When the for-profit college association lobbyist tried to assert before the DOD Appropriations Committee hearing on DOD Voluntary Education Programs that DOD Tuition Assistance dollars are private dollars, Sen. Dick Durbin, the chairman of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee responded angrily, "If this Appropriations Committee is being asked to appropriate half a billion dollars of taxpayer money, then it sure is public dollars."  (Link to the committee hearing) Senator Durbin introduces a bill every Congress to close the 90/10 loophole.  Senator Carper also has a similar bill every Congress.

So why did the Congressional staff forget to include the GI Bill and Tuition Assistance when the law was written?

Some legislative history:  The Senate Education Committee staff person who drafted the law explained the loophole to Bloomberg News:  "When the law was enacted, for-profits hadn't yet moved into the military market, so the legislation's sponsors weren't focused on Defense Dept. tuition assistance," says Sarah A. Flanagan, who helped draft the law as the Senate's specialist in federal student aid. The law was intended to ensure that for-profit colleges offered an education good enough that some students were willing to pay for it, says Flanagan, now vice-president of the National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities, a Washington-based lobbying group. "Counting Defense Dept. funding for servicemen's education as part of the money that's supposed to come out of consumers' pockets violates the purpose of the original legislation,' Flanagan says." Read more on Bloomberg, "For-Profit Colleges Target the Military"

What Does the Statute Actually Say?

The restrictions on revenue percentages at for-profit colleges were initially introduced in 1992 as the 85/15 rule and subsequently modified into the 90/10 rule in 1998.

  • The Higher Education Amendments of 1992 (PL 102-325, 7/23/1992) amended subsection 481(b) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 USC 1088(b)] to introduce the 85/15 rule effective October 1, 1992. The legislation added paragraph (6): "which has at least 15 percent of its revenues from sources that are not derived from funds provided under this title, as determined in accordance with regulations prescribed by the Secretary".
  • The Higher Education Amendments of 1998 (PL 105-244, 10/7/1998) moved the language defining the 85/15 rule to section 102(b)(1)(F) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 USC 1002(b)(1)(F)] and substituted "10 percent" for "15 percent" and "Title IV" for "this title", effective October 1, 1998.
  • The Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008 (PL 110-315, 8/14/2008) moved the language to section 487(a)(24) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 USC 1094(a)(24)] and replaced the regulations for calculating the percentage of revenues with a statutory encoding in a new section 487(d), effective upon enactment on August 14, 2008. It also clarified the reference to "Title IV" for technical reasons.

The current language for the 90/10 rule appears in section 487(a) of the Higher Education Act of 1965 [20 USC 1094(a)(24)]:

"In the case of a proprietary institution of higher education (as defined in section 1002(b) of this title), such institution will derive not less than ten percent of such institution's revenues from sources other than funds provided under this subchapter and part C of subchapter I of chapter 34 of title 42, as calculated in accordance with subsection (d)(1), or will be subject to the sanctions described in subsection (d)(2)."

U.S. Education Department Data on For-Profit College Violations of 90/10 Law