On Friday, April 13, 2012, Courthouse News reported a class-action lawsuit by students filed in federal court against the Art Institute of California and its owner, Educational Management Corporation (EDMC). As reported in Truthout, Sen. Olympia Snowe’s (R-Maine) husband, former governor of Maine John McKernan, is chairman of the board of EDMC and a former CEO of the company. The company also faces an $11 billion false claims lawsuit by the federal government and 11 states.
The lead plaintiff in the class-action suit, Chinea Washington, claims The Art Institute of California, Hollywood, led her to believe that federal grants and loans would cover the entire $89,000 cost for a bachelor’s degree in interior design.
In November 2011, after three years of study, Washington was provided notice by the “college” that she had reached the federal loan/grant aggregate limit of $52,340 and that it would cost $37,000 to complete the degree. Washington dropped out with $52,160 in debt. Because The Art Institute’s credits are not transferable, Washington has been swindled out of $52,000 and three years of her life.
The only way to describe $89,000 for a four-year degree with non-transferable credits from a non-academic college is as a fraud and a swindle, and that characterization possibly fails to convey the frustration and downright victimization students like Washington must feel.
Like subprime mortgages, for-profit colleges are a scam driven by payment of commissions to sales staff known as recruiters. The payment of commissions to high-pressure salespeople is so central to the scam that the umbrella trade group for for-profits, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), has sued the federal government to overturn its ban on incentive pay.
It cannot be stated strongly enough: for-profit colleges could not engage in the ongoing exploitation of students and theft of federal money without the direct cooperation and assistance of the federal government in what can only be termed an immoral economy. The same forces that demonize everything government does or attempts to do are busy feeding from the government trough. The hypocrisy is untenable, the federal subsidies unfathomable and the lack of criminal prosecution unconscionable.
For-profit colleges are a kickback scheme where politicians enact favorable legislation and regulations that allow for-profit colleges to maintain access to student loans and grant money. The for-profit colleges then “give” a small cut of the federal money back to the politicians to enact favorable legislation.
In the cases of Senator Snowe and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-California), their husbands have operated under the cover of their wives as they directly benefited, and continue to benefit from, their positions as shareholders in for-profit college companies. Snowe and Feinstein are accomplices in the ongoing evisceration and defrauding of citizen taxpayers and students, which explains the pair’s complete silence on this matter.
The so-called ruling class of government officials and elected politicians, to which Feinstein and Snowe clearly belong, is little more than a gaggle of white-collar criminals which facilitates and benefits from the diversion of taxpayer money into private coffers. It all takes on the appearance of legitimacy. Unfortunately, this is not a victimless crime. Like Washington, thousands of students who attend these subprime institutions are left with tens of thousands of dollars of nondischargeable debt which ends up ruining their lives.
There is a vast network of former and current government officials who actively participate in the for-profit college swindle. Some of the conspirators are well known, and include: Mitt Romney, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-North Carolina), John Kline (R-Minnesota), Alcee Hastings(D-Florida), Trent Lott (R-Mississippi), Lamar Alexander (R-Tennessee), Steve Gunderson (R-Wisconsin), Virginia Democratic Party Chairman Brian Moran, Snowe, Feinstein, Nancy Pelosi (D-California), and John Boehner (R-Ohio). The group also includes Obama administration officials and supporters such as Lanny Davis, Anita Dunn, Hilary Rosen, Anthony Miller and Charles Rose.
As I have previously written, you won’t read about any of this in The Washington Post because the Post owns a predatory for-profit college outfit known as Kaplan University, nor will you hear much about it in the rest of the corporate press.
By not prosecuting a single person related to the mortgage debacle, the Obama administration has now given the green light to for-profit college executives, such as McKernan and Post CEO Donald Graham, to engage with impunity in conduct which should be considered illegal and subject to criminal prosecution.
For-profit colleges serve as a corporate poster child for the need for campaign-finance and lobbying reform to staunch the ongoing corruption of the government which has looted the country and is turning it into a dysfunctional, third world nation.
We need to update you on where Truthout stands this month.
To be brutally honest, Truthout is behind on our fundraising goals for the year. There are a lot of reasons why. We’re dealing with broad trends in our industry, trends that have led publications like Vice, BuzzFeed, and National Geographic to make painful cuts. Everyone is feeling the squeeze of inflation. And despite its lasting importance, news readership is declining.
To ensure we stay out of the red by the end of the year, we have a long way to go. Our future is threatened.
We’ve stayed online over two decades thanks to the support of our readers. Because you believe in the power of our work, share our transformative stories, and give to keep us going strong, we know we can make it through this tough moment.
Our fundraising campaign ends in a few hours, and we still must raise $11,000. Please consider making a donation before time runs out.