GAO Reports On The Experiences of Undercover Students

On October 31, 2011, The United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report on For Profit Colleges entitled “FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges.”The GAO conducted an investigation of 15 for-profit colleges, including the 5 largest for-profit colleges, and enrolled or attempted to enroll, students using fictitious identities and documented the GAO’s observations related to enrollment, cost, financial aid, course structure, substandard student performance, withdrawal, and exit counseling.

To test enrollment criteria, the GAO attempted to enroll students using fictitious high school diploma (either a home-school diploma or a diploma from a closed high school).Two for-profit colleges denied the prospective students admission and a third allowed a student to begin class but rescinded the acceptance after one week, citing lack of high school diploma.Title IV Federal Student Aid typically requires students to have secondary school, such as a high school diploma or other secondary school credential such as a GED.

To test student performance/substandard student performance, the GAO had their undercover students engage in 1 or more of the following substandard student performance strategies: “(1) failure to attend class, (2) failure to submit assignments, (3) submission of objectively incorrect assignments (e.g., submitting incorrect answers on multiple-choice quizzes), (4) submission of unresponsive assignments (e.g., submitting pictures when prompted to submit an essay), and (5) submission of plagiarized assignments.”

The for-profit colleges’ response to these behaviors were then documented by the GAO for for-profit colleges failure to follow established school policies and procedures related to academic performance or academic misconduct.Some colleges acted in a manner consistent with school polices while others simply ignored or took no action for students that were submitting plagiarized work.Other colleges did not adhere to grading standards and one student was allowed to submit a photo of celebrities and political figures in lieu of an essay and still received a passing grade.

Some colleges expelled students for performance or nonattendance while others did not acknowledge student withdraw, but eventually expelled for nonattendance.Some colleges also did not provide students with federally mandated exit counseling that advise students of their repayment options and consequences of default.

For-profit colleges received almost $32 billion in federal grants and loans under federal student aid programs during 2009-2010, according to the GAO report.

SOURCE: http://www.gao.gov/new.items/d12150.pdf