CLEVELAND.COM: With taxpayer money, for-profit colleges spend massively on marketing; Sherrod Brown wants to ban the practice

Career College Central Summary:

  •  The practices of for-profit career colleges — and claims that some rip off students and taxpayers — are coming before Congress again, this time with a threat that could cost the colleges money.
  • U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown wants to make it impossible for any college to use federal money for marketing, advertising or recruiting — a restriction he says would stop profiteering and recruiting abuses. A two-year Senate education committee investigation in 2012 found that for-profit colleges spent more than 20 percent of their revenues on marketing and recruitment, which was more than many spent on instruction.
  • Much of that revenue came from federal student-aid programs, and some was supposed to help military veterans.
  • "American tax dollars spent on education are meant to support students, not support aggressive, deceptive, and misleading marketing campaigns by certain for-profit education companies," Brown, an Ohio Democrat, told the Northeast Ohio Media Group in a statement. "And we cannot allow for these same unscrupulous institutions to use these funds to target servicemembers and veterans in order to exploit loopholes in federal law. When the federal government invests in education, it should support quality education and career readiness, rather than institutions that make empty promises."
  • Brown's is a perennial complaint: Profit-hungry schools fast-talk students into enrolling, offering federally backed loans and grants and promises of good jobs with high salaries. But numerous investigations have found repeated instances in which schools delivered poor or inadequate educations or degrees that lacked accreditation. Student dropout rates have been high, and graduates have been underemployed. Graduates and dropouts alike face high debt burdens.
  • The colleges and private trade schools are profiting almost entirely off the federal government and its aid programs, Brown says. Most get at least 80 percent of their revenue from U.S. Department of Education-sponsored grants and loans.
  • Some schools get more than that, thanks to revenue from the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs for training and educating veterans and active-duty servicemembers.

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