Senate Committee Report Should Trigger Closer Look at For-Profit Schools, Common Cause Says

Watchdog Group Cites Colleges’ Lobbying, Political Spending

Today’s Senate committee report on for-profit colleges and universities should trigger additional scrutiny of these schools — in Congress and by the Obama administration — and of how taxpayer dollars are being used to fuel their growth and profit margins.

“Sen. Tom Harkin and his colleagues on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee have produced an exhaustive study that raises troubling questions about the way these schools encourage students to take on enormous, taxpayer-subsidized loans and then leave far too many of them without a diploma or the ability to repay the money,” said Common Cause President Bob Edgar.

“It’s no coincidence that the spectacular growth in federal support for these schools — $32 billion in student aid from the Department of Education went to for-profit colleges in 2009-10, the committee found – has been accompanied by large increases in spending by the schools on lobbying and political campaign contributions,” Edgar said.

As a member of Congress in the 1970s and ’80s, Edgar led efforts to boost student aid to Vietnam-era and peacetime veterans under the Montgomery GI bill.

He said figures compiled by the Center for Responsive Politics indicate that the schools’ spending on lobbying has jumped from less than $1 million in 1999 to more than $10 million in 2011, the last year for which complete totals are available. The schools’ political spending has also grown, from $106,000 in 1990 to nearly $2.5 million so far in the 2012 election cycle.