By Goldie Blumenstyk
The for-profit-college trade association has named Steve Gunderson, a former Republican Congressman and until recently the head of the Council on Foundations, as its new president and chief executive.
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities announced the appointment in an e-mail message to its members on Sunday.
At the foundations council, which he led from 2005 until July, Mr. Gunderson oversaw a diverse organization of 1,700 grant makers during a period of economic boom and struggle. As The Chronicle of Philanthropy reported earlier this year, during his tenure he was lauded for helping to reshape the orientation of the organization from its historic focus on member services to broader issues of the role of philanthropy in society. Yet some liberal critics have faulted his stewardship, saying the council showed insufficient leadership during the economic meltdown—for example, in never urging its members to step up giving to struggling nonprofits.
Mr. Gunderson replaces Harris S. Miller, who resigned in July amid criticism from some for-profit college leaders over his leadership style and tactics in response to intense public and political scrutiny of the sector for its low graduation rates and high rates of student-loan defaults. Several key leaders of the association, known as Apscu, have said privately that the group should have relied less on Mr. Miller as the face of the association and turned more to hiring statistics, employer polls, and other empirical data to rebut criticism of the for-profit-college industry.
Mr. Gunderson, who was a member of Congress from 1981 through 1996, starts February 1 at Apscu, representing an industry facing numerous challenges. Enrollments at many for-profit colleges have slowed and the political, regulatory, and legal scrutiny from federal and state officials shows little sign of letting up; a U.S. senator's hearing set for Monday in Chicago on how for-profit colleges recruit veterans is just the latest example.
The industry also faces grass-roots opposition, most notably from the politically active Service Employees International Union, which last week introduced a new campaign against for-profit colleges that it will publicize through a Web site called For-Profit U.