U.S. military commanders allowed representatives of the University of Phoenix to erect banners advertising the for-profit college on one of America’s largest military bases and place promotional materials in high-traffic areas. Credit: Adithya Sambamurthy for Reveal

The Defense Department is reviewing a response from the University of Phoenix to the military’s decision to ban recruiters from military facilities and suspend the for-profit school from enrolling more military personnel under the tuition assistance program.

The Pentagon declined to release the university’s response to an Oct. 7 letter informing the school of its probationary status, an action taken in response to Reveals exposé of the college’s recruitment techniques.

“The Department has received the letter and is currently in the process of reviewing its content,” Dawn Bilodeau, the Defense Department’s chief of voluntary education, said today in an emailed statement.

As it weighs its decision and whether to make the ban permanent, the Pentagon finds itself under pressure from a group of Republican senators who this week came to the university’s defense.

Two of those senators, John McCain and Jeff Flake, represent Arizona, where the university is headquartered. McCain leads the Armed Services Committee. They were joined by Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, chairman of the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions.

In a letter Thursday addressed to Defense Secretary Ash Carter, the senators said they were “concerned that the DoD’s decision is unfair, requires additional review, and may warrant reconsideration.”

The university’s stock has plummeted figuratively and literally. Enrollment has fallen by nearly 55,000 from the previous year, and school officials said to expect further enrollment declines. The stock price for the school’s parent company, Apollo Education Group Inc., also has plunged – hovering just above $7 a share today compared with a high of $94 a share in 2004.

The Republican senators accused the Defense Department of selectively enforcing its education rules and alleged that the decision to place the university on probation was based on “overly technical violations.” They noted that they remained skeptical that the department “is evenly and uniformly enforcing its policies.”

They gave Bilodeau until the end of the month to better explain the rationale for placing the University of Phoenix on probation.

Bobby Caina Calvan

Bobby Caina Calvan is the collaborations editor for Reveal. He was most recently director of operations for The Fund for Investigative Journalism, a Washington-based nonprofit that awards grants to freelance and independent investigative journalists. He thrives on watchdog journalism. He's worked in some of the country's best newsrooms, including The Associated Press, The Boston Globe, The Sacramento Bee and the Detroit Free Press. He's covered the war in Iraq, the national debate over health care, the 2012 presidential race and other high-profile elections.

While Calvan has worked in some of the country's biggest news outlets, his roots are firmly in local news. His career transcends platforms, and he has produced stories for print, digital, radio and television. He spent a year on a journalism diversity initiative in Nebraska called The Heartland Project, where he spearheaded collaborations with newsrooms across the state to enhance coverage of communities of color and LGBT issues. Inclusive journalism is in his DNA, and so is his strong advocacy for mentoring the next generation of journalists.

Calvan grew up on a dairy farm at the foot of the Ko'olau Mountains in Waimanalo, Hawaii – which might explain why he spent his first year of college at New York University and followed his sense of adventure into a career in journalism. He completed his college career at the University of California, Berkeley, where he majored in legal studies. He is based in Reveal's Emeryville, California, office.