Online for-profit colleges compared to ‘predatory lending industry’ in whistleblower lawsuit

Many of the industry’s largest colleges with the most recognizable brand names have advertised using the anywhere, anytime convenience of online courses that appeal to adults with hectic schedules.

“Online education is quite distinct from the profit motive of [for-profit schools],” said Barmak Nassirian, associate executive director of the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), who spoke during Harkin’s July 21 roundtable discussion. “But the confluence comes when people see for-profits highlighting their online classes.”

Associating online education with a college sector that has been hammered by public figures, nonprofit organizations, and ED officials in recent years could tarnish the public’s perception of web-based learning, Nassirian said.

“Committing fraud is easier from a distance,” he said, referring to a 2010 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report detailing how for-profits pressure students into signing up for massive student loans. “That’s just the nature of distance delivery. It’s just like eMails you get from princes in West Africa asking for money. There’s more ambiguity online.”

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