With Mitt Romney scheduled to visit a for-profit college in North Carolina on August 12, will Fox News finally note the problem of for-profit colleges using deceptive practices to target veterans?
In April, President Obama signed an executive order aimed at helping protect veterans from the actions of some for-profit colleges. Fox News responded by calling the order "a political stunt" and derided it as a "political gimmick." It further attacked Obama by claiming that the order was an "insult to the troops."
By contrast, veterans groups, who have "long felt that student veterans need to have the tools to succeed when it comes to their education," greeted Obama's actions with praise. The American Legion said the order was an "important victory" for veterans who "have been wrongly and unconscionably victimized by some institutions who see America's finest as nothing more than a vulnerable market."
As Stars & Stripes reported, the order Obama signed "will limit college recruiters' access to military bases, develop a complaint system to track violations by schools, force colleges to provide graduation rates and student debt information, and crack down on institutions using the term 'GI Bill' in their veterans outreach efforts." The article added:
The measure mirrors a host of bills pending before Congress but bypasses the legislative process, which has been mired in partisan discord for months. Privately, both Republican and Democratic lawmakers have backed many of the ideas but said passing any legislation dealing with the problem was unlikely before November.
But officials said that action was needed sooner, to address a growing list of complaints by student veterans regarding unfulfilled promises and unexpected debt from colleges. They cited anecdotes of college recruiters -- particularly from for-profit schools -- signing up brain-injured troops for classes, forcing unneeded student loans on veterans, and promising career opportunities through worthless degree programs.
Indeed, the findings of a two-year investigation by the Senate Democratic Committee, which examined 30 for-profit colleges in 2010, confirmed that veterans and service members have become "prime targets for these aggressive recruiting tactics," through the exploitation of what is known as the "90/10 rule."
The New York Times explained:
The bulk of the for-profit colleges' revenue, more than 80 percent in most cases, comes from taxpayers. The report found that many for-profit colleges are working desperately to find new strategies to comply with the federal regulation that at least 10 percent of revenue must come from sources other than the Department of Education. Because veterans' benefits count toward that 10 percent even though they come from the federal government, aggressive recruiting of students from the military has become the norm.
The Times went on to report that the investigation found that the colleges employed "35,202 recruiters compared with 3,512 career services staffers," adding that "tuition decisions seem to be driven more by profit-seeking than instructional costs":
An internal memo from the finance director of a Kaplan nursing program in Sacramento, for example, recommended an 8 percent increase in fees, saying that "with the new pricing, we can lose two students and still make the same profit." Similarly, the chief financial officer at National American University wrote in an e-mail to executives that the university had not met its profit expectation for the summer quarter, so "as a result" it would need a midyear tuition increase.
Romney, who has reportedly praised for-profit colleges in the past, is scheduled to appear at Universal Technical Institute on Sunday in Charlotte, North Carolina. From McClatchy:
This is not the first time Romney has touted the benefits of for-profit colleges. In January, Romney praised Full Sail University in Florida for increasing competition and helping "hold down the cost" of education." The school is one of the most expensive colleges in America, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
McClatchy went on to note that the report found that UTI "spends far less on marketing than most for-profits and that half of the students receive their associate's degrees or certificates," but that the college "received $24.9 million in post-9/11 GI benefits from 2009 to 2011, averaging $22,767 per veteran, compared with an average of $4,642 per veteran at public colleges."
According to the article, veterans' groups have "launched a campaign warning new veterans and their spouses of 'predatory for-profit' colleges that are targeting GI Bill benefits."
In reporting on Romney's visit, will Fox take the time to fairly report on the issue of for-profit colleges and veterans or will it continue to deceptively criticize efforts to fix this problem?