February 17, 2012

For-Profit College Chieftains in Tahoe: Skiing, Steams, and Signature Cocktails

The Huffington Post’s Chris Kirkham travelled to the “palatial Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe resort” for the “senior executive management seminar” of the for-profit college trade group APSCU.

For-Profit College Chieftains in Tahoe: Skiing, Steams, and Signature Cocktails
Photo: Chris Kirkham

As Kirkham notes, the vast majority of for-profit college revenue (more than 90 percent for many schools) comes from federal financial aid, so we all paid for the for-profit execs getaway, and all we got was this lousy (actually beautifully written) report.  While many for-profit college students have been left with insurmountable debt, the top for-profit college execs seem to be enjoying themselves:

The schedule in Tahoe was light on formal events. The agenda was confined to a three-hour planning session each morning, followed by cocktail receptions each night overlooking the snow-capped peaks and towering ponderosa pines.

That left time for the finer things in life: hours worth of skiing following Sunday evening’s fresh snowfall, enjoying $14 signature cocktails such as the tequila-laden “Tahoe Breeze,” and kicking back in the resplendent spa, with a full slate of steam rooms and massage options.

“You get a treatment yet?” asked Brian Moran, who just stepped down as interim chairman of the trade group and heads Virginia’s Democratic Party.

“Just got done with it,” said Robert Herzog, the CFO of Harrison College in Indiana and a member of the trade group’s board.

“Sweet,” replied Moran….

“This is the best thing about this conference,” one proclaimed to fellow executives gathered at the bar. “We all get shit-faced and go skiing.”

Former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott, now a lobbyist for APSCU, was on hand, along with the new APSCU president, former Wisconsin congressman Steve Gunderson, who declined to talk with Kirkham at the event, saying that  if the media were allowed access, the executives “might not come back next year.”

But Kirkham did obtain a copy of a Powerpoint from one of the working sessions, which saw APSCU perhaps hoping for change, with at least one candidate, Mitt Romney, positioning himself as the For-Profit Education President:

“Next year’s elections could drastically change the political environment in Washington and around the country,” [one] slide stated. “It will be important for us to monitor the next two election cycles (2012 & 2014) to identify ways to insert our messaging and make a significant impact on targeted races.”

Next stop for the APSCU crew: Vegas, baby — with keynote speaker George W. Bush, whose administration’s lax policies unleashed the torrent of waste, fraud, and abuse that has fueled many bad actors in the for-profit education sector.