Walker Accepted $63K+ from For-Profit Colleges Before Dumping State Watchdog

October 9, 2017

Graduation Caps and Dollars Falling from the Air

Republican Gov. Scott Walker accepted about $63,300 in campaign contributions since January 2010 from for-profit college owners and employees before eliminating a state agency that oversaw the controversial industry.

Walker vetoed out of existence the state’s Educational Approval Board, which licenses and regulates for-profit colleges, when he approved the 2017-19 state budget last month. The budget gives the board’s job to the state Department of Safety and Professional Services.

Walker’s elimination of the board drew criticism from American Federation of Teachers Local 212 and higher education observers.

Between January 2010 and June 2017, the top contributors from the for-profit college industry to Walker were Herzing College founder Henry Herzing and his wife, Suzanne, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., $24,000; Terry and Kathryn Myhre, of Naples, Fla., owners of Globe University, $9,500; Renee Herzing, of Menomonee Falls, president of Herzing College, $8,850; $6,000 from the political action committee of California-based Bridgepoint Education; and $5,000 from Felix Burkard, of Shorewood, a Herzing College educator.

Most of these contributions were made before Herzing College converted from for-profit to nonprofit status in 2015.

An increasing number of for-profit colleges converted to nonprofit status in recent years to avoid tougher federal regulations under the former Obama administration. However, they’re effectively continuing to operate as for-profit outfits because the owners have found a way to maintain some control and in some cases continue to profit from the colleges.

Other schools changed their status because the for-profit college industry has been under fire for years for their marketing practices and questions about the value of their programs and degrees to students.

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.

In late 2015, the Education Management Corp., which ran the Arts Institute of Wisconsin, agreed to pay $95 million and forgive about $103 million in student loans to settle a federal and multi-state lawsuit, which Wisconsin did not join, that accused the company of multiple consumer fraud and illegal recruiting violations. The settlement still allowed nearly 1,000 Wisconsin students to have about $900,000 in loans forgiven.