Service members and veterans represent a larger percentage of the student body at for-profit institutions than at public and private colleges, a new report from the Education Department shows.

But even as students with military ties are more likely than civilians to attend for-profit schools, previous federal data has shown most service members and veterans opt for public colleges and universities.

Nine percent of undergraduate students attending for-profit institutions during the 2011-12 school year were active duty service members, veterans or reservists, while 4 percent of students at both public and private colleges fit this description. 

In 2011-12, 24 percent of military students attended for-profit colleges, up from 14 percent in 2007-08, before the Post 9/11 GI Bill went into effect. The percentage of military students attending public colleges decreased from 63 to 56 percent during that time, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.

Female and black students also had higher representation at these institutions, according to the report.

Military student enrollment at for-profit colleges, which operate as businesses, has grown in recent years, even as prominent schools in the sector have come under scrutiny for high student debt and historically poor job outcomes for graduates. In 2015, the Obama administration imposed gainful employment regulations for for-profits getting federal student aid, aimed to crack down on what the administration called the industry's "abusive practices."

According to the NCES report, students at for-profit colleges are more likely to be pursuing an associate degree, rather than a bachelor's degree, and are also more likely to be enrolled in career and technical education programs such as health care, construction, computer science and military technology.

Report co-author Caren Arbeit of RTI International said the return on investment for veterans who attend for-profit colleges is an area that could use more research, but there are many reasons that military students are drawn to these schools.

"Four-year for-profit institutions have a lot of online programs, have a lot of flexibility and also have a lot of majors in the military field," Arbeit said. "I think that the combination of those three things would make them really attractive."