Fort Campbell officials have declined to immediately release public documents that could shed light on an agreement between the U.S. Army base in Kentucky and the University of Phoenix for a concert featuring country rapper Big Smo.
A Reveal investigation published in June found that last year’s concert was part of a recruitment strategy for the for-profit school, the country’s biggest benefactor of the GI Bill – federal education funds for Iraq and Afghanistan veterans.
The event sidestepped recruitment restrictions initiated by President Barack Obama in 2012 to prevent predatory practices by for-profit colleges on military bases. The University of Phoenix paid the military $25,000 to sponsor the October concert, according to records previously obtained by Reveal through the Freedom of Information Act.
Reveal also filed a FOIA request seeking a copy of the so-called MWR agreement between the school and the base. MWR refers to programs that contribute to the morale, welfare and recreation of military personnel.
But in a letter dated Aug. 7, an information officer said the school was notified of the request “to afford them an opportunity to object to disclosure of any information your (sic) requested.” It was signed by Valerie M. Florez, a freedom of information and privacy act officer at Fort Campbell.
“The information in the contract may contain financial data or other information the contractors may object to disclosure,” the letter said.
University officials were given 30 days to respond, and Florez said the base would get back to Reveal by Sept. 30.
A spokesman for the university’s parent company, the Apollo Education Group, declined to comment on whether it would object and, if so, on what grounds. The company has opted not to speak with Reveal for several months, citing what spokesman Ryan Rauzon on Wednesday described as “Reveal’s past storytelling, accusations and use of innuendo.”
Since 2009, the school has reaped more than $1.2 billion in GI Bill money. Last year alone, it received $345 million to educate Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, along with $20 million in tuition assistance from the Pentagon.
The Pentagon last month said it was reviewing whether the school’s recruitment practices violate federal law, amid growing concern by some members of Congress about subpar education and predatory recruiting of military veterans.
The Apollo Education Group currently is under investigation by the Federal Trade Commission, according to a filing with the U.S Securities and Exchange Commission.
In another SEC filing, Apollo revealed last month that California’s attorney general also launched an investigation and issued a subpoena seeking documents, including those related to the marketing and recruiting of military personnel since July 1, 2010.
The filing said the attorney general was looking into the use of military logos and emblems in the university’s marketing, which generally is prohibited by the Pentagon. In response to Reveal’s questions about custom-engraved “challenge coins” handed out by recruiters, which featured logos of all military branches, the school said it had pulled them from circulation.
This story was edited by Amy Pyle and copy edited by Sheela Kamath.
Bobby Caina Calvan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.