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College's recruiting practices draw congressional fire

Jul. 23, 2014 - 01:58PM   |  
Senate Democratic Leadership Holds News Conference
Sen. Richard Durbin, D-Ill. (T.J. Kirkpatrick / Getty Images)
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Senators and student veteran leaders are working to dissuade would-be college students from using GI Bill funds to enroll at WyoTech and Heald, criticizing the schools’ recent recruiting actions as irresponsible and predatory.

On Monday, Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., asked the Education Department to put an end to all new student enrollments at the schools and other institutions owned by Corinthian Colleges Inc., citing uncertainty with the schools’ future.

School representatives said they have no plans to curtail new-student enrollment efforts, despite the forced sale of 85 of Corinthian’s 97 U.S. schools — including all of the WyoTech and Heald campuses — after the Education Department restricted the company’s access to federal student aid.

“Before signing up for class and student debt, every student should know Corinthian schools are going out of business,” Durbin said in a statement. “The Department of Education and state agencies around the country need to put an end to all new Corinthian College enrollments as several states have already done.”

Durbin said the impetus for the request was a Military Times report noting that recruiters from WyoTech and Heald College manned tables at education events at four military bases in California in recent weeks, encouraging active-duty and separating troops to sign up for classes this fall.

Corinthian Colleges schools enrolled 5,873 Post-9/11 GI Bill students in fiscal 2013, totaling $61 million, according to data from the Veterans Affairs and Education departments.

More than a dozen senators last month signed a letter requesting new student enrollments at the schools be halted until the schools’ sales are complete.

Meanwhile, Student Veterans of America this week announced WyoTech and Heald both made SVA’s first-ever “not recommended” schools list because of their ongoing and potentially harmful recruiting efforts.

“Even in a period of great uncertainty, these schools are on active duty installations recruiting students, while thousands of veterans and servicemembers already enrolled face an unclear future,” SVA President D. Wayne Robinson said.

The group has already pledged additional assistance to veterans or family members attending Corinthian schools, and urged the Education Department to find ways to allow those students to complete their degree programs.

Corinthian officials have insisted that new recruits to the schools face no significant danger to their education goals because the company has transition plans in place and is confident a buyer will be found.

The forced sale came in response to the company’s failure to turn over records concerning enrollment and job placement data, and allegations that the schools were using fraudulent data in marketing claims to prospective students and altering students grades.

Staff writer George Altman contributed to this report.

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