The University of Phoenix has been barred from recruiting on military bases, the Pentagon said Thursday. Phoenix is one of the largest for-profit colleges in the country, but has seen enrollment drop sharply for the last several years amid ongoing scrutiny of the industry.
A recent investigation by the Center for Investigative Reporting found that the university had used questionable recruiting practices, like paying for access to military bases, disguising recruiting events as “resume workshops” and improperly using military insignia in promotional materials.
In an emailed statement, Dawn Bilodeau, chief of voluntary education at the Department of Defense, confirmed that the university is in a “probationary status,” meaning any new or transfer students cannot use military tuition assistance to attend classes at Phoenix.
The University of Phoenix receives less than 1 percent of its revenue from the Pentagon’s tuition assistance program for active-duty military, according to parent company Apollo Education Group.
The ban could have larger consequences. U.S. Senator Dick Durbin, a democrat and longtime critic of the for-profit college industry, is calling on the Departments of Education and Veterans Affairs to review the university’s access to much larger federal student aid programs.
“If the Department of Defense doesn’t trust the University of Phoenix with Defense money, why should the Department of Education trust them with Education money, with the regular student loans that they’re getting?” said Kevin Kinser, an associate professor of education at the State University of New York at Albany. “It raises a lot of questions about the model that Phoenix has been using.”
The University of Phoenix isn’t the only college aggressively recruiting military students. Under federal rules for-profit colleges can receive no more than 90 percent of their revenue from federal student aid programs. Funding from the tuition assistance program and the Post-9/11 GI Bill, for veterans, are not counted against the 90 percent.
“Defense money has always formed a good percentage of the amount of money they bring in that meet that 10 percent guideline,” Kinser said. “Without that, they may not have the revenue that they need.”
In a statement University of Phoenix president Tim Slottow said the company had expected a different response from the Pentagon but intends to continue cooperating with state and federal agencies.
The University of Phoenix is also under investigation by at least three state attorneys general, according to Sen. Durbin’s office, as well as the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Federal Trade Commission.
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