New Front in For-Profit Battle?

WASHINGTON — Two Senate Democrats have found a new way to try to hit for-profit colleges where it hurts, by proposing a ban on the use of revenue from federal financial aid for advertising, marketing and recruitment.

The proposed legislation is unlikely to go anywhere this year, and will draw little support from Republicans. But the approach is novel, and could be part of the longer-term debate on Capitol Hill about the regulation of for-profit institutions.

The bill is also notable because it is the first legislative salvo against for-profits from Sen. Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat who has led a lengthy pursuit of the industry. And the legislation applies to both nonprofits and for-profits, a development applauded by for-profits, which otherwise criticized the bill.

Sen. Kay Hagan of North Carolina joined Harkin in sponsoring the legislation, which would apply to all colleges that receive federal aid under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. However, the senators clearly took aim at for-profits, which generally spend much more on marketing to prospective students. Nonprofit colleges, particularly two-year institutions, often complain that for-profits use advertising to lure students who would otherwise attend community colleges.

“We need to make sure that federal education dollars are spent on just that: education,” Harkin said.


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