Bloomberg News

For-Profit Colleges Violated Rules on Cheating, GAO Says

November 29, 2011

Nov. 22 (Bloomberg) -- Seven out of 12 for-profit colleges attended online by undercover U.S. investigators violated school policies on cheating, grading standards and loan counseling, a report by the Government Accountability Office found.

One or more instructors at two colleges repeatedly noted that the students were submitting plagiarized work, yet took no action, according to the agency, Congress’s investigative arm. One student submitted photos of celebrities and political figures to reply to an essay question and earned a passing grade, the agency said. The GAO didn’t name the colleges.

Congress, the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Justice Department are scrutinizing the recruitment practices, student-loan defaults and quality of for-profit colleges, which include Apollo Group Inc., operator of the University of Phoenix, the largest chain by enrollment. For-profit colleges received almost $32 billion in federal grants and loans during the 2009-2010 school year.

“The findings of this report underscore the need for stronger oversight of the for-profit education industry in order to ensure that students and taxpayers are getting a good value for their investment in these schools,” U.S. Senator Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who chairs the committee, said in a statement.

Apollo, based in Phoenix, rose 0.3 percent to $44.94 at 2:59 p.m. in New York. The Bloomberg U.S. for-profit education index fell 0.2 percent.

Brian Moran, interim president of the Washington-based Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit colleges, didn’t immediately return a phone message seeking comment.

--Editors: James Callan, Niamh Ring

To contact the reporter on this story: John Hechinger in Boston at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Jonathan Kaufman at

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