The Scrutiny Spreads

As the U.S. Department of Education and a Senate committee push ahead with their scrutiny of for-profit higher education, the sector may also face greater oversight from the Pentagon in the months and years ahead, if a Wednesday examination by a House of Representatives panel is any evidence.

At a hearing billed as a discussion of how the Department of Defense keeps tabs on the "quality and value" of the postsecondary institutions at which active duty members can use military tuition assistance grants, members of the Armed Services Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations made clear that they are concerned that distance learning programs — especially those offered by for-profit colleges — may not be the best use of federal funds.

In fiscal 2010, said Representative Vic Snyder (D-Ark.), the subcommittee’s chairman, the Defense Department and armed services have spent a combined $580 million on military tuition assistance programs. About 40 percent of that money went to for-profit colleges, which represented 30 percent of enrollments. “Although for-profit schools have become increasingly popular, the onus is on the department, services, and Congress to ensure the rigor of their programs,” Snyder said in his opening statement. “The bottom line is we must insist that all schools that accept tuition assistance funding offer a quality education and not just a degree.”

Though Snyder said the hearing was not aimed at “trying to solve … this whole issue of the for-profit versus not-for-profit schools,” he expressed concern that for-profit colleges serving military students were not getting sufficient scrutiny, whether from the Defense Department or other government agencies.


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