Tarnished by years of plummeting enrollments and government investigations, two beleaguered college chains have a new strategy for fixing their brand: imitation Latin.
Everest College announced on Wednesday that it planned to rechristen itself "Altierus Career College," shedding a name that was attached to the country's highest-profile for-profit college collapse. Everest's onetime parent company, Corinthian Colleges, went bankrupt in 2015 after years of state and federal investigations; it was later converted into a nonprofit.
Altierus joins the for-profit giant DeVry Education Group, owner of DeVry University, which in April announced that it was changing its name to "Adtalem Global Education" — complete with a new New York Stock Exchange ticker symbol, ATGE. Adtalem Education's schools won't their change names.
The name Adtalem, the company said, is taken from the Latin phrase "to empower." But according to two Harvard Latin professors contacted by BuzzFeed News, the phrase is something close to gibberish.
"If 'Ad talem' were two words, it would mean 'For such a person,'" Kathleen Coleman, a classics professor at Harvard, wrote in an email. "But I don’t know what exactly the sense of that would be."
"I have no idea from where that definition comes," said Jan Ziolkowski, a Harvard professor of medieval Latin, though he noted that Google search results for "Adtalem" do come up with results for “to empower."
DeVry Education Group is hoping to overcome a troubled history of its own. Just last year, it reached a $100 million settlement with the Federal Trade Commission for misrepresentations to students.
Newly-dubbed Altierus may have a Latin-sounding name, but the school is upfront about its provenance. Its president said in a statement that its name was a combination of "alt," for alternative; "tier," to signify quality; and "us," a reference to "us-faculty."
“It was really hard to shake the reputation of the past,” Peter Taylor, the company's CEO, told the website Inside Higher Education about Everest's troubled brand. "Every conversation we had to say, ‘We’re not those guys.’”
The Obama Education Department, which spent years targeting for-profit colleges like DeVry and Everest, has been replaced by a Republican administration much more friendly toward for-profit and career colleges. But many schools are still struggling to overcome the legacy of the Obama years.
After its parent company went out of business, Everest was converted by a student-loan company into a nonprofit, and has invested money in reinventing the school and its programs. It dropped the school's infamous commercials, which once aired frequently on daytime television and featured low-budget scenes of young people urging viewers to get their lives together.
But like its predecessor, the nonprofit has also struggled with declining enrollments, and an Associated Press investigation last year found that it still retained some of the troubling practices of its former owner.
DeVry Education Group is changing its name to Adtalem Education. A previous version of this story said that DeVry University was changing its name.
Molly Hensley-Clancy is a business reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in New York. She covers the intersection of business and education.
Contact Molly Hensley-Clancy at email@example.com.
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