stuff you can find online for free, all these guys did was just repeat said material and fill it with a lot of hot air and pretty graphics. After you’ve absorbed almost nothing, you’ll be thrown into a group of other likewise educated individuals and charged with the task of making yet another website-application-database engine that you’ll be making for the rest of your blue-collar life (yes, this kind of programming is blue-collar compared to what real engineers do. Compare an auto mechanic with an automotive engineer — you’ll graduate from NU as the programming world’s equivalent of a grease monkey).”
Is it any wonder their Freshmen retention rate hovers around 80%, with only 68% graduating (if we are to trust Neumont’s numbers) not including advanced/transfer student figures? (compare with UCLA retention of 97%).
Neumont University charges an outrageous amount of money for credits that will not transfer. Crunching raw numbers, Neumont turns out to be 100.9% more expensive than average for all colleges and universities in the state of Utah (at minimum, when based on $21,600 yearly tuition – the latest figure released by Neumont). Re-visiting their RipOffReport.com profile, a student reacts to Neumont’s seemingly ever-changing cost of tuition, saying, “It costs over $1k per week to attend the school, NOT INCLUDING HOUSING! The financial aid office lies about housing costs, saying they would be incorporated into the tuition of $9k per quarter, only to append an additional $500 per month on the top of that for living expenses, later explaining the lie as your confusion should you inquire.” Indeed, yearly tuition costs for Neumont in the Deparment of Education database, called IPEDS, seem to radically change from year to year since the school’s inception in 2003. According to some sources such as collegestats.org, tuition at Neumont costs upwards of $38,000 per year, not including housing, books, supplies, a quarterly “activities” fee of $500, or the $2,000-3,000 laptop (price varies according to Neumont) that NU forces all students to purchase.
Neumont University offers one program, and one program only: computer science. While Neumont attempts to market their campus programs as having distinct focuses such as video games or leadership skills, it doesn’t change the fact that the US government considers Neumont to only offer one recognized discipline, being computer and information science. This means that if a student enrolled at Neumont and later decided on a different career path or major, he would have absolutely zero options. Not only could he not switch majors (i.e. biology, or even another IT-related major such as electronic engineering), but he also could not switch colleges, because no regionally-accredited schools in the United States recognize the credits that Neumont University distributes. Therefore, any student at Neumont that seeks a new direction in life is forced to drop out after accumulating tens of thousands of dollars in debt.
Neumont University’s insinuated claim of endorsement by the US Department of Education is bogus. During mid-2006, the US Department of Education was wrapping up a report dubbed the Spellings Commission, initiated by former president George W. Bush. Margaret Spellings was then Secretary of Education, but the chairman of the commission was one Charles Miller, a curious fellow from Texas who paid his way through college by gambling and later financed George W. Bush’s bid for the presidency. On the surface, the purpose of the commission was to bring together experts in the field of higher education in America to come up with ideas that would address ongoing challenges in the US college system. In reality, however, the commission was wrought with controversy, in-fighting, and large amounts of criticism from public university officials, who accused Miller in part of pursuing a biased agenda aimed at pushing private investment and for-profit campuses in the higher education sector. Miller, who openly despises the regional accreditation bodies that Neumont has thus-far been banned from joining, is quoted by InsideHigherEd.com as saying, “Neumont University was one of the best and most interesting models I had ever seen … It had been recognized by MSNBC, Forbes and CNN, after having been brought to our attention by Nick Donofrio” when asked why he decided to recommended Neumont (“Salt Lake City-based Neumont University is educating the most sought-after software developers in the world”) while citing them as the #1 example in the United States of “innovation in curriculum development and program delivery.” Quite strangely, these comments were part of a last minute draft edit to the commission report, according to InsideHigherEd.com, long after field work was completed and various members of the commission had already quit from the team in frustration. Neumont has not explained what prompted such a personal relationship with Charles Miller during the commission, but still to this day claim special recognition from the US government on their website:
“Neumont has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education report on Neumont’s unique approach and the Chronicle of Higher Education reviews Neumont as an exceptional model for Innovation in Program Delivery, with exceptional attention to graduate employability.” (Note: Neumont’s homepage now references “innovation” 138 times according to Google.)
In regard to their claim of being positively reviewed by the The Chronicle of Higher Education, the famous Washington D.C. based magazine, they fail to state that the article in question was in fact merely a contributed piece from Albert C. Gray, who is none other than the president of Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools – the low-level, controversial “accrediting” corporation of which Neumont University is a current member (along with many other controversial, for-profit schools).