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Congresswoman Accepts Money Tied to For-Profit Colleges, Then Touts Schools’ Efficiency

Rep. Virginia Foxx, who heads the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, has accepted campaign contributions from several for-profit colleges.  (Photo: republicanconference)

Congresswoman Accepts Money Tied to For-Profit Colleges, Then Touts Schools’ Efficiency

Rep. Virginia Foxx, who heads the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, has accepted campaign contributions from several for-profit colleges.  (Photo: republicanconference)

Rep. Virginia Foxx, a North Carolina Republican who heads the House Subcommittee on Higher Education, stated during a panel discussion on Monday, December 5, that for-profit colleges have done a better job “of being mindful about efficiency and effectiveness” than their nonprofit peers. Inside Higher Ed noted that the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, little more than a think tank and lobbying group for the for-profit colleges, hosted the panel discussion.

The panel focused on “workforce training,” which is now called education. Representative Foxx also argued during the panel that the federal government has not scrutinized nonprofit colleges with the same vigor as for-profits, noting that “accountability hits the new kid on the block hardest.” This is the latest talking point which has been used for some time now by Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix, to name just two predatory for-profits. The message is that “we are being victimized” by the government. These for-profit colleges have carved out an argument from whole cloth that the for-profit education sector is over-scrutinized and over-regulated while nonprofit colleges are hardly held to the same criteria. In this way, the predatory for-profits can whine that they are being unfairly singled out for scrutiny, when, in fact, they operate like criminal syndicates.

The new General Accounting Office (GAO) report released in October and entitled, “For-Profit Schools: Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges,” found in their most recent undercover investigation that:

Overall, GAO observed that 8 of the 15 colleges appeared to follow existing policies related to academic dishonesty, exit counseling, and course grading standards. At the 7 remaining colleges, GAO found mixed results. For example, one or more staff at these colleges appeared to act in conflict with school policies regarding academic dishonesty or course grading standards, or federal regulations pertaining to exit counseling for student loans, while other staff acted consistent with such policies.

Year after year, the GAO finds evidence of corruption, fraud and illegal acts engaged in by the for-profit industry, yet the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Eric Holder is hardly following up on the complaints.

A simple look at Foxx's campaign contributions for the 2011-2012 campaign finance cycle suggests why Foxx is energized on behalf of the for-profit colleges. This representative of the ruling 1 percent has stuffed her pockets with for-profit college monies, most notoriously from Corinthian Colleges and the infamous little shop of horrors known as the University of Phoenix, which sits next to freeway off-ramps in major urban centers and offers vending machines and office buildings as their campuses. The graduation rate from the University of Phoenix is 9 percent per year. Ninety-one percent of students fail to graduate and are left with nondischargeable debt, which follows them for life with deleterious consequences. This outrage while we as taxpayers pick up the cost of the public subsidy given to the schools in the form of Title IV funds which the college vacuums up via robo-signing on behalf of students who apply for the funds.

Read more work by Danny Weil and other writers in the Public Intellectual Project.

You can see the table below for a list of Foxx's contributors. They are all major corporations. The fact that for-profit colleges have greased her political wheels is testimony to the new game plan of the for-profit college sector. Having lost the “fight” with the Department of Education over a new set of rules which now govern their for-profit actions and threaten their profit-maximization efforts, their new plan is to simply elect by outright purchase those who will dismantle public education at the higher education level and advocate instead for the for-profit sector to be the “provider of choice.”

Top 20 Contributors to Rep. Virginia Foxx, 2011 – 2012
Source: Open

Unfortunately, there is more bad news. Foxx recently introduced HR2117: “To prohibit the Department of Education from overreaching into academic affairs and program eligibility under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965.” In other words, “no regulations allowed.” Dismantling oversight, transparency, disclosure and regulation is a necessary condition for the for-profit colleges to continue their parasitic business plans, and the industry is looking for people just like Foxx to represent them so they can reconfigure government to aid and abet their plunder.

Paid industry go-fers like Foxx are everywhere. The corporate media, such as The Washington Post (owner of Kaplan University) or any of the cable or “corporate news networks” continue to advance the notion of for-profit colleges as “real” colleges and universities, when, in fact, they are nothing more than diploma mills that steal money from Title IV funds and leave students – mostly minority and working-class students – with phony degrees and in debt peonage for life. Add to this the amount of money these schools pay for marketing and advertising, especially in low-income and minority neighborhoods and venues – a whopping 25 percent or more of their costs – and we see that these companies are set for spiraling growth unless the system is changed.

And this is the whole point: by commodifying education and removing public competition through outright ownership of the government, the for-profit neoliberal providers will continue to snake into the public treasury and nefariously destroy education and intellectual life in America and internationally, where they are now busy creating new burgeoning markets while leaving deracinated youth in their wake. These vulture capitalists will stop at nothing in their efforts to reduce education to little more than a commercialized online video game show – a project which, if successful, will have the consequence of destroying both intellectual life and democratic reality.

It is time to stand up for public education at the elementary, secondary and higher education levels. The good news is that people are standing up. Fighting tuition and fee increases that make access to public colleges impossible for most Americans must be done with direct action, and even militancy. Public universities and colleges, many of which are now off limits to American students due to rising costs, are now busy selling their seats to the rising Asian middle class, which has seen a population growth of over 300 million in China alone. In this way, many cash-strapped public universities and colleges can get out-of-state tuition fees and not worry about dissent among students who cannot pay the cost for a college education.

Further reading:

Neoliberalism and the For-Profit, Predatory Educational Industry: You Can't Regulate a Criminal Enterprise

Inside Higher Ed, December 6, 2011, “Congresswoman Says For-Profit Colleges More Efficient

FOR-PROFIT SCHOOLS, Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges,” October 2011.


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