Bloomberg News team wins Hechinger Grand Prize in EWA contest
Dan Golden, John Hechinger and John Lauerman win for their investigative project, "Education Inc."

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Bloomberg News has won the top prize in the National Awards for Education Reporting for “Education Inc.,” a searing investigative look at for-profit colleges and universities.

EWA announced the winners of the Fred M. Hechinger Grand Prize for Distinguished Education Reporting at its annual conference in New Orleans on April 9. It includes a cash prize of $1,500.

The project investigated how millions of low-income students face daunting debt and limited job prospects after being promised the American dream of a college education. In the investigative series, the team of Dan Golden, John Hechinger and John Lauerman detailed how the for-profit higher education industry cost U.S. taxpayers billions of dollars by targeting low-income students who receive federal financial aid.

Golden, Hechinger and Lauerman interviewed hundreds of current and former students and employees at the colleges and more than a dozen chief executives. They examined thousands of Securities and Exchange Commission filings to reveal that executives at the 15 publicly-traded for-profit colleges collected $2 billion from selling company stock during the last seven years.

John Hechinger, the son of Fred M. Hechinger, for whom the prize is named, accepted the award on behalf of his colleagues.

“It’s especially gratifying because we know how many of you did outstanding reporting last year,” Hechinger said.

He described his father’s pride in the Education Writers Association, an organization the elder Hechinger helped form.

“My father was passionate about EWA because he believed that education reporting needed a strong advocate in every newsroom,” he said. “He would be so delighted to see the amazing work that all of you are doing today—examining teacher training and evaluation, drop-outs, school spending and so many other subjects. “

Golden, Hechinger and Lauerman profiled individual students, including an Iraq war veteran suffering post-traumatic stress disorder and a student who ended up working for Starbucks at $8.94 an hour and trying to pay back $54,000 in student loans.  

Congressional hearings were launched after Golden’s reporting. The submission by Bloomberg notes that the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee read Golden’s stories into the record before its first hearing in June. At the committee’s request, the Government Accountability Office probed the industry.

Bloomberg editors credited Golden’s reporting with helping to spur an investor sell-off, erasing 24 percent of the industry’s stock value in 2010.

EWA contest judges described the series as “wonderfully thorough – and thoroughly infuriating.”

“A surpassing example of watchdog, and in-depth, journalism, with a crusading edge that was supported by the facts and had real impact,” the judges wrote.

 A list of the  other winners of the 2010 National Awards for Education Reporting is available on EWA’s website.