GAO to Investigate For-Profit Colleges

Yesterday five lawmakers asked the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) to look into the quality of for-profit colleges as well as how much of for-profit revenue comes from federal government money. According to the press release issued by the House Committee on Education and Labor:

Currently, for-profit colleges account for less than ten percent of total higher education enrollment but account for approximately 25 percent of all Federal student aid disbursements.

The study will focus on the rapid growth of this industry over the last few years, the reported aggressive recruitment of students, increased variety in the delivery methods used to provide education to students and the quality and value of education provided. Many for-profit colleges play a valuable role in post-secondary education, but taxpayers and students must have confidence that these programs consistently provide high-quality education opportunities.

The letter ordering the study was signed by Representative George Miller of California, chairman of the House education committee; Senator Tom Harkin of Iowa, chairman of the Senate education committee; Senator Richard Durbin of Illinois; and Representatives Timothy Bishop of New York and Ruben Hinojosa of Texas.

The for-profit college lobbying group, the Carrer College Association, said it looked forward to the GAO assessment, because,

Elitist Wall Street stock manipulators, rather than higher education experts, have been driving hyperbolic media coverage, creating the impression that outliers are the norm, and insulting millions of hardworking students and graduates in the process. We have every expectation that the GAO, using facts and figures, will provide a full and fair review. Secretary Duncan has said repeatedly he wants to get the regulatory changes right, and waiting for the GAO to conduct its study is one way to further that goal.

View the legislators’ letter to the GAO here.

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer