The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that recruiting violations are apparently quite serious across for-profit colleges. According to an article by Daniel de Vise in the Washington Post:

The… study used undercover investigators to pose as applicants at 15 for-profit colleges around the nation. Congress had asked the agency to determine whether the sector, which has fallen under intense federal scrutiny, engaged in fraud, deception or questionable marketing practices, as critics allege.

Investigators found evidence of all those kinds of abuses. One unidentified college told an undercover applicant to fabricate three dependents on an aid form so that he might qualify for a federal grant. A Texas institution advised an applicant not to report a $250,000 inheritance because it “was not the government’s business.” A small D.C. beauty college told an applicant that barbers can make $150,000 to $250,000 a year.

Institutions the GAO investigated included the Apollo Group Inc., Corinthian Colleges Inc., and Kaplan Higher Education.

The for-profit colleges’ lobbying group, the Career College Association, said that it found the revelations of the GAO report “deeply troubling” and promised to take several steps to immediately improve for-profit recruiting. According to the association’s president, Harris Miller:

Even if the problems cited in the GAO report are limited to a few individuals at a few institutions, we can have zero tolerance for bad behavior. As educators, our commitment must always be to put students first, even if that means taking action against individual employees or institutions that color outside the lines.

A few institutions? Apollo, Corinthian, and Kaplan are three of the largest for-profit education institutions in the United States of America, enrolling more than 640,000 people total.

The Kaplan Corporation is owned by, and largely funds, the Washington Post Company.

Read the GAO report here.

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