- Obama takes aim at ‘corporate deserters’
- Dick’s Sporting Goods lays off 478 PGA golf pros
- Senators: Cease-fire must allow Israel to defend against rockets, tunnels
- Sierra Leone doctor fighting Ebola catches disease
- Iraq welcomes Russian fighter jets, helicopter gunships into ISIL fight
- John McCain laments: Obama’s ‘self-pity … is really kind of sad’
- GOP offer to fix VA gives $10 billion in emergency funds
- Paul Ryan offers to repair U.S. economic safety net with a single grant stream
- Kim Jong-un builds bond with Putin: $250M Russia-backed addition to key port opens
- Pope Francis meets Meriam Ibrahim, a Sudanese woman sentenced to death
Metro reimbursed questionable college courses for half-million dollars
Question of the Day
One accountant at Metro took Federal Income Tax 1, a course at the University of Maryland University College described as “an introduction to federal taxation.” Another took Intermediate Accounting 1. Several other Metro workers in financially sensitive positions — who help oversee million-dollar contracts — used the transit authority’s tuition reimbursement program to enroll in introductory courses on contracts or business.
One office administrator enrolled in “Intro to Sociallity,” as she spelled it, at Strayer University because it “helps to understand paperwork.”
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) has spent millions of dollars on college courses for its employees in recent years, with use of its generous tuition reimbursement program growing from $380,000 in 2007 to almost half a million dollars in fiscal 2010, records show.
But the use of the program, which doles out nearly all the money to employees in cash rather than directly paying the schools, has a member of Congress questioning whether it’s an effective use of taxpayer money.
The majority of institutions where courses are taken are for-profit schools, many of which have dismal completion rates, some of which are online, and almost all of which are far more expensive than public schools, especially for District residents, who are eligible for in-state tuition anywhere.
The most common schools were Strayer University, the University of Phoenix, Everest College, University of Maryland University College and Prince George’s Community College, all but two of which are for-profit.
“I am increasingly concerned that many government agencies, not just WMATA, are using taxpayer dollars to send students to low-quality, high-cost for-profit colleges with terrible student outcomes,” Sen. Tom Harkin, Iowa Democrat, said in a statement. “Most troubling is that these agencies do not provide students with sufficient information to protect themselves or perform adequate due diligence regarding the schools’ value.”
In May, Mr. Harkin and Sen. Thomas R. Carper, Delaware Democrat, issued a scathing condemnation of for-profit colleges and government programs that pay for veterans to attend them as a waste of taxpayer money. Their denunciation came after a critical audit by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in March on the use of GI Bill funds.
Mr. Harkin read from a letter from one veteran: “In hindsight, I regret attending ITT Tech. The institution provided at best an absolutely minimum education and left me with nearly insurmountable debt. Even worse, ITT Tech took taxpayer money in the form of grants and my GI Bill, amounting to a net loss for all taxpaying Americans.”
Metro is subsidized by the federal government, the District, states and local jurisdictions.
For-profit schools cost two to six times as much as traditional colleges, Mr. Harkin found.
Several are under investigation for misleading recruitment practices, and critics say the industry recruits entirely among uneducated, impoverished populations that respond to late-night television ads and don’t research the value of the schools.
The remedial accounting courses were taken by accountants at Metro after the agency hired as an accountant a woman who had disclosed several financial fraud convictions on her job application and who prosecutors said got her introduction to finance by keeping track of money for one of the District’s largest heroin gangs.
Documents were obtained by The Washington Times through an open-records request submitted last year and returned this week, and they cover fiscal 2006 through 2010.
A Metro spokeswoman didn’t directly address concerns about the program but emphasized that it gives employees the opportunity to grow professionally.
© Copyright 2014 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.
About the Author
Luke Rosiak is a projects reporter on The Washington Times’ investigative team. He formerly covered lobbying and campaign finance for two watchdog groups as well as transportation for The Washington Post. Luke can be reached at email@example.com.
- Md. couple indicted in scheme to cheat SBA on minority contracts
- As federal agencies trim fat, contracts feed billions in profits to 59 companies
- Conflict of interest in $4 billion government minority program
- $4 billion program for disadvantaged businesses lacks oversight
- Maryland's minority-contracting program gets failing grade on 'graduation'
Latest Blog Entries
TWT Video Picks
Second- and third-stringers eye 2016 if front-runner stumbles
- 'We're coming for you, Barack Obama': Top U.S. official discloses threat from ISIL terrorists
- Obama orders Pentagon advisers to Ukraine
- NAPOLITANO: What if our democracy is a fraud?
- Hamas rejects Kerry's call for cease-fire; Fears grow others could join fight against Israel
- State Department indicates Nouri al-Maliki's days numbered as Iraq prime minister
- Inside China: Massive flight woes and a missile test
- Algerian plane diverted due to storms, second aircraft: 116 missing
- Evidence shows Russia firing artillery into Ukraine: Pentagon
- Obama family set to buy $4.25M desert home in California: report
- Norway expects imminent 'concrete threat' from ISIL terrorists 'within days'
Obama's biggest White House 'fails'
Celebrities turned politicians
Athletes turned actors
20 gadgets that changed the world
Fighting in Iraq