On Wednesday, a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) revealed fraudulent and deceptive practices among several for-profit colleges. For example, an admissions officer for Kaplan College told GAO investigators posing as applicants that Kaplan College has the same accreditation as Harvard University. According to investigators, the misleading tactics are not unique to Kaplan College. In fact, GAO investigators observed similar practices at University of Phoenix, Everest College and Argosy University. Besides being disingenuous, the recruiting ploys that some for-profit colleges use to increase their enrollment and bottom dollar also place billions of dollars in federal student aid at risk. How? According to the report, students who attend for-profit colleges are more likely to default on their student loans. The problem is that for-profit colleges receive nearly one-fourth of all federal aid to college students. Despite the billions of dollars at stake, investigators said that they still encountered cavalier attitudes among admissions officers at for-profit colleges. Here are some quotes from admissions officers at for-profit colleges about student loans — this is what they tell prospective students and applicants:
- “It’s not like a car note, where if you don’t pay they’re gonna come after you” — Recruiter on a Florida campus of MedVance Institute.
- “I owe $85,000 to the University of Florida”… “Will I pay it back? Probably not. I look at life a little differently than most people. I look at life as tomorrow is never promised.” — a Florida-based Kaplan college recruiter.
Kaplan, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Washington Post Company, says that the activities that the GAO described are “contrary to our standards and values in every way.” The company has suspended enrollment at its campuses – located in Pembroke Pines, Florida and Riverside, California– pending an investigation of the GAO findings. According to Kaplan spokeswoman Melissa Mack, the company is working “to ensure that such incidents are not repeated anywhere at our 75 campuses or among our 16,000 higher-education employees.”
Other schools are taking similar actions. According to reports, the University of Phoenix has begun an internal investigation and may fire employees who violate policies that protect students during enrollment. Similarly, Everest College opened an internal investigation at the campuses GAO investigators visited.
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