July 26, 2016

Industry’s Top Lobbyist: Stop “Assaults” On For-Profit Colleges


Steve Gunderson, the former congressman (R-WI) who is the chief lobbyist for America’s for-profit colleges, warns in a new email, “There has never been a time when the economic, regulatory and political assaults on our sector have been stronger.” Gunderson, since 2012 the CEO of the discredited, depleted for-profit college trade group CECU (formerly APSCU), writes to for-profit college executives — CECU members and non-members alike — that what is on the line is “saving our sector!”

“Saving” Gunderson’s sector might have been better accomplished by him pressing his members to accept reasonable reforms to reduce fraud by schools against students and taxpayers, thus helping honest, effective career colleges to thrive. Instead, his group has harbored predatory schools and aggressively resisted reforms, and the strategy has been a disaster.

Gunderson loves exclamation marks, but such punctuation cannot obscure the frequent distortions in his argumentation, such as in CECU’s recent “Toolkit for Students” and toolkit for schools.

His newest email is linked to a CECU three-year strategy document that is loaded with exclamation marks. It’s also full of references to the organization by its old name, APSCU, and it announces plans to “Expand involvement in the APSCUPAC” — meaning the organization’s political action committee, which was previously chaired by the CEO of the notorious, now-shut-down fraud Corinthian Colleges, and which is one vehicle for for-profit college owners to use campaign contributions to try to influence policy.

Gunderson’s email and a linked legislative issues memo resume his attack on the Obama Administration’s new proposed rule aimed at helping defrauded students get their student loans forgiven, saying that the rule will permit “frivolous law suits” to trigger “new letters of credit,” which “will shut down good schools, with sound programs simply because no bank could issue such a credit in the current environment.”

Gunderson also criticizes the recommendation of the U.S. Department of Education’s staff and outside advisory committee to end recognition of ACICS, the lax accreditor of Corinthian, ITT, EDMC, Kaplan, FastTrain, Westwood, and other predatory schools: “the Department’s decision to revoke ACICS’ recognition as an accreditor threatens 243 schools, 850 campuses and over 800,000 students! No one believes all of these schools can become accredited elsewhere within the time allowed.”

This article also appears on Huffington Post.