Government Accountability Office Launches Second Investigation

By Kevin Kuzma, Editor

Career College Central has learned the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has launched a second investigation into for-profit schools that could involve mystery shopping stings at institutions across the country. A Feb. 1 letter that we obtained confirms that a second investigation is in progress. The letter is signed by Senator John Kline, Chairwoman of the Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Training Virginia Foxx, Carolyn McCarthy, Glenn Thompson and Alcee L. Hastings, and was sent to Comptroller General Gene Dodaro.

“We also learned GAO is currently working on a second investigation involving the proprietary school sector,” the letter says. “We were pleased to hear the original team that handled the initial report is prohibited from participating in the second investigation.”

While it’s unknown what schools are being targeted or the nature of the measures being taken to gather information, Career College Central is issuing this report to update you that possible mystery shopping investigations could be underway at your schools. You can share this news with school staff or other industry contacts as you see fit.

The GAO’s previous investigation made a significant stir in the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearings involving for-profits. Last summer, the GAO conducted an undercover sting to determine if for-profit colleges’ representatives engaged in fraudulent, deceptive, or otherwise questionable marketing practices. During its investigation, GAO investigators posed as prospective students applied for admissions at 15 for-profit colleges in 6 states and Washington, D.C. The colleges were reportedly chosen based on several factors, including those that the Department of Education reported received 89 percent or more of their revenue from federal student aid.

The GAO’s undercover visits at the schools reportedly found that found colleges encouraged fraudulent practices and that all 15 made deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to GAO’s undercover applicants.

The GAO’s sting and the resulting report were widely criticized by for-profit schools and was later amended substantially. In the revised report, the GAO altered language in 16 of the 28 scenarios used as examples in its original report. In all cases, the original language used in the scenarios was inaccurate and biased against the colleges.

View the letter here.  

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