Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, has been holding hearings on the abuses of for-profit colleges, which have only 10% of university-level students but account for 44% of loan defaults. Harkin's research team is called the HELP committee. In a recent appearance on the Senate floor, Harkin cited stunning numbers from San Diego's Bridgepoint Education and its Ashford University, in which the overwhelming number of its students are enrolled. Harkin talked about two-year associate's degree programs. "In the first year, 84.4% of students from Bridgepoint who signed up dropped out," said Harkin. "What do you think happened to their [federal] loans? What do you think happened to their Pell grants? Students get those back? Not on your life. Bridgepoint kept them, the money went to their shareholders," said Harkin, noting that 63% of those seeking a bachelor's degree at Ashford drop out within a year.
Then came another shocker: "While Bridgepoint employs 1,703 recruiters, they employ just one person to handle career planning...for the entire student body of 67,000 students," said Harkin, who is pressuring the Department of Education to push for reforms. Bridgepoint is under investigation of the department.