A Challenge to Admissions Groups

By C. Ronald Kimberling

Groucho Marx once defined politics as "the art of looking for trouble, finding it, misdiagnosing it, and then applying the wrong remedies." This month’s hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, especially the evidence of blatant fraud brought out in the testimony of the Government Accountability Office’s Gregory D. Kutz, certainly seemed to demonstrate that trouble has been found in the admissions processes of some for-profit sector postsecondary institutions.

How it will be diagnosed and treated remains to be seen, though it is a reasonable bet that the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed repeal of the 14 "safe harbor" provisions related to the legislative prohibition of sales commissions will see its way to final rules in the near future. Re-regulation is not likely to stop there, however. The committee’s chairman, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), made it clear during the August hearing that regulations can be changed by different administrations, suggesting that he will push for statutory amendments beyond whatever this Education Department chooses to do.

Suggesting that he will not stop short of measures that ensure “the highest level of integrity” in admissions, Harkin ended the six-hour hearing with a lengthy soliloquy in which he opined that the regulatory structure of the Title IV student aid programs makes the mistake of “privatizing the profit and socializing the risk.” This sounds like the beginning of a diagnosis statement, though I will leave it up to the good readers of this estimable publication to decide if the senator’s explanatory framework for the motives underlying for-profit sector admissions practices is within the parameters of Groucho’s dictum.

Instead, I would like to suggest that it is time for action by the two leading professional organizations that deal with collegiate admissions — the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers (AACRAO).

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