It took just a few paragraphs in a budget bill for Congress to open a new frontier in education: Colleges will no longer be required to deliver at least half their courses on a campus instead of online to qualify for federal student aid.
That change is expected to be of enormous value to the commercial education industry. Although both for-profit colleges and traditional ones have expanded their Internet and online offerings in recent years, only a few dozen universities are fully Internet-based, and most of them are for-profit ones.
The provision is just one sign of how an industry that once had a dubious reputation has gained new influence, with well-connected friends in the government and many Congressional Republicans sympathetic to their entrepreneurial ethic.
The Bush administration supported lifting the restriction on online education as a way to reach nontraditional students. Nonprofit universities and colleges opposed such a broad change, with some academics saying there was no proof that online education was effective. But for-profit colleges sought the rollback avidly.
"The power of the for-profits has grown tremendously," said Representative Michael N. Castle, Republican of Delaware, a member of the House Education and Workforce Committee who has expressed concerns about continuing reports of fraud. "They have a full-blown lobbying effort and give lots of money to campaigns. In 10 years, the power of this interest group has spiked as much as any you'll find."
Sally L. Stroup, the assistant secretary of education who is the top regulator overseeing higher education, is a former lobbyist for the University of Phoenix, the nation's largest for-profit college, with some 300,000 students.
Two of the industry's closest allies in Congress are Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, who just became House majority leader, and Representative Howard P. McKeon, Republican of California, who is replacing Mr. Boehner as chairman of the House education committee.
And the industry has hired well-connected lobbyists like A. Bradford Card, the brother of the White House chief of staff, Andrew H. Card Jr. . . .
Tuesday, February 28, 2006
Can Corruption Become Any More Blatant?
With less than three years remaining in the current corporate feeding frenzy in Washington, the legalized looting of the Federal Treasury in the coming months stands to make Baghdad after Saddam look like a picnic. What we know, of course, is that Bush's corporate thugs pushed through $12 billion in college student aid cuts in order to justify permanent tax cuts for the wealthy. What we did not know about that "deficit reduction bill" is that the same piece of legalized dreck contains an unending gift to the for-profit diploma mills to drain away the remaining student aid. Who is Sally Stroup and Brad Card? Sam Dillon has the whole sordid story: