For everything in politics, it’s best to follow the money … it often explains why stupid policy decisions happen in education and elsewhere:
Sometimes it is almost too insultingly easy to connect the dots.
Last week, Mitt Romney blasted Barack Obama’s record on education in a high-profile speech and white paper. The critique ranged from kindergarten to grad school, but let’s pick out one issue that we’ve been following at Salon for some time. On the specific topic of for-profit schools of higher education — notorious both for saddling students with high levels of debt and for their abysmal graduation rates — Romney promises to repeal Obama’s “ill-advised” regulations targeting the sector.
The for-profit school industry gives Mitt Romney a lot of money. One of Romney’s top education advisors is William D. Hansen, who has lobbied extensively for for-profit schools. As deputy secretary of education under George W. Bush, Hansen is well known in the higher education community for issuing a directive promising that the Bush administration would relax the enforcement of rules meant to crack down on student enrollment recruiting abuses at for-profit schools.
That’s right: A man directly responsible for unleashing a decade of egregious misbehavior at for-profit colleges is now advising Mitt Romney on his plans to repeal new rules intended to clean up the mess.
The biggest for-profit schools generate 80 to 90 percent of their revenue from federally guaranteed student loans. Only one out of every ten American college students attends a for-profit institution, but these students account for a quarter of all student debt and almost half of all student loan dollars in default. There’s no sugar-coating it: The booming for-profit industry is one of the worst possible examples of the “free market” in action that one can find in the entire U.S. educational sector. For-profits charge higher tuition rates than their public school competitors, graduation rates are lower, and the entire business would not exist without massive government subsidization in the form of cheap student loans.
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