The Art of War

Seattle's Art Institute rakes in federal cash from the GI Bill.

Watchdog nonprofit ProPublica recently released a list of the past year's top 500 recipients of post-9/11 GI Bill money. So where are Washington's former military members matriculating? The University of Washington is the state's unsurprising clubhouse leader. But running right behind the Northwest's largest university is the relatively small Art Institute of Seattle, which got more than $2.5 million in federal funds even as the for-profit industry of which it's a member has come under increased scrutiny from the federal government. In September, Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin released "Debt Without a Diploma," a scathing report on the education-for-profit world in which he takes the industry to task for its aggressive marketing tactics, high dropout rates, and the large debt burden borne by many of its former students. "The farther we take this investigation, the clearer it becomes that many for-profit colleges view students as no more than cogs in the profit-making machine, with little concern for their education or success," said Harkin. In a review of 14 of the largest for-profit schools, Harkin's report found that federal dollars accounted for nearly all their revenue, leading him to write that "these 'profits' are largely made up of taxpayer dollars." His criticism is reflected in the fact that, per GI Bill–funded student, the Art Institute collects more taxpayer money (more than $14,000) than does the U-Dub (just over $8,000). Perhaps because of the broad brush with which Harkin painted all for-profits, a spokesperson for the Institute declined to talk about whether its rolls have been significantly increased thanks to the GI Bill, or how many of those ex-military students remain enrolled at the college. "We just don't comment on that kind of stuff," communications director Mark Livingston told the Weekly.

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