For-Profit, For Romney
by Daniel Luzer
For-profit colleges, we’ve noted before, have allies in both political parties. But it turns out the head of one of America’s major proprietary college chains is firmly in the Mitt Romney camp this election.
David Halperin reports at the Huffington Post that,
Todd Nelson is chairman of EDMC [Education Management Corporation], the country’s second largest for-profit college business. EDMC, too, is embroiled in controversy, including lawsuits by the U.S. Justice Department and state attorneys general alleging fraud and recruiting abuses. EDMC’s stock has plummeted to about a tenth of where it was a year ago, and the company is laying off teachers and cutting services to students. This morning the company announced that enrollment and revenues had once again declined this fall. Amidst this collapse, Nelson has allowed a significant portion of EDMC’s declining resources to be allocated … to himself. He received $1,812,996 in compensation for 2009, $3,804,121 in compensation for 2010 — and $13 million in compensation for 2011.
Nelson is the former chief executive of the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix. The fact that he’s well compensated is, of course, perfectly legal. It’s also a large business, albeit a somewhat questionable one. But Nelson is also a big Romney backer. Halperin:
Todd Nelson and his wife, Amy, are also major donors to Mitt Romney. They have contributed $7,500 to the Romney campaign, and both are members of the Romney fundraising committee for Arizona. Amy Nelson also has given $50,000 to the Romney Super PAC, Restore Our Future. In making that donation, she used a Utah post office box as her address. Nelson told USA Today that his donations are not related to his business interests. “I’ve given to those who I feel can help our country,” he said. When the paper asked about his wife’s $50,000 contribution, Nelson said: “I’m aware of some of the things my wife does and some not.” Todd Nelson also donated $30,800 to the Republican National Committee in April.
Nelson is also active in the Mormon Church. According to the article EDMC, which owns Argosy University, The Art Institutes, and Brown Mackie College, “receives 80 percent of its revenues from federal student financial aid.”
And one wonders why Gov. Romney has indicated such strong support for for-profit colleges, which he believes promote beneficial “competition” in higher education.