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The PBS public affairs show Frontline aired a show on the for-profit education sector last night that focused on the education of military personnel and veterans and took a close look at San Diego-based Bridgepoint Education.

Bridgepoint, which my colleague Liam Dillon and I looked at in our story about the company’s extraordinary growth and controversial history, has become one of the largest private employers in San Diego County in recent years.

In its piece, “Educating Sergeant Pantzke,” Frontline interviewed two former employees of Ashford University, one of Bridgepoint’s two online campuses, who criticized their former employer. Former Ashford enrollment advisor Wade Cutler said he wasn’t discouraged to sign up applicants who weren’t ready for study.

“They don’t say that,” Cutler said.

“What do they say?” the interviewer asked.

“They say everybody is a good fit. The military is a perfect fit.”

Click here to watch the Frontline video.

The piece examines a trend that has raised concern in the U.S. Senate and in several states across the country. As for-profit universities have boomed, they’ve attracted a significant share of their revenue from students in the military who pay for their studies via the federal G.I. Bill.

That’s a concern to Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, who has used the committee he chairs, the Health, Education Labor and Pensions Committee, to criticize the for-profit education industry and Bridgepoint. From our previous story:

Harkin zeroed in on Bridgepoint two weeks ago in the latest in a series of hearings he has been holding about the for-profit education business. In a lengthy denunciation of the company, Harkin lambasted Bridgepoint for duplicity in its marketing, lavish executive compensation and dismal dropout rates.

The senator pointed out that while Bridgepoint was making record profits last year, 84 percent of the students in its two-year programs were dropping out, according to a sampling of students by his committee.

“In the world of for-profit higher education, spectacular business success is possible despite an equally spectacular record of student failure,” Harkin said.

Since the hearing, Harkin has announced that he plans to introduce legislation to tighten the regulation of the for-profit education industry.

Since we wrote our story about Bridgepoint, we’ve also blogged about the company’s continued explosive growth, an investigation of the company by New York’s attorney general, and Bridgepoint’s boost from weaker-than-expected new U.S. Department of Education federal aid guidelines.

Will Carless

Will Carless was formerly the head of investigations at Voice of San Diego.

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