Federal report slams online for-profit colleges

“It is obvious that Congress must step in to hold this heavily federally subsidized industry more accountable,” Harkin said.

The latest GAO report comes two months after the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee charged that more than $1 billion in Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits were spent by students at eight for-profit schools last year.

Errors in the September report were revealed by critics of the Senate findings and later acknowledged by federal officials, and the findings were revised.

“We should be dubious of this new report given the one-sided nature of Senator Harkin’s inquiry into the proprietary sector of higher education and serious flaws in the previous GAO report regarding this sector,” said Brian Moran, interim CEO and president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), a trade group based in Washington, D.C. “Unfortunately, Senator Harkin has chosen to target just one sector of higher education, while similar questions could and should be raised about the non-profit sector.”

Moran said the GAO report targeted bad actors at a few of the country’s thousands of for-profit colleges in an effort to paint the industry as corrupt.

“The reality is that the overwhelming majority of schools in the private sector have proven invaluable in preparing non-traditional students facing unique challenges so they can compete for jobs in a challenging economy,” he said.

The most recent GAO findings included dishonest course registration at one for-profit college.

The undercover student requested part-time enrollment at the college, and signed up for two classes there. The student later found that she had access to three courses provided online, so the student completed the class, and was told later by a college staff member that she would be charged for the extra class that she did not request.

Only three of the 15 GAO investigators who applied to for-profit schools with fake high school diplomas were denied entry.

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