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Recruiting Practices Are Overzealous Or Misleading

For-profit Schools Rely On Sophisticated Marketing Operations To Enroll As Many Students As Possible, Giving Rise To Recruiting Practices That Are Overzealous Or Misleading

The 15 large publicly-traded for-profit education companies spend nearly $13 billion a year on recruiting and marketing. By contrast, community colleges typically spend just one or two percent of their budgets on marketing - a tiny fraction of the money spent by publicly traded for-profits.

Senator Harkin asked the Government Accountability Office (G.A.O) to investigate the recruiting practices of for-profit schools. At the HELP Committee's August 2010 hearing, the G.A.O. Forensic and Special Investigations Unit presented a report and testimony documenting the results of two undercover visits to each of 15 for-profit campuses owned by 13 companies. The G.A.O.'s report documented fraudulent, deceptive or otherwise misleading conduct at every campus.

Conversations with former for-profit employees and documents collected by the H.E.L.P. Committee substantiate that this kind of reprehensible conduct is not the work of a few rogue employees, but rather the result of training and incentives that push recruiters to secure as many enrollments as possible, regardless of the prospective students' circumstances or objections. Recruiters are too often encouraged to hide the ball on matters of cost, transferability of credits, graduation rates, and employment and salary after graduation.

Pain Funnel

For the purposes of training their recruiting personnel, ITT used a "pain funnel" intended to educate recruiters how to break a potential student down by criticizing their current life situation. The most severe questions are meant to make the students feel bad about themselves: "What are you willing to change now or have you given up trying to deal with the problem?" After breaking them down, recruiters would then present an education at ITT as the solution to the "pain."


Vatterott, a privately held college based in Missouri, targeted potential students who "live in the moment and for the moment. " Recruiters were taught to focus on potential students pain to get them to make a quick decision to enroll: "Their decision to start, stay in school or quit school is based more on emotion than logic. Pain is the greater motivator in the short term."

Internal For-Profit School Documents collected by HELP Committee