WASHINGTON, DC - Fraud and questionable marketing practices are just some of the latest findings announced Wednesday after a national wide government investigation into for-profit colleges industry.
Over a three month period the Government Accountability Office, or GAO, conducted undercover investigations into the recruitment processes of 15 for-profit colleges.
"The evidence points to a problem that is systemic...a problem that is systemic... to the for profit industry. A recruitment process specifically
designed to do whatever it takes to drive up enrollment numbers....more often then not to the disadvantage of students," said Sen. Tom Harkin, a Democrat from Iowa.
The GAO provided undercover videos of schools promising potential students higher than averages wages after graduation, refusing to allow students to access to financial aid counselors until after enrolment, and encouraging students to lie on financial aid forms in-order to obtain more government grants.
"We found that four colleges encouraged our students to commit fraud, all fifteen provided deceptive and questionable information," said Gregory Kutz, GAO Managing Director of Forensic Audits.
It is estimated for-profit college enrollment has increased from 600,000 to nearly 2 million in the past ten years. In 2009 students at these colleges received $4 billion in Pell grants and more than $20 billion in federal loans from the Department of Education. The dropout rate at for-profit colleges is extremely high, and the GAO said the goal for many of these schools is to enroll students, not necessarily keep them.
"These colleges to not appear to have any enrollment standards and cost appears to be irrelevant because the federal government is paying for a vast majority of this. So the aggressive marketing to anybody walking in the door should not be a surprise to anybody," said Kutz.
However, the GAO said this does not mean all for-profit colleges are deceptive, Sen. Mike Enzi ( R- WY) said for-profits are an integral part of
higher education, and many of these problems are not exclusive to these types of schools.
"By focusing only on for profits we are not being objective and we're ignoring the bigger picture of what's happening across all hire education....public and non profit schools are not immune from inappropriate behavior when it comes to recruiting," said Sen. Enzi.
Senators said these schools need to be held accountable, the GAO said there is a risk the schools will blame rouge employees.