Senate Committee Schedules For-profit College Hearing

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions scheduled a hearing on for-profit colleges for Feb. 17, a spokeswoman for the committee said today.

A topic for the hearing has not been announced, said Justine Sessions, the spokeswoman. The hearing will be the fourth held by Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who heads the panel.

Previous committee hearings have focused on the education industry’s use of government funds, program quality, and student recruitment techniques. While Harkin has said he plans to file legislation to further regulate industry practices detailed during the hearings, the Republican-controlled House of Representatives may stand in his way, said Jarrel Price, an analyst with Height Analytics in Washington.

“The big question is whether he can go beyond the rhetoric and do something that will impact the industry,” Price said today in a telephone interview.

The Bloomberg U.S. For-Profit Education Index of 13 companies fell 2.8 percent at the 4 p.m. New York time close of markets. It has lost 27 percent in the past 12 months.

‘Fair and Balanced’

“We hope that the committee will have a fair and balanced hearing, looking at all of higher education, not just private sector colleges and universities, as several committee members have requested,” said Harris Miller, president of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, a Washington-based trade group, in an e-mail. “We also hope that data, not anecdotes, will drive the hearing.”

Miller’s group criticized an Aug. 4 hearing on deceptive student recruitment practices at 15 for-profit colleges that was based on a report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which conducted the investigation for Harkin. The GAO’s probe was “undermined” when it revised passages from its study in November, Miller said.

The GAO report’s conclusion that recruiters at the schools visited made fraudulent, deceptive or “otherwise questionable” statements still stands, Harkin has said.

BLOOMBERG

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