In addition, 17 state attorneys general are reviewing the industry for possible violations of consumer protection statutes. The aim is to protect both students and taxpayers.
Not all for-profit schools are implicated in wrongdoing, but various investigations have found problems, particularly with those that derive most of their revenues from federal student aid.
A government investigation from last year found practices such as overly aggressive recruiting, where school representatives barraged potential students with phone calls, gave false information about a college’s accreditation, potential salary and job opportunities after graduation, and doctored federal aid forms.
Investigations have also noted that tuition at for-profits can cost thousands of dollars more, even as much as 30 times the price of comparable programs at community colleges.
Other investigations found that for-profit recruiters heavily target low-income and minority students, veterans, and people whose parents have never gone to college. Enrollment at for-profits has increased fivefold in the past decade to nearly 2 million.
Students often choose to attend these colleges for a variety of reasons, including the hope of getting a degree faster, a perception that the classes may be easier, and the availability of night and weekend classes.
However, degrees from for-profit institutions often don’t lead to good careers.
Data from several investigations at the federal and state level suggest that the public investment in educating students at some for-profits isn’t a good deal for taxpayers, or for many students. Thousands of students have taken out federal loans to attend a for-profit college, only to default on them.