Sen. Brown Introduces Bill to Ban Colleges from Spending Federal Financial Aid Dollars on Marketing and Recruiting

Many For-Profit Colleges Spend More on Marketing and Recruitment than on Education. Bill Would also Protect Servicemembers and Veterans from Exploitation.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today introduced the Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act – legislation to maximize the value of federal student aid and taxpayer dollars by prohibiting the use of Pell Grants, federal student loans, and other federal education funds for advertising, marketing, and recruitment. Brown’s legislation would help ensure that colleges and universities – especially for-profit educational companies –use federal student assistance and taxpayer dollars for education. The Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act also prevents U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) and U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) educational benefits from being used for marketing expenditures. A one-pager on the bill can be found here.

“Federal student aid and taxpayer dollars should be used to educate students, not fund corporate marketing campaigns,” Brown said. “Because of deceptive marketing practices, students looking for a quality college education can find themselves at for-profit institutions that are more concerned with profit margins than career readiness. This legislation would help ensure that all colleges make learning and instruction a priority.”

In 2009, fifteen of the largest for-profit education companies received 86 percent of their revenues from federal student aid programs.  These for-profit education companies spent $3.7 billion dollars, or 23 percent of their budgets, on advertising, marketing and recruitment, which in many cases was aggressive and deceptive. In contrast, non-profit colleges and universities only spent one-half of one-percent of their revenues on marketing. Brown’s bill would require any college or university which receives more than 65 percent of its revenue from federal educational assistance funds to report its marketing spending to the U.S. Department of Education and to certify that no federal education dollars were spent on marketing.  

This legislation is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers, the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Counselors, Consumer Action, Consumer Union, Consumer Federation of America, Council for Opportunity in Education, Generation Progress, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Mississippi Center for Justice, National Association for College Admission Counseling, National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of their low-income clients), National Education Association, Paralyzed Veterans of America, Public Advocates, Public Citizen, Service Employees International Union, The American Council on Education, the Education Trust, The Institute for College Access and Success, United States Student Association, United States Public Interest Research Group, Vet Jobs, Veterans Education Success, Vets for Common Sense, Vietnam Veterans of America, and Young Invincibles.