The battle lines on the future of for-profit colleges were being drawn Wednesday, a day before a series of Congressional hearings on the issue were to begin.

Fueled by federal student aid, the for-profit sector has mushroomed in the last decade. While overall post-secondary enrollment increased 31 percent from 1998 to 2008, the for-profits’ enrollment grew by 225 percent.

According to the report, the publicly traded education companies have a combined enrollment of 1.4 million students in the United States. The largest, the University of Phoenix, has 458,000 students — more than the undergraduate enrollment of the entire Big 10 conference.

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