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Petitioning U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan and 2 others

Stand Up for Students and Taxpayers: Regulate For-Profit Colleges


If you made $42,000,000 per year, wouldn’t you want to maintain the status quo? 

That’s how much the president of one for-profit college company was paid in 2009. And that may be the reason why the industry’s lobbying and PR machine has launched a full-court press to thwart the U.S. Department of Education’s attempts to regulate these institutions. 

No question: The sector needs regulation. Too many for-profit students end up like Michigan resident Brian M., an Air Force veteran and father of three. Brian went to a for-profit college to get a bachelor’s degree in computer programming. Recruiters rushed him into a contract—and waited until after he signed it to tell him that his federal financial aid wouldn’t cover his tuition, meaning he also needed to take out a fortune in high-cost private loans. Several years and more than $70,000 later, Brian says his degree is virtually worthless—employers are unimpressed by the credential, making him eligible only for low-paid work, the quality of his education was so poor that he has a steep learning curve at new jobs, and he faces the very real fear that he’ll never get into an advanced degree program—except by returning to that for-profit.

 “What they’re charging for what you’re getting – it’s not right,” he said.

Things end up worse for the many students who don’t even get a degree—just the debt. For example, among students seeking bachelor’s degrees, the University of Phoenix’s six-year graduation rate is a paltry 9 percent. And even though for-profits only make up 12 percent of enrollments and 24 percent of federal loan dollars, they produce 43 percent of federal loan defaults. What’s even more maddening? The American people are unwittingly the single largest investor in these companies—to the tune of about $24 billion in federal student financial aid in 2008-09 alone—despite the fact that these institutions are not graduating their students. 

The for-profits want to keep their businesses booming. Recently, in a sleazy (but shrewd) political maneuver, they successfully lobbied the Republican-controlled House of Representatives to pass an amendment that would cut off the funding for regulation of their most toxic programs.

Please join us in standing up for students and taxpayers. Urge your senators to block this effort.

Letter to
U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan
U.S. Senate
President of the United States
In a move that jeopardizes student futures as well as taxpayer dollars, the House of Representatives recently passed an amendment that would cripple the U.S. Department of Education’s ability to regulate the most toxic programs at for-profit college companies.

I urge you to oppose this effort when it comes before the Senate.

The House-passed amendment would hamper attempts to keep for-profits accountable in two ways:

First, it cuts off money needed to enforce existing regulations that require for-profits to tell students the whole story about the programs they’re considering—essential information like graduation rates, job placement rates, and average student debt.

Second, it would eliminate funding to finalize the Department of Education’s gainful employment regulations. These commonsense proposed rules would disallow taxpayer dollars from being used to support the most toxic programs at for-profit colleges—those whose students must take on more debt than they can reasonably pay back.

If this attempt to derail regulation succeeds, the deep pockets of the for-profit lobbying machine will have won out over the best interests of low-income students. The sector’s most toxic programs will continue to produce abysmal outcomes at taxpayer expense AND institutions won’t even be required to give prospective students the information they need to make an informed choice.

The federal government must make sure that for-profit college companies don’t continue to rake in federal subsidies while saddling their students with enormous debt.

Please stand up for students and taxpayers by opposing this effort.

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