End Of The Beginning

WASHINGTON — Sen. Tom Harkin’s two-year investigation of for-profit higher education has ended, and was capped with a four-tome final report that many — at least critics of the industry — see as definitive. The for-profit policy battle is far from over, however, although it probably won’t fire up again until 2013.

The report was accompanied by a shift in tone by the Congressional Democrats who are leading the ongoing pursuit of the for-profit-college industry. Instead of taking on the entire sector, or questioning whether profit and higher education are compatible, lawmakers at the report's Monday release on Capitol Hill said for-profits are here to stay and will continue to help more disadvantaged and nontraditional students attend college.

"Their success is in the national interest," Harkin said, offering praise for several for-profits — a rare occurrence for the Iowa Democrat.

He said American Public Education, Strayer Education, Walden University and National American University have largely risen above problems found in the report, which was prepared by staff at the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which Harkin chairs.

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