With the May 27 deadline approaching to submit comments to the U.S. Department of Education, big for-profit colleges are pulling out all the stops to gut the Obama Administration's proposed "gainful employment" rule, which is aimed at curbing predatory career training programs. Taking some of the $33 billion a year they've been getting from taxpayers, the industry is spending big on lobbyists, with a continued heavy emphasis on hiring former Members of Congress and ex-Capitol Hill staffers. Buttressed by a steady flow of campaign contributions from the for-profit college industry to legislators, these lobbyists lean on their former Capitol Hill colleagues to lean on the White House to water down the rule, as happened in 2011 with a prior version of the regulation (which the industry then managed to get thrown out entirely by a federal judge).
Many of the best-known lobbyists from the 2011 fight are still in the game, drawing big fees to meet with Administration officials, Senators, and Representatives and claim that the Obama regulations will eliminate good educational opportunities for students, when in fact the rule is structured to take away federal aid only from those programs that consistently leave students worse off than when they started, buried in debt. They also are arguing that the rule represents another Obamacare-style government interference with the free market, when in fact many big for-profit colleges get 80 to 90 of their revenue from federal taxpayer dollars.