WASHINGTON—Today, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, unveiled a report on the findings of the Committee’s two-year investigation of the for-profit higher education industry. The report outlines widespread problems throughout the sector, as evidenced by the thousands of pages of never-before-released internal documents that education companies submitted to the Committee at Harkin’s request.
“In this report, you will find overwhelming documentation of overpriced tuition, predatory recruiting practices, sky-high dropout rates, billions of taxpayer dollars spent on aggressive marketing and advertising, and companies gaming regulations to maximize profits. These practices are not the exception — they are the norm; they are systemic throughout the industry, with very few exceptions,” Harkin said.
“Justice Louis Brandeis famously said that sunlight is the best disinfectant. As a result of this investigation, a wide range of Americans – including taxpayers, prospective students and their families – are waking up to the troubling realities of this industry. I hope that for-profit colleges will be moved by this final report to reform and focus on students’ success instead of just their financial aid dollars. But that will not be enough — real, bold legislative reforms are critical. We need to know how every student is faring. We need to ensure that resources intended for education are spent productively. We need colleges to provide the services that students need to succeed. And for companies so reliant on taxpayer revenues, we need to start requiring they demonstrate results for students, not just shareholders.”
Findings of the report include:
Staggering investment of tax dollars: Taxpayers are investing more than $30 billion a year into companies that operate for-profit colleges, including 25% of Department of Education student aid funds, 37% of Post-9/11 GI Bill benefits, and 50% of Department of Defense Tuition Assistance funds. Among the 15 publicly traded for-profit college companies, the total of these sources accounts for 86% of revenues.
Sky-high tuition:Most for-profit colleges charge higher tuition than community colleges or flagship public universities for comparable programs: on average, B.A. programs cost 19% more than at flagship public universities, Associate programs four times more than at community colleges, and certificate programs cost four times more than at community colleges. Internal documents indicate that for-profit education companies set tuition to satisfy profit goals, and rarely set tuition below available federal student aid. Partially because of these high costs, 96% of for-profit students take out federal and/or private loans to cover the cost and more than one in five will default on those loans within three years.
Predatory recruiting: Internal documents, interviews with former employees, and GAO undercover recordings demonstrate that many companies train recruiters in tactics of emotional exploitation in order to get prospective students to enroll. Some companies have also been using tactics that mislead prospective students with regard to the cost of the program, the time to complete the program, the completion rates of other students, the success of other students at finding jobs, the transferability of the credit, or the reputation and accreditation of the school. Additionally, the 90-10 rule has made veterans and servicemembers prime targets for these aggressive recruiting tactics.
Too many students leave with debt, but no degree: The HELP Committee analyzed student data provided by 30 for-profit higher education companies and found that for students who enrolled in 2008-09, more than half withdrew by mid-2010. For Associate degree students, that number was even higher: 64% of 2-year students left with no degree.
Billions in taxpayer dollars diverted to marketing, executive salaries, and profits: In FY2009, the 30 companies examined devoted 22.4% of all revenues, or $4.1 billion, to marketing, advertising, recruiting and admissions staffing; 19.4%, or $3.6 billion, to profit; and 17.7%, or $3.2 billion, to student instruction. The average CEO salary was $7.3 million in 2009, more than seven times the average salary of large public university presidents, and more than twice the average at non-profit colleges and universities. The amount allocated to marketing and to profit each exceeded the 17.4 % spent on student instruction.
Gaming the regulatory system to maximize profits: Internal documents show that for-profit education companies use multiple strategies to comply with the letter of the 90/10 rule that both defy the spirit of regulations and lead to policies that are bad for students, including stopping the flow of needed federal student aid to certain campuses before the end of the fiscal year, or raising tuition above available federal aid to create a gap that must be filled by private loans or out-of-pocket cash or credit card payments. In order to keep student default rates under the acceptable threshold for access to federal financial aid, some companies pay vendors and employees to make thousands of calls to former students to “cure” students at risk of default. Documents obtained from four large for-profit schools show that on average, 75% of the students “cured” were placed in forbearance or deferment. While keeping the company eligible for taxpayer dollars, these practices distort default rates, and at least in some cases, these practices delay rather than avert default on balances that continue to accumulate interest.
For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success
Part I – Majority Final Report On For-Profit Higher Education
Part II – Profiles of 30 For-Profit Education Companies
Alta Colleges, Inc. (19,190 students, based in Denver, CO)
American Career Colleges, Inc. (4,761 students, based in Irvine, CA)
American Public Education (77,000 students, based in Charlestown, WV)
Anthem Education Group (12,792 students, based in Phoenix, AZ)
Apollo Group, Inc. (470,800 students, based in Phoenix, AZ)
Bridgepoint Education, Inc. (77,179 students, based in San Diego, CA)
Capella Education Company (38,634 students, based in Minneapolis, MN)
Career Education Corporation (118,205 students, based in Schaumburg, IL)
Chancellor University LLC (739 students, based in Seven Hills, OH)
Concorde Career Colleges, Inc. (7,952 students, based in Kansas City, MO)
Corinthian Colleges, Inc. (113,818 students, based in Santa Ana, CA)
DeVry, Inc. (130,375 students, based in Downers Grove, IL)
ECPI Colleges, Inc. (13,119 students, based in Virginia Beach, VA)
Education America, Inc. (10,018 students, based in Heathrow, FL)
Education Management Corporation (158,300 students, based in Pittsburg, PA)
Grand Canyon Education, Inc. (42,300 students, based in Phoenix, AZ)
Henley Putnam University (515 students, based in San Jose, CA)
Herzing, Inc. (8,253 students, based in Milwaukee, WI)
ITT Educational Services, Inc. (88,004 students, based in Carmel, IN)
Kaplan Higher Education Corporation (112,141 students, New York City, NY)
The Keiser School, Inc. (18,956 students, based in Fort Lauderdale, FL)
Lincoln Education Services Company (33,175 students, based in West Orange, NJ)
Med-Com Career Training / Drake College (2,692 students, based in Elizabeth, NJ)
National American University Holdings, Inc. (8,255 students, based in Rapid City, SD)
Rasmussen Colleges, Inc. (17,090 students, based in Minnetonka, MN)
Strayer Education, Inc. (60,711 students, based in Arlington, VA)
TUI Learning LLC (7,307 students, based in Cypress, CA)
Universal Technical Institute, Inc. (21,000 students, based in Scottsdale, AZ)
Vatterott Education Holdings, Inc. (11,163 students, based in St. Louis, MO)
Walden, LLC (47,456 students, based in Minneapolis, MN)
Part III – Minority Committee Staff Views
Appendix 01: Definitions
Appendix 02: The Committee Investigation
Appendix 03: Methodology
Appendix 04: The Committee Document Request and Compliance
Appendix 05: The Undercover General Accountability Office Recruiting Investigation, Report and Corrections
Appendix 06: Responses of Companies to Documents Being Made Public
Appendix 07: Fall Enrollment, 2001-10
Appendix 08: OPEID Numbers Controlled by Each of 30 Companies Examined, Fiscal Year 2010
Appendix 09: Funds Reported Pursuant to 90/10 Rule by Company, Fiscal Years 2006-10
Appendix 10: Estimated Federal Revenues, Fiscal Year 2010
Appendix 11: Post 9-11 GI Bill Disbursements to 30 Companies Examined and Cumulative Data
Appendix 12: Tuition Assistance and MyCAA Disbursements to 30 Companies and Cumulative Data Fiscal Years 2009 and 2010
Appendix 13: Pell Grant Disbursements, Award Year 2007-10
Appendix 14: Tuition and Fee Comparison
Appendix 15: Retention and Withdrawal
Appendix 16: Trial 3-Year Cohort Default Rates by Company, Fiscal Years 2005-8
Appendix 17: Executive Compensation
Appendix 18: Revenue, Expenses, and Profit (Operating Income), Fiscal Years 2006-10
Appendix 19: Revenue, Profit (Operating Income), Marketing, Fiscal Year 2009
Appendix 20: Per Student Spending on Profit, Fiscal Year 2009
Appendix 21: Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Per Student Spending on Instruction, Fiscal Year 2009
Appendix 22: Per Student Spending on Marketing, Recruiting, and Admissions, Fiscal Year 2009
Appendix 23: Per Student Spending on Instruction at Comparison Institutions in Other Sectors
Appendix 24: Employee Distribution by Company, Fiscal Year 2006-10
Appendix 25: Documents Released In Conjunction With This Report
Official Committee Print
Find the report on the Government Printing Office website.