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November 06, 2012 2:40 PM Romney’s Pretty Consistent Attitude on For-profit Colleges,

By Daniel Luzer

The president and Gov. Mitt Romney might agree on about 80 percent of higher education policy ideas, but that doesn’t stop progressives from highlighting the one pretty sordid part of Romney’s college ideas: his enthusiastic support for proprietary colleges.

According to a piece posted at Student Debt Crisis:

A new video from group of young activists warns of Mitt Romney’s connections to for-profit colleges, hoping to raise awareness of how the Republican presidential nominee might govern the controversial for-profit education sector. The video shows Romney talking about college affordability and insists the candidate is “sketchy” about for-profits.

Sketchy? Not really. The etch-a-sketch is a little odd here, since his feelings about college pricing haven’t really changed. He always seems to have said that for-profit colleges improve competition and will, thus, lower prices.

This happens to be bullshit, but it’s not sketchy.

Natalia Abrams and Kyle McCarthy, who made the video, apparently explained that they’re “worried Romney’s ties to for-profit colleges mean he would roll back some of the progress made to rein in the industry’s abuses.”

He certainly has ties to for-profit colleges (the executives of some such businesses are big Romney supporters) but it’s not the influence of proprietary colleges that explain Romney’s attitude. Support for for-profit colleges is very much in line with his general philosophy: companies are good for the world when someone makes money off them. This is true of how Bain Capital operated. There’s no flip-flopping here.

Note that while his thinking on for-profit colleges might be consistent, it’s still wrong. He said earlier in the year that for-profit colleges “hold down the costs of education,” because “I just like the fact that there’s competition. I like the fact that institutions of higher learning will compete with one another, whether they’re for-profit or not-for-profit,” indicating that he would roll back many of the restrictions the Obama administration has placed on such businesses. He would return to the relatively accommodating attitude of the George W. Bush administration.

During Bush’s eight years in office, however, when for-profit colleges were free to put students in debt without regard to their expected earnings and give employees bonuses for enrolling as many students as they could find, college prices continued to increase rapidly.

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