3/16/18 - Director Alex Shebanow writes in Forbes

"I Found My Voice in Community College"

The College Promise Campaign, a bipartisan organization promoting free community college programs across the country, recently approached Fail State's director Alex Shebanow to write an op-ed on his community college experience and how that led him to make Fail State. The piece is entitled, "I Found My Voice in Community College," and it's currently buzzing around social media. As of 3/16/18, it's been read over 68,000 times and rising every hour.

I can trace back much of the documentary’s development to my days at Foothill and the voice I found there, especially to the experiences of my classmates who were unable to finish their college journey. I was fortunate that I came from a family that could afford my tuition and could give me an opportunity to go to school and find my voice. Unfortunately, many others are not as lucky.

Check out the full article on Forbes.

3/7/18 - Fail State Sells Out SXSW EDU


Introduction by Dan Rather and discussion with LSU's Alexander & College Promise Campaign's Kanter

The Fail State team is back from Austin where we premiered the film in front of a sold out house at SXSW EDU. Fail State's executive producer Dan Rather introduced the film and Ernest Ezeugo of New America moderated an exceptional post-screening panel with Louisiana State University President F. King Alexander, College Promise executive director Martha Kanter, and Fail State director Alex Shebanow. The film was a smash hit and the audience stayed 40 minutes minutes after the film to listen to the discussion.  

After the screening, the Fail State team hosted a cocktail reception at a nearby restaurant to continue the conversation. Videos and pictures below. 

2/26/18 - Fail State screens twice at Big Sky Documentary Film Festival


Missoula, MT - Director Alex Shebanow and producer Tyler Comes traveled to icy Montana last week to premiere Fail State for the first time in the Northwest United States. Landing at the airport, the weather report read 0 degrees Fahrenheit with wind chill of -12. However, Alex and Tyler were immediately met with the warmth and friendship of Missoula's incomparable residents. Alex and Tyler stayed for 8 days and fell in love with the festival, the city, and state 


Big Sky hosted two screenings of Fail State, one at the historic Wilma Theater and the other at the Roxy in downtown Missoula. The film was an overwhelming success at both screenings with audiences staying for extended Q&A's with director Alex. Check out the pictures and video below! 

Until next time, Missoula! 

12/4/17 - Alex sits down with The Chronicle of Higher Education


"‘Fail State’ Confronts For-Profits and Laments the Disinvestment in Publics" by Lee Gardner

Fail State's director Alex Shebanow recently sat down with The Chronicle Senior Reporter Lee Gardner to discuss Fail State, Alex's personal attachment to community colleges, and higher-education financial aid 2.0.

Here's the opening: 

"Alex Shebanow is an unlikely scourge of for-profit education. He’s not an academic or a professional policy wonk. He isn’t even 30 yet. But as director of the new documentary film Fail State, he goes after for-profit colleges with a ferocity that belies an otherwise gentle demeanor.
Mr. Shebanow’s directorial debut tells two stories that will be at least somewhat familiar to anyone who works in higher education: the rise of the for-profit sector and state disinvestment in public institutions. By combining those two narratives, the film illuminates a third: the ebb and flow of federal policy that has, at times, enabled both. The most memorable characters are the students he interviews, who have racked up tens of thousands of dollars in debt to go to for-profit colleges and say they paid for worthless credentials. Several tell stories of being manipulated and duped by recruiters. Mr. Shebanow didn’t intend to take on for-profit higher education, but the "unconscionable" practices of many institutions seized his interest." 

Read the whole interview here (paywall):

11/14/17 — Fail State featured in MarketWatch


Dan Rather on for-profit colleges: ‘It’s hard to find anything more outrageous than this’

"New film exposes how for-profit colleges exploit veterans and single moms" By Jillian Berman


Our director Alex recently sat down for an interview with MarketWatch to discuss Fail State and how predatory for-profit colleges target veterans, minorities, and single mothers.

"But this film illustrates through interviews, press clips and old commercials that this cycle of malfeasance and regulatory crackdown is nothing new for the for-profit college industry. Ever since the end of World War II, when the government started providing students with money to use at college, for-profit operators have popped up to take advantage. “The incentives to do bad by students are so good and so profitable that there’s almost no incentive to do good by students,” Shebanow said."

The film's executive producer Dan Rather is quoted at the end: 

“There are a lot of outrageous things happening but it’s hard to find anything more outrageous than this,” Rather said. And if the screening is any indication, the general public may agree. Following the movie, one audience member suggested Shebanow mobilize defrauded students and supporters to march on Washington. Another said simply, “This is the most depressing thing I’ve seen in a long time.”

Full Link:

MarketWatch Article by Jillian Berman


11/2/17 - Fail State Review in Texas Observer


"‘Fail State’ Delves into the Shadowy World of For-Profit Colleges" by Rose Cahalan

Our first official movie review by a non-higher ed wonk and it's glowing

 Fail State Student Jennifer Wilson holding her "worthless" diploma from now-defunct Everest University. 

Fail State Student Jennifer Wilson holding her "worthless" diploma from now-defunct Everest University. 

[For-profit colleges are] the subject of Fail State, a briskly paced and emotional new documentary premiering at the Austin Film Festival on Saturday. Written and directed by Alexander Shebanow, a young filmmaker in his feature debut, and executive-produced by Dan Rather, the film details how the for-profit college industry began, what allowed it to rise to power and why legislative attempts to rein it in have had only limited success.

And the finish: 

It’s a sad story, but one you won’t soon forget.

Read the full review here: