Issa investigates GAO auditors in battle over for-profit schools

House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Darrell Issa, R-Calif., is making trouble for the Government Accountability Office, the nonpartisan government watchdog. Issa has started his own committee's investigation of GAO's Forensic Audit and Special Investigations Unit after GAO revised a report issued in the summer outlining alleged fraudulent recruiting practices at for-profit career colleges.

The GAO's revisions raise concerns about the investigative unit, Issa said in a letter to GAO Chief Quality Officer Timothy Bowling. The for-profit college lobby has accused the GAO of fabricating information and misleading lawmakers in the report. GAO is undertaking its own review of the situation, including potential culpability of team members.

Issa's move comes as the Education Department is finalizing rules that would make it more difficult for career colleges to get student loan money and Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, is continuing hearings on the industry.

Critics of for-profit schools like DeVry and Kaplan University say they rip off students and taxpayers by luring people to enroll and apply for student aid, and then fail to help them finish a program or find a job. The for-profit lobby, meanwhile, has been involved in an advertising blitz to counteract the attacks, arguing that the Education Department's new student loan rule will hurt educational choice.

The Center for American Progress's youth outreach program is counteracting the ad hype this week with TV spots that will run on MSNBC and Fox on Tuesday and Wednesday, charging that for-profit colleges deceptively recruit homeless people and felons as students and overcharge them for a second-rate education.

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