The largest private college in Michigan is a nonprofit that spends more on marketing than on financial aid and graduates fewer than a quarter of its students, according to a joint investigation from the Detroit Free Press and ProPublica that was published Wednesday.
Federal data shows that Baker College’s graduation rate is well below the national average for private four-year schools and is the third lowest among 26 private four-year schools in Michigan. Ten years after enrolling at Baker, fewer than half of former students made more than $28,000 a year.
Baker has an unusual oversight structure in which the university president also serves on the Board of Trustees, the Free Press and ProPublica reported. A retired Baker president served as the board chair until recently, earning more than $1 million a year for part-time work, the investigation showed. Boards are typically used to counterbalance university administrations and check their power, making the Baker arrangement highly unusual.
Baker officials told the Free Press and ProPublica that its open enrollment policy, under which it accepts most applicants with a high school degree or GED, is to blame for its low graduation rate. Baker has stressed its commitment to improving student outcomes and reducing debt but has not said how it does so, the Free Press and ProPublica reported.
Baker spent $9.7 million on marketing in the 2019–20 school year, which its president, Bart Daig, has previously said was justified because many of the programs Baker offers are not well-known.