June 10, 2014

SNL “Making Copies” Guy, In Business With For-Profit College, Attacks Obama


Barack. Barack-O. Barack-O-Rama. The Obamanator!  Makin’ some copies. Copying the Gainful Employment Rule. 845 pages!

You remember Rob Schneider on “Saturday Night Live” with his breakout character, the guy who sat by the office copy machine and annoyed people with a stream of comments? You don’t?  C’mon.

Well, Schneider, also the star of such film classics as “The Hot Chick” and “Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo,” has now joined Suze Orman, Colin Powell, Shannen Doherty, Trent Lott, Jeb Bush, Bob Kerrey, Marc Morial, Steve Forbes, and other hired celebrities who validate and endorse the for-profit college industry, a sector where many of the major players are now under federal and state investigation for defrauding students and taxpayers.

Appearing last month on a Philadelphia radio station, Schneider said, “There’s not one segment of business under the Obama administration that hasn’t been hurt…He attacks for-profit schools, which is totally an elitist thing from a guy that went to Harvard. I think for free, by the way.”  This attack comes in the midst of the intense Washington debate over the “gainful employment” rule, which President Obama and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan are seeking to implement, against a massive onslaught of lobbying by the for-profit college industry.

As Schneider acknowledged on the radio show, he’s actually in business with a for-profit college.  Earlier this year, according to a press release, Schneider “selected Full Sail University as the host location and production headquarters for the filming of his new eight-episode independently-produced comedy series, Real Rob, beginning in March 2014.” According to that press release from Orlando, Florida-based Full Sail, “Select students and graduates of Full Sail University will have the opportunity to gain hands-on experience in various roles behind the scenes during the show’s production.” Schneider also was an “honored guest” and speaker at Full Sail’s “5th Annual Hall of Fame Week” in February. He called Full Sail “a great university.”

Full Sail, which focuses on training students for the entertainment industries, isn’t just any for-profit college. It’s the school that Mitt Romney singled out for praise on the 2012 campaign trail when he said that his higher education agenda would favor for-profit colleges.  Romney asserted that Full Sail knows how to  “hold down the cost of their education.” What Romney, as a former management consultant, might have meant was that  Full Sail was good at holding down the company’s costs of providing instruction to students. He couldn’t have meant, if he were speaking truthfully, that Full Sail was good at holding down tuition and fees for students.  Because it turned out that Full Sail was perhaps the third most expensive college in America.  For example, a 21-month program in “video game art” cost $80,000. It also turned out that Full Sail’s owners were major donors to Romney’s campaign and, beyond that, incredibly, Romney’s own private equity firm was invested in Full Sail.

There are differences of opinion about the quality of Full Sail.  Many former students have criticized the place as all hype and poor value.  No doubt the school has some fine instructors and students, many of whom do get jobs in their chosen fields.  But one of Full Sail’s eleven programs actually flunked a test run of the previous, ridiculously lenient version of the Obama Administration’s “gainful employment” rule — which measured how many of a school’s graduates and dropouts were unable to pay down their student loans. Programs that flunk the test tend to have high prices and, at best, mixed quality.

Unlike the perpetually shameless Romney, at least Rob Schneider was forthright about his business tie to the school.  But it’s not clear that Schneider actually understands that all Obama is aiming to do with the gainful employment rule is to penalize those schools that consistently leave their students with overwhelming debt — and thereby advantage and assist schools that actually are helping students to train for productive careers. If Full Sail is willing to make a strong enough investment in instruction, and offer its programs at more reasonable prices, then it should have nothing to fear from the rule. And neither should the “making copies” guy.

This article also appears on Huffington Post.