A new piece by the Associated Press examines the increased scrutiny of for-profit schools, which have been subject to whistleblower lawsuits and, in Florida, an attorney general’s investigation.

For-profit schools (familiar names include Kaplan and University of Phoenix, among others) have received a bad rap for what many say are empty promises. Though they claim to offer top-notch, accredited programs, most of their credits are non-transferrable. And those who attend a for-profit college (many accuse the schools of recruiting low-income students) often wind up with thousands in debt and no viable career path.

The allegations have proven detrimental to schools like Kaplan, where stocks have declined considerably. According to the Wall Street Journal‘s Market Watch, Kaplan’s higher education operation “tumbled 29% in a three-month period, owing to a large decline in the number of enrollments at its for-profit colleges.” The company has also seen a recent shake-up of its executives when, in July, both the chief executive and finance chief of the higher education division stepped aside.

Via the AP:

Change is also afoot at Kaplan University, which is owned by The Washington Post Co. and serves about 62,000 students. Another 50,000 students study at Kaplan Higher Education career colleges, which focus more on specific trades.

Stung by a series of whistleblower lawsuits by former employees and a Florida attorney general’s investigation, Kaplan created a program that allows new students to attend classes for four or five weeks at no cost before deciding whether to continue. Kaplan also stopped paying incentives to recruiters.

The company reported a 48 percent decline in new enrollments as of April and an attrition rate of 25 percent. Of the latter group, 60 percent are dismissed by Kaplan for lack of academic progress.

In October 2010, then-Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that his office would launch an investigation of five for-profit schools. A month later, he announced that an additional three schools would be added to the list. According to Jennifer Davis, press secretary for current Attorney General Pam Bondi, the investigations of for-profit colleges are “active and ongoing.”

Below, a list of the schools currently under investigation in the state of Florida:

  • Kaplan Inc., Kaplan Educational Centers, Inc., Kaplan Higher Education
  • University of  Phoenix, Inc.
  • Medvance Institute, Inc., KIMC Investments, Inc.
  • Everest Institute, Florida Metropolitan University, Corinthian Colleges, Inc.
  • Argosy University, Education Management Corp. (including South University, Brown-Mackie, and Art Institutes)
  • The Keiser School, Inc., d/b/a Keiser University
  • Sanford-Brown College d/b/a Sanford-Brown Institute
  • Concorde Career College d/b/a Concorde Career Institute
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