For-Profit College Gears Up For Republican Control of House

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Kaplan, one of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges, has hired a team of Republican lobbyists with congressional experience as the for-profit industry comes under fire from Democrats in the Senate and the Department of Education.

The team at Ogilvy Government Relations includes Wayne Berman, former Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Policy, Chris Giblin, former chief of staff to Rep. John Carter, Drew Maloney, former legislative director and administrative assistant to former Majority Leader Tom DeLay, and Justin Daly, former counsel to the Financial Services Committee and Senate Banking Committee. These four Republican lobbyists are joined by the sole Democrat listed on the lobbying registration form, Tony Bullock, former chief of staff to former Sen. Pat Moynihan.

According to lobbying contribution disclosure forms, these lobbyists have combined to contribute more than $70,000 to political campaigns and parties since 2008.

The for-profit college industry has been waging a major lobbying campaign as the Department of Education proposed new rules that would limit for-profit access to government grants and loans unless they improve their graduation and student retention rates and reduce the incidence of student loan default. The Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee held a series of hearings in 2010 on the for-profit college industry that raised the ire of industry executives.

According to a number of studies, for-profit colleges account for approximately 25 percent of all federal grants and loans and 44 percent of all student loan defaults despite accounting for between 9 and 12 percent of all college students. Education Department data from last year showed that students attending Kaplan had a 28 percent loan repayment rate. That rate is lower than the for-profit industry overall and significantly lower than the rate for both public college and private, non profit college students.

The House Republican majority has stated their support for the for-profit industry with incoming Education & the Workforce Committee chairman John Kline stating that he would not support the Education Department’s regulations.

House Republicans have also stated their support for providing exemptions to for-profit colleges if they violate the 90/10 rule this year. The 90/10 rule requires for-profit colleges to obtain no more than 90 percent of their revenue from the federal government. Kaplan is one of a few for-profit schools that fears it will violate the 90/10 rule in 2011.

Aiding the for-profit schools is Speaker John Boehner’s long time support of the industry, particularly during his time as chairman of the Education & the Workforce Committee. During Boehner’s tenure as chairman both Congress and the George W. Bush administration–whose efforts were undertaken by former for-profit college industry lobbyists–loosened restrictions on for-profit colleges.

Kaplan’s move to hire the Ogilvy team will help the for-profit college get their materials to lawmakers who are friendly and willing to step up for the industry. Kaplan is owned by the Washington Post Company.

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