WASHINGTON POST: Slick for-profit college marketing is starting to backfire

Career College Central Summary:

  • With endless TV commercials, radio ads, mailings and billboards, the country's largest for-profit universities have made themselves household names. But the marketing often doesn't end there.
  • Schools have been known to bombard people with calls, drive by their homes or even try to recruit them in the hospital. They promise flexible schedules, affordable classes and job placement, but often fail to deliver. And Washington has had enough.
  • Federal regulators and lawmakers are cracking down on for-profit colleges for what they say are misleading and aggressive recruitment practices. Investigations are mounting, and efforts are under way to cut off access to federal dollars for advertising, a move that could deal a blow to an industry already in turmoil.
  • On Thursday, Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) introduced legislation to ban colleges from using federal student grants and loans for advertising, marketing or recruitment. While the bill covers all colleges and universities, Brown said it is largely aimed at preventing for-profit schools from using taxpayer money to benefit shareholders.
  • “Federal student aid and taxpayer dollars should be used to educate students, not fund corporate marketing campaigns,” Brown said. “Because of deceptive marketing practices, students looking for a quality college education can find themselves at for-profit institutions that are more concerned with profit margins than career readiness.”
  • A 2012 Senate investigation found that 15 of the largest for-profit colleges received 86 percent of their revenue from federal student aid programs, and spent 23 percent of their budgets, $3.7 billion dollars, on some form of recruitment. By comparison, nonprofit colleges spent less than a percent of their revenue on marketing, according to the investigation.

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