Issa To Investigate GAO’s Report On For-Profit Colleges, Not Abuses At The Schools Themselves

Back in October, as he was growing more confident that Republicans would win a majority in the House and make him chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA) asserted that the committee under his watch would not investigate the widespread foreclosure fraud that was coming to light at the time, but would instead focus on whether the government was helping too many poor people receive home loans. It seems that this won’t be the only instance in which Issa is going to forego investigating corporate abuse in favor of scoring cheap, anti-government political points.

According to National Journal, Issa intends to launch an investigation into the Government Accountability Office, the Congress’ main auditing outfit, after it published revisions to a report it compiled on the deceptive practices of for-profit colleges:

Issa has started his own committee’s investigation of GAO’s Forensic Audit and Special Investigations Unit after GAO revised a report issued in the summer outlining alleged fraudulent recruiting practices at for-profit career colleges. The GAO’s revisions raise concerns about the investigative unit, Issa said in a letter to GAO Chief Quality Officer Timothy Bowling.

The revisions GAO made to its reports on for-profit colleges were, as College Guide’s Daniel Luzner put it, “very real, though rather minor.” They definitely warrant a look, and the GAO is doing its own internal investigation. But while Issa is delving into those who investigated the for-profit college industry, he is giving the industry itself, which is leeching funding from the federal government in the absence of adequate regulation, a free pass.

As I’ve discussed before, for-profit colleges account for just 11 percent of higher education students, yet they receive 26 percent of total federal student aid, and their students make up 43 percent of total student loan defaults. Kaplan Higher Education, for instance, “receives more than 90 percent of its revenue from federal grants and student loans, and 72 percent of its students are not paying back those loans.” As Campus Progress’ David Halperin and Angela Peoples wrote, the for-profit higher education industry is “marked by extremely disturbing behavior by some for-profits, including deceptive recruiting practices, false reporting to authorities, skyrocketing tuition, high dropout rates, and dismal job placement.”

Executives at these schools are paid significantly more than their non-profit and public sector counterparts, and the schools hire hordes of big name lobbyists to fend off federal regulation. “These practices have left many struggling low-income Americans, especially people of color, buried in debt, while diverting scarce federal money away from programs that actually help students and our economy,” Halperin and Peoples noted. But since he can’t find a way to blame government for this industry’s failings, Issa isn’t interested.