Absurd Charges Cannot Obscure the Real Debate on For-Profit Colleges
In the past few days, Natasha Mayer, a political consultant writing for The Daily Caller website, CREW executive director Melanie Sloan, and others have appeared to suggest that Campus Progress’ work in support of common sense regulation of career colleges is connected to or funded by Wall Street investor Steven Eisman. These suggestions are ridiculous.
The facts are these: We don’t know Steven Eisman. Campus Progress has never communicated with or received any funding from Mr. Eisman or any entity associated with him. Campus Progress, which helps young people make their voices heard on key issues, has never accepted funding from anyone in exchange for taking a position on any matter, and we never will.
As to the confident assertion of these critics that Campus Progress is running a “million dollar campaign,” or that "major ad campaigns require major donors,” or that there are “millions being spent on negative advertising against for-profit colleges by Campus Progress”—not even close. Campus Progress’ total ad buy, consisting of 30-second spots on Fox News and MSNBC, has cost $4,000 so far. Our staff made the ad in-house, with no out-of-pocket costs (other than electricity). The critics are off by at least $996,000.
We certainly would like to have more resources to engage on these issues, because members of the for-profit education industry are in fact spending millions on lobbying alone (more than $5.5 million in the first three quarters of 2010), not to mention consultants, lawyers, and ubiquitous print and TV ads.
For-profit schools and their advocates are now engaging in increasingly desperate tactics—such as absurd allegations against nonprofit groups like ours—because they know the truth is not on their side.
Numerous investigations by federal and state authorities and major media have revealed deceptive and abusive practices by some for-profit school programs—programs that leave many students without jobs and deep in debt. That is why Congress passed a law and the Obama Administration has now proposed a rule to protect students and taxpayers, and that's why last week Campus Progress and 37 other civil rights, student, consumer and other organizations—including the NAACP, National Council of La Raza, and League of Latin American Citizens—wrote to President Obama supporting a strong regulation to hold schools accountable.
Our country cannot afford more waste, fraud, and abuse; federal aid must go to programs that help students learn and succeed in the economy, not to programs that ruin lives at taxpayer expense. The focus of the debate must return to these Americans striving to obtain an education and support their families.
David is the founder and former director of Campus Progress.