May 15, 2012

Online Education Companies Donate To Congressman, He Introduces Bill Subsidizing Them

Online Education Companies Donate To Congressman, He Introduces Bill Subsidizing ThemBad actors in the for-profit education industry — leading for-profit colleges, private charter schools, and other education profiteers — are accelerating a profitable scam: online education. As my colleague Lee Fang documented in a cover story for The Nation last year, these “online learning” companies have infiltrated American schools, extracting millions of dollars for software and distance electronic learning programs that have little proven merit.

One of these online learning profiteers is Bridgepoint Education. Bridgepoint operates a network of  for-profit colleges and also owns Waypoint Outcomes, which specializes in e-learning in both K-12 and college, and Thuze Learning, which specializes in virtual textbooks.

In order to make more money, Bridgepoint has to go where customers are most plentiful — in our public schools. It donated big to Rep. David Loebsack (D-IA) this election cycle, giving him a $5,000 campaign check. He also received a $1,000 donation from the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), a $1,000 donation from Bridgepoint, and a $250 donation from Management & Training Corporation in the 2010 election cycle. Loebsack meanwhile voted against Department of Education rules that would hold for-profit colleges like Bridgepoint accountable for abuses against students and taxpayers.

Last week, Loebsack introduced a bill called the “Schools of the Future Act.” The entire goal of the bill is to  use a competitive grants program — taxpayer dollars — to finance the expansion of online education to rural schools. While there may be legitimate uses for online education, Loebsack’s expansion of these programs which have few proven results looks to be more about deference to donors than giving our kids a good education.