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Saga of For-Profits Continues With Report Revisions

The saga continues over the stinging investigation of for-profit colleges, with revisions issued this week and, now, calls for full release of the videotapes.

The report from the Government Accounting Office in July was a scathing portrayal of 15 for-profit colleges making deceptive or otherwise questionable statements to undercover applicants. The examples of reps inflating job prospects and aggressive recruiting of vulnerable students fueled the outcry for reform at U.S. Senate education hearings in September and August.

But under pressure from for-profit institutions, the GAO issued revised portions of its report this week, weakening some of the examples. The word from the office of Sen.Tom Harkin of Iowa, who had led the charge for reform, is that the revisions don't change the substance of the report. Critics see it differently. Sen. Michael Enzi, a Republican from Wyoming, says the changes are substantial and is calling for the report to be withdrawn.

Yesterday, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities called on the GAO to release the videotapes collected by the mystery shoppers. A statement by the association said it was "fearful that if the negligent practices that led to the need for so many changes are repeated in future reports, the consequences could be as great or greater." It is asking that the GAO put the research in a broad context by stating the number of schools visited in its original report, as opposed to those reported on.

In the new year, it will be interesting to see if the issue moves in light of this news and the influx of Republicans in the new Congress. Signs of partisan bickering over potential reforms were evident at the hearing in the fall.

In other news on the for-profit front, Kaplan Higher Education announced Tuesday it would cut about 5 percent of its workforce, or 770 jobs, in the wake of dipping enrollments.

Similarly, Apollo Group announced it would be eliminating 700 people at the University of Phoenix, mostly from admissions in response to declining enrollment.

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