Crisis, Meet Opportunity: Maybe Kaplan Should Try China

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Aug. 16 2010 7:16 PM

Crisis, Meet Opportunity: Maybe Kaplan Should Try China

It's been a bad month for the educationalesque enterprise Kaplan Inc., which provides 62 percent of the annual revenue of the Washington Post Company, which owns Slate. Federal regulators are threatening the business model of its Kaplan Higher Education division, under which a majority of its student/customers come out with more student-loan debt than they are capable of paying off .

According to the company, the federal government calculated only a 28 percent repayment rate for Kaplan University....

The Post Company said it would file a brief in opposition to the proposed federal guidelines despite its support for "efforts to limit student debt and ensure the quality of all educational programs."

(via The New York Times)

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Is there nowhere to salvage the ethically dubious profits on the edges of the education business? Forbes describes one successful new company , Leadership Academy Shanghai, where China's new plutocrats spend nearly $200,000 on college prep designed to get their children into American schools: 

Their teachers at the program...are mostly recent graduates from the best universities in China. The instruction style is bespoke and not very Confucian: very small classes, with students challenging their teachers.

"I think that's not the correct choice. I think you might have missed some facts," Gu tells his teacher, Li Yun, after missing an answer on a quiz designed to test English listening skills. They are in a classroom in a nondescript office tower on the east bank of the Huangpu River in Shanghai, on a recent hot July morning. Gu and Gao are the only students, and Li, 28, armed with a master's degree from Nanjing University, patiently explains to Gu why he was wrong. Gu doesn't give up easily: "I don't think that's how you find the answer." (He is still wrong.)

Of course, one might expect such attitude from young members of a privileged class. Gu's family runs one of the largest supermarket equipment supply businesses in Asia, with clients including Carrefour and Tesco , and he hopes to someday run the business. Gao's family's business is a big domestic player in electronics and real estate, and he plans to land at an investment bank after college.


Tom Scocca is the managing editor of Deadspin and the author of Beijing Welcomes You: Unveiling the Capital City of the Future.

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