Once again, for-profit schools under fire

For-profit colleges are working hard to improve their offerings and image and position themselves as clear alternatives to overcrowded community colleges. A report released today did little to help.

The report by the U.S.  Government Accountability Office alleged that several colleges engaged in what it called deceptive marketing practices and encouraged fraud. The report was released a day before a Senate hearing on the topic and comes as U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has proposed new rules that would crack down on the schools for leaving students with too much debt.

“College representatives exaggerated undercover applicants’ potential salary after graduation and failed to provide clear information about the college’s program duration, costs, or graduation rate,” the report said. “Admissions staff used other deceptive practices, such as pressuring applicants to sign a contract for enrollment before allowing them to speak to a financial advisor about program cost and financing options.”

The Career College Association (CCA), which represents some 1,800 members,  called the report “deeply troubling” — and immediately announced plans to encourage oversight.

“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,” CCA President and CEO Harris N. Miller said in a statement. “We will expand our existing compliance program to help CCA member institutions achieve the highest standards,” Miller continued.  “The rules exist to protect students and taxpayers, and must be observed.”