Military’s Aid to For-profit Colleges Needs Oversight, Investigators Say

A U.S. military program that paid $175 million to for-profit colleges for active-duty service members’ tuition in 2009 may be wasting money because of insufficient controls and oversight, government investigators said.

The Defense Department grants tuition assistance without having a system to track complaints, and it reviewed less than a third of the courses offered by nonprofit and for-profit colleges, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office that was obtained by Bloomberg News. Schools that offer online courses, especially for-profit colleges, have targeted the funds, according to a statement by Senator Thomas Carper, the Delaware Democrat who requested the study.

Congress and the Department of Veterans Affairs are investigating for-profit and nonprofit colleges that market educational services to current and former military members. The Defense Department paid $517 million to all colleges for service members’ tuition in the year ended Sept. 30, 2009. Carper, chairman of the Senate subcommittee on federal financial management, has invited Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who has been investigating misleading recruitment practices by student recruiters at for-profit colleges, to testify tomorrow at a hearing in Washington on the military benefits program.

“It’s just wrong to say to people who serve our country that we’re not going to make sure you have the best preparation to be successful in the military and afterward,” Carper, a U.S. Navy veteran, said yesterday in a telephone interview. “We can’t afford it as a country.”

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