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August 03, 2010 2:54 PM Minority Organizations and For-Profit Colleges

By Daniel Luzer

Apparently the for-profit education sector has some new allies. According to an article by Jennifer Epstein in Inside Higher Ed:

Just a few hours after the U.S. Department of Education released the full text of its proposed regulations to define “gainful employment” last Friday, two groups that rarely weigh in on education issues circulated news releases expressing concern that the rule would limit minority students’ access to postsecondary education.
In its statement, MANA: A National Latina Organization said that the proposed regulations would “adversely affect Hispanic students’ ability to borrow money and will limit Hispanic students’ access to higher education.” The National Black Chamber of Commerce said the rules would “disproportionately harm low-income and minority populations by discriminating against students who must borrow the needed tuition to attend college.”

Later the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women and the National Hispanic Caucus of State Legislators indicated that they believed “gainful employment” rules would also somehow hurt the people they represent.

Well this is… interesting. One wonders how these groups came to hold such views. Just because black and Hispanic students enroll in for-profit schools doesn’t really mean they’re well-served by such institutions.

They are, however, heavily lobbied by such institutions. According to the Epstein article, the sentiments expressed by the minority-affiliated groups,

can in large part be traced to one prominent Washington lobbying firm, the Podesta Group. A Podesta staffer confirmed that the firm has performed “outreach” to black and Hispanic groups concerned about civil rights issues, including those that became interested in for-profit higher education in recent weeks.

The Podesta Group, a lobbying firm founded in 1988 by the brother of John Podesta (President Clinton’s chief of staff from 1998-2001), was apparently hired by the nation’s influential for-profit college organization, the Career College Association. As Epstein explains:

The Career College Association… paid Podesta Group $50,000 in the first quarter of 2010 and $80,000 in the second quarter to lobby Congress and the Obama administration. In the first half of the year, Podesta Group reported $210,000 in lobbying fees from Career Education Corporation, the company that runs American InterContinental University, Sanford-Brown Institutes and Le Cordon Bleu North America, among other institutions.

Money well spent? We shall see.

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer