January 13, 2014

Miller Retirement Could Make Andrews, For-Profit Colleges’ Best Friend, Top Dem on Education

Rob Andrews

Twenty-term California Democratic Congressman George Miller informed his staff today that he is retiring.  Miller deserves credit for a long record of public service.  Among many other things, this development could have implications for the long struggle by the Obama Administration to hold the for-profit college industry accountable for deceit and abuse of students and taxpayers.

Miller has for many years been the senior Democrat on the House committee overseeing education and labor.  Miller has not been a strong and active critic of this industry in the way that other members, like Senators Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Dick Durbin (D-IL), or Representatives Maxine Waters (D-CA), Elijah Cummings (D-MD), and Keith Ellison (D-MN), have been. He didn’t even sign a recent letter sent by House Democrats in support of the Administration’s “gainful employment” rule to penalize career colleges that consistently leave their students deep in debt.  But Miller did vote with the Administration, and spoke out against, an amendment to block the rule a few years ago.

In line to replace Miller as the ranking Democrat (or chair, if the Democrats took back the House) on the Education & the Workforce Committee would be Rob Andrews (D-NJ).  Andrews has been one of the for-profit colleges’ best friends on Capitol Hill, consistently opposing efforts to place reasonable accountability on an industry that gets $33 billion in federal aid, whose big players get 86 percent of their revenue from taxpayers. Most recently, Andrews, with Alcee Hasting (D-FL), the other House Democrat most active in opposing Obama on this issue, tried to enlist a group of fellow Democrats to sign a letter asking the Administration not to issue any gainful employment rule.

Andrews’ fealty to this industry is matched by rewards he receives. In the current 2013-14 electoral cycle, Andrews is in the top five recipients of for-profit education campaign cash, alongside House Education and the Workforce committee chair John Kline (R-MN); Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who chairs the Subcommittee on Higher Education & Workforce Training; Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-FL), who has been the subject of several ethics investigations; and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH).  Andrews, along with Hastings, has been a steady recipient of for-profit college money, with Hastings getting at least $54,500 between 2009 and 2013, and Andrews pulling in at least $78,547.

This article also appears on The Huffington Post.