U.S. Government Sting Nets 15 For-Profit Colleges
by Mary Beth Marklein
A government inquiry of 15 for-profit colleges found four cases in which campus officials encouraged applicants to commit fraud and examples at every school of officials lying about or misrepresenting their programs.
Those and other findings are to be presented Wednesday at a Senate committee hearing examining the for-profit higher education industry. The Education Department recently proposed rules to tighten regulation of for-profit colleges, which last year received more than $24 billion in federal loans and grants.
The Government Accountability Office report is based on a three-month effort in which investigators posing as prospective students applied for admission at for-profit colleges in Arizona, California, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Texas and Washington, D.C.
“In some instances, undercover applicants were provided accurate and helpful information by college personnel, such as not to borrow more money than necessary,” the report says. But the details focus on fraud and “deceptive and otherwise questionable sales and marketing practices.” Examples:
- An applicant to a certificate program in California was encouraged to add more dependents in the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, in order to qualify for Pell Grants.
- College representatives in Florida, Pennsylvania and Texas suggested undercover applicants not
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