For-profit colleges — which, as ThinkProgress has been documenting, make the vast majority of their revenue from the federal government, pay their CEOs huge salaries, and leave their students with crippling debt and bleak job prospects — have declared a lobbying “WAR” in order to block new regulations from the Education Department and preserve their almost limitless access to federal dollars. They have hired a bipartisan phalanx of lobbyists and are astroturfing on Capitol Hill, supplying students with their industry-approved talking points.
In the last election cycle, the for-profit college industry also donated millions to congressional candidates, including $100,000 to House Education Committee Chairman John Kline (R-MN). Kline dutifully inserted a provision into the House Republicans’ 2011 spending bill that scuttled the Education Department’s regulations. And Tuesday night, as Higher Ed Watch reported, the industry threw Kline a personal fundraiser:
The Political Action Committee connected to the group formerly known as the Career College Association hosted a dinner reception for Rep. John Kline (R-MN) at “the refined and elegant” Capitol Hill Club, which is the premiere social club and restaurant for Republicans in the nation’s capital.
The career college group, which now known as the Association for Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), invited for-profit college officials who were in town for the organization’s “Hill Day and Policy Forum” to join in the festivities. Those who wished to attend were required to make a donation to Kline’s re-election campaign of either $2,500 to be considered a “sponsor” of the event, or $1,000 to be a “patron,” according to a copy of the invitation that Higher Ed Watch obtained.
Many for-profit schools make 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government, while posting profit margins of 30 percent. Strayer University CEO Robert Silberman was paid $41 million in 2009. With those sorts of numbers, giving $2,500 to Kline’s re-election campaign is likely a good investment. Senate Republicans have already introduced legislation similar to Kline’s, which would deny the Education Department funding to implement new regulations.
On Monday, a lobbyist for Kaplan University — which makes 91.5 percent of its revenue from the federal government — likened Democratic efforts to regulate for-profit colleges to “jihad” while speaking at a gathering of for-profit schools. “I’d guess almost everyone here agrees,” he added.