Coalition Responds to Fresh Evidence that GAO Deliberately Issued Biased Report on Career Colleges

Following the release of new evidence that the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) significantly mishandled its biased August 2010 report highly critical of career colleges, Coalition for Educational Success Managing Director Penny Lee released the following statement:

"Fresh and damning evidence confirms what we have said all along: the GAO not only mishandled its August 2010 report critical of career colleges but the agency knowingly and deliberately bowed to political pressure from Senator Harkin and Senate Health Education Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee staff members, resulting in an inaccurate and biased report. Today’s news also shows they allowed a deeply flawed process to proceed without ever correcting it. Internal GAO communications, revealed in a Daily Caller story, show the extent of influence that Senate staff exerted on what was supposed to be an independent analysis.

"The discredited GAO report continues to be cited as justification for the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful employment regulation, referenced by major media outlets, cited in newspaper editorials and used as the basis of legal action by state Attorneys General. Although the damage has already been inflicted on career colleges, it is time for the GAO to go beyond revising and instead retract the discredited report and renounce its findings. Furthermore, it is indefensible for the Department to continue to pursue its proposed gainful employment regulation when the foundation of that standard – the GAO report – has been reduced to rubble.

“On November 30, 2010, the GAO took the rare step of revising its original report. The revised report corrected errors in the prior version’s quotation or description of taped interviews conducted by undercover GAO agents posing as college applicants. Out of 28 "scenarios" reported, the revised report corrected 15. Every correction involved an error made in the same direction – erroneously suggesting fraud or exaggerating wrongdoing by career college representatives.

“Even more remarkably, the revised report still contains a large number of errors and distortions evidently designed to support the original conclusion that the GAO investigators found substantial evidence of wrongdoing.

“Following the issuance of the amended report, the GAO announced significant internal restructuring of the Forensic Audit and Special Investigations (FSI) Unit responsible for the report, including demotion of the unit’s head in charge of the creation of the report following an internal investigation.

“The GAO report has caused serious harm to career colleges and the millions of students who rely on them for access to higher education and job opportunities, as well as employers and industries that hire career college graduates to fill in-demand jobs.

“On February 2, 2011, the Coalition for Educational Success filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Government for negligence and malpractice in connection with the issuance of the biased report. The recently uncovered evidence confirms that the GAO knowingly and willingly produced an inaccurate and biased report.”

About the Coalition for Educational Success
The Coalition for Educational Success includes many of the nation’s leading career colleges, serving more than 350,000 students at 478 campuses in 41 states. Career colleges provide training for students in 17 of the 20 fastest growing fields. The Coalition advocates for policies that support wider access to higher education, particularly for non-traditional students including full-time workers, workforce returners, working parents, minorities and veterans.

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