The Money Behind Walker’s Laxity Toward For-Profit Colleges

February 6, 2015

Republican Governor Scott Walker says he wants to reduce state regulation of for-profit colleges and schools, which have contributed nearly $20,000 to his campaign since 2009.

Walker’s proposal coincides with forecasts by for-profit colleges and the investment industry that Congress may reduce federal oversight of private, for-profit institutions and student lending operations because Republicans took over control of both houses in the November 2014 general elections.

Walker’s proposal, which was included in his 2015-17 state budget, would eliminate the state Educational Approval Board , which is responsible for regulating for-profit colleges and schools, and assign the Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection the job of handling complaints against them and making sure the industry complies with federal requirements. The board has been responsible for much more oversight than that, including annual reviews, performance evaluations, onsite visits and providing prospective students with information about the schools, among other things.

Top industry contributors to Walker include $7,500 from Herzing College founder Henry Herzing and his wife, Suzanne, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., and $5,000 from the political action committee of California-based Bridgepoint Education . Bridgepoint has been the subject of numerous lawsuits and investigations by the federal government and about a half-dozen states, including Iowa, New York and California, for fraud, consumer protection violations and recruiting practices.

A group called the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, which represents for-profit outfits, and some well-known for-profit colleges, like Kaplan, have been members of a corporate bill mill called the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) . ALEC was created in the 1970s as a means for powerful special interests and state legislators to meet, create and exchange “model” legislation that can be introduced in statehouses across the country.