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Chairman Harkin Announces HELP Oversight Hearings of Federal Education Dollars at For-Profit Colleges

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), Chairman of the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, today announced that he plans to hold a series of hearings to examine federal education spending at for-profit higher education institutions.  The hearings will begin June 24th.

“In the past two years we have made major new investments to expand federal financial aid,” said Harkin.  “Pell Grants and student loans now provide more than $20 billion to for-profit higher education companies every year.  We need to ensure for-profit colleges are working well to meet the needs of students and not just shareholders.  We owe it to students and taxpayers to make sure these dollars are being well spent.”

Between 1998 and 2008 the for-profit sector has grown from 550,000 students to 1.8 million, a 225 percent increase.  Students at for-profit institutions are borrowing more, and more frequently, than their peers at non-profit schools, and according to the Department of Education, one in five students who left a for-profit college in 2007 defaulted on their loan within three years.

The Committee will examine a broad range of issues related to the growing role of the for-profit higher education sector, including the scope and rapid growth of the federal investment in for-profit higher education and the corresponding opportunities and risks for students and taxpayers.  Details on the first hearing will be available in the coming weeks.