Backed Into A Corner

Career College Central summary:

  • As the Obama administration weighs public comment on its second proposal to more tightly regulate for-profit colleges, the industry is once again fighting in earnest to fend off the regulations. But this time the debate over the “gainful employment” rules is playing out across a different landscape.
  • The for-profit sector has been hit hard by years of slumping enrollments and revenue. Even so, industry advocates are pushing back hard on the proposed regulations with lobbying, grassroots campaigns and an expected legal challenge. But they face a White House that appears unlikely to back down, and has the strong support of a network of consumer advocates and unions.
  • In the first three months of this year, for-profit education companies spent at least $1.9 million on lobbying expenses, according to an Inside Higher Ed analysis of lobbying disclosures. Apollo Education Group, the Association for Private Sector Colleges and Universities, Bridgepoint Education, and Corinthian Colleges were among the highest-spending entities.
  • The high-water mark for for-profit industry lobbying was 2011, when it spent more than $10 million advocating against the administration’s first gainful employment rule, which was later tossed out by a court. Since then, lobbying expenditures by the industry have fallen, according to data analyzed by the Center for Responsive Politics’ OpenSecrets project. For observers and advocates on both sides who witnessed the previous gainful employment debate play out, the past few months are a bit of déjà vu.
  • Major national newspapers’ editorial pages are weighing in (pro and con) on the issue. Proponents of tighter regulations are blasting emails to their supporters to press the administration to strengthen what many of them see as a proposal that is far too weak. And the main trade association for for-profit colleges in Washington, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), is again stepping up its advocacy efforts.

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