Skepticism Exists Around New GAO Report on Career Colleges

November 22, 2011 — Washington, DC — Following today's release of the new Government Accountability Office (GAO) report which attempts to document the academic experiences of some students attending a judgmentally selected group of career colleges, Coalition for Educational Success Managing Director Penny Lee released the following statement:

"This latest report from the GAO needs to be viewed with an eye of skepticism based on past performance and issues surrounding the FSI unit at GAO. With more than a hint of irony, today's report is released almost a year to the day as the highly-edited revised 2010 report.

"The Standards of Responsible Conduct and Transparency, recently released by the Foundation for Educational Success, address some of the important student protection issues that the report mentions.  Wider adoption of these Standards, by all institutions of higher education, would help to ensure that issues like these don’t exist in the future.  We hope more schools will join the Foundation's Standards and improve transparency, disclosure and student readiness at their school.

"To date, the GAO has refused to address the biased nature of its August 2010 report on career colleges and the importance of the November 2010 revisions.  This is despite a formal finding by the House Appropriations Committee that the 2010 report 'significant mistakes and misstatements in its analysis of the for-profit college sector.'

"Significant GAO restructuring and staff demotion took place as a result of the GAO's admission of mismanagement in its 2010 investigation of career colleges, yet the GAO refused to fully retract the report or its conclusion.  Without question, those who were demoted or otherwise held responsible for the inadequacies in the 2010 report should be excluded from future involvement in GAO analysis of higher education.

"The GAO continues to misrepresent the career college sector through the promotions of erroneous data, cherry-picked sampling and sloppy and misleading audit work.  The GAO and Senator Harkin’s continuing down this path simply damages higher education opportunities for Americans in a fragile economy.Indeed, how Senator Harkin and the GAO can conveniently ignore the growing on-line operations of traditional universities in this review would be mystifying if not for the prior track record of biased, sector-targeted and factually incorrect work of the FSI unit.

“Instead of denigrating the value of the degrees and certificates that graduates of career colleges earn, the GAO should make public the results of its investigation into how the 2010 report on career colleges, release all the materials related to tainted 2010 report and retract the 2010 report.”

The Coalition for Educational Success
The Coalition for Educational Success includes many of the nation's leading career colleges. 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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