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Admissions or financial aid representatives at all 15 for-profit colleges provided our undercover applicants with deceptive or otherwise questionable statements. These deceptive and questionable statements included information about the college’s accreditation, graduation rates and its student’s prospective employment and salary qualifications, duration and cost of the program, or financial aid. Representatives at schools also employed hard-sell sales and marketing techniques to encourage students to enroll.

Admissions representatives at four colleges either misidentified or failed to identify their colleges’ accrediting organizations. While all the for-profit colleges we visited were accredited according to information available from Education, federal regulations state that institutions may not provide students with false, erroneous, or misleading statements concerning the particular type, specific source, or the nature and extent of its accreditation. Examples include:

A representative at a college in Florida owned by a publicly traded company told an undercover applicant that the college was accredited by the same organization that accredits Harvard and the University of Florida when in fact it was not. The representative told the undercover applicant: “It’s the top accrediting agency—Harvard, University of Florida—they all use that accrediting agency….All schools are the same; you never read the papers from the schools.”

A representative of a small beauty college in Washington, D.C. told an undercover applicant that the college was accredited by “an agency affiliated with the government,” but did not specifically name the accrediting body. Federal and state government agencies do not accredit educational institutions.

A representative of a college in California owned by a private corporation told an undercover applicant that this college was the only one to receive its accrediting organization’s “School of Excellence” award. The accrediting organization’s Web site listed 35 colleges as having received that award.

Deceptive or Questionable Statements

Accreditation Information

Graduation Rate, Employment and Expected Salaries

Representatives from 13 colleges gave our applicants deceptive or otherwise questionable information about graduation rates, guaranteed applicants jobs upon graduation, or exaggerated likely earnings. Federal statutes and regulations require that colleges disclose the graduation rate to applicants upon request, although this requirement can be satisfied by posting the information on their Web site. Representatives at 13 colleges

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GAO-10-948T

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