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June 15, 2010 3:19 PM Puppet?

By Daniel Luzer

A group of students from for-profit schools now have a grassroots organization so they can advocate for their interests. Students for Academic Choice recently elected its first president, Dawn Connor, a 33-year-old Wisconsin student. The term “grassroots” is a matter of debate, however. According to an Associated Press article by Eric Gorski:

Standing closely behind [Connor] is the Career College Association, a lobbying group for for-profit schools that provided the organizational muscle to launch the grassroots-sounding Students for Academic Choice at a time when for-profit colleges are under fire.
The Career College Association helped the students establish a website, draft bylaws and set up an online election that resulted in Connor being elected the group’s president — all at a time when for-profit colleges are intensifying lobbying efforts against tougher federal regulations expected to be proposed in the coming days.

Connor, a student at Globe University, a for-profit school based in Minnesota, will end up paying almost $44,820 for a two-year associate degree in veterinary technology.

Christine Lindstrom, higher education program director at the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, said that she was “skeptical of the organic nature of [Students for Academic Choice] given that it is completely towing the association’s line.”

Currently the Students for Academic Choice website consists only of a petition against the Department of Education’s definition of Gainful Employment. The proposed definition would make for-profit schools ineligible for federal financial aid if average graduates need to spend more than 8 percent of starting salaries to pay off student loans.

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