The Tallahassee Democract:Career schools are creating opportunity

March 27, 2014
Written by Curtis Austin

In Florida, the majority of the health-care and information technology graduates are educated at career schools — more than 60 percent, according to 2011-2012 state data. The same is true in other industries — 93 percent of cosmetology students, 83 percent in culinary arts and 82 percent of commercial drivers.

With such a strong track record, Florida has entrusted the education of much of its frontline workforce to private career colleges. That is why the attacks on our sector, played out over and over in news media, are so misleading. Here’s the real story of what happens at Florida’s career schools.

• Accountability: Our schools are highly regulated and accountable to our students. The more than 1,000 private career schools in Florida are licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education to ensure that institutions are providing quality programs and that students’ consumer rights are protected. More than 83 percent of degree-granting schools are accredited by one or more agencies that closely monitor institutions to ensure they meet defined graduation and job placement benchmarks.

• Student debt: Students in all sectors acquire debt to improve their lives through education. And the reality is, the majority of students who face financial hardships and go into default end up paying back their loans. Taxpayers made more than $66 billion from the student loan program from 2007-2012, according to the Government Accounting Office. Under federal law, the student loan program is an entitlement program and schools cannot prevent students from taking out more loans than they “need.”

• Student success: Across the country, two-year career college programs are outperforming other sectors, graduating 63 percent of students compared with the 22 percent who graduate from public colleges and the 56 percent who complete programs at private, nonprofit schools, according to an Imagine America Foundation 2013 report.

Florida’s career schools are committed to providing access, opportunity and accountability to our students. In the last year, I have visited 75 schools, observing eager students focused on their futures, actively engaged in learning and in hands-on lab work. As executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, I invite anyone who questions this to spend a day with me at a career college.

Curtis Austin is executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, which works on behalf of Florida’s 370 degree-granting and 550 non-degree granting career schools and colleges.( Contact him at

The Hill: Private schools: New regs to hurt minorities

March 14, 2014

By Tim Devaney

A group of private colleges and universities is blasting the Obama administration's effort to tackle burdensome student loan debt, because they say it would force them to turn away low-income students, and in particular, minorities.

They also charge the proposed law unfairly targets private institutions while leaving their public counterparts unscathed.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), said the move was an "ideological declaration of war" against private schools by the Obama administration.  

"Millions of prospective students — particularly working adults, minorities and people with scarce financial resources — will see their access to higher education and prospects for better employment dramatically reduced," Gunderson added.

Republicans criticized the rule, while Democrats said it did not go far enough.

The Department of Education released its second attempt at "gainful employment" regulations on Friday morning, aimed at schools that "prey on students" by charging exorbitant amounts of money without providing adequate job training.

The regulations would apply to thousands of for-profit programs, as well as certificate programs at both nonprofit and public institutions. They would look at certain fields of study and measure the amount of debt students would face compared to their projected earnings, as well as the default rate among former students. Schools that perform poorly would lose federal student aid funding.

The Obama administration says this is part of an effort to push back against schools that saddle students with unreasonably high debt only to graduate and find a low-paying job, or no job at all.
"Higher education should open up doors of opportunity, but students in these low-performing programs often end up worse off than before they enrolled: saddled by debt and with few — if any — options for a career," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. 

But Gunderson said the new rule would provide a "perverse incentive" for private colleges and universities affected by the rule to restrict access to educational opportunities for low-income and minority students, who often depend on loans to go to college.

The private schools also say it could create divisions within a single college or university among students who will graduate into high-paying jobs and those who will not. These schools might even be forced to scrap programs that train students for initially low-paying jobs.

"Individuals interested in careers with lower starting salaries, such as communications, psychology, visual and performing arts, and social work will be barred from receiving the same federal aid as their classmates choosing more lucrative fields," Gunderson said.

Gunderson also expanded on his view that the gainful employment regulations unfairly target for-profit private schools.

"If the regulation were applied to all of higher education, programs like a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a law degree from George Washington University Law School, and a bachelor's degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University would all be penalized," he said.

An earlier 2011 version of the rule was scrapped after a federal court struck it down. But the Education Department is taking another crack at it.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said the rule would not go far enough to protect students from subpar educations.

"Based on what I've seen so far … I once again have serious concerns with this proposed rule's ability to protect students and taxpayers from costly programs that consistently over-promise and under-deliver," Harkin said in a statement.

But Republicans disagree.

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) said in a statement he was “extremely troubled” by the new version of the proposed rule.

Inside Higher Education: Building Walls to the Middle Class

March 17, 2014 
Last week, for the first time in the gainful employment regulatory process, the U.S. Department of Education revealed its true motivation and bias against private-sector education and the students who attend our institutions.

While defending a regulation that limits access to higher education and obstructs a pathway to the middle class for new traditional students, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council James Kvaal hid behind the assertion that the gainful employment policy is designed to grow the middle class and protect students.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The regulation does not apply to all of higher education, therefore it cannot protect all students, and it will limit access to the very postsecondary institutions that serve lower-income students trying to join the middle class through new career skills.

What this boils down to is the unfortunate reality that the Education Department engaged in a sham negotiated rulemaking process with the sole goal of reaching a predetermined conclusion that will severely limit access to higher education and opportunity for millions of students based on the type of institution they attend.

The department estimates one million students will lose access to postsecondary education, but neither Duncan nor Kvaal offered a realistic solution for how to serve these historically overlooked and underserved students or the millions more denied access once this regulation is promulgated.
In addition to the students denied access to critical career training programs, the economic reality is that others will be harmed when reduced numbers of students enrolled make the programs or possibly the entire institution no longer viable.

The department’s regulation will result in the new traditional student -- working adults, minorities and people with scarce financial resources -- seeing their access to higher education and prospects for better employment dramatically reduced.

Individuals interested in careers with lower starting salaries, such as communications, psychology, visual and performing arts, and social work will be barred from receiving the same federal aid as their classmates choosing more lucrative fields.

All of this because of an institutional bias by the current Education Department against the private sector’s involvement in the delivery of postsecondary education -- something that has been a key element of America for generations.

At the heart of this sits the department overreaching its statutory authority to interpret the “gainful employment” language in the Higher Education Act, the federal law that governs financial aid, as authorizing it to evaluate program eligibility on the basis of complicated debt calculations.

As Senator Lamar Alexander noted last week, the fact that it took the Department 841 pages to define two words in the Higher Education Act – longer than the law itself – “shows exactly what is wrong with Washington and its desire to overregulate institutions of higher education.”

Even with all those pages, the department uses an arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach by not taking into consideration the level of preparation and the characteristics of entering students.. As a result the department has created the perverse incentive for institutions to avoid enrolling low-income and minority students.

America’s private sector institutions strongly support accountability that applies to all programs recognizing the diversity of students and institutions, as President Obama has promised in creating a rating system. We would support measuring outcomes and performance for all programs across higher education based on quantitative indicators like: retention and progression rates, completion, employment of graduates, earnings and graduate satisfaction.

What we object to is a regulation imposing an arbitrary debt-to-earnings metric as the definition of what is or is not academic quality.

We cannot stand silently by as a regulation is promulgated that would fail programs (if it were applied to them) like a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a law degree from George Washington University Law School and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University. These programs get a pass since the department has chosen to focus on a narrow band of programs that serve the new traditional student.

The purpose of the federal financial aid programs has always been to help provide disadvantaged students access to higher education. It is incredible that this administration is on the verge of promulgating a regulation that limits access to education for disadvantaged students based on the very factors that caused them to be disadvantaged in the first place.

APSCU Press Release: U.S. Department of Education Releases Highly Biased, Flawed and Arbitrary Regulation for Public Comment

Bad Public Policy Will Displace Millions of Students Over The Next Decade; Inhibit Employer Needs For Job-Ready Workforce

Washington, D.C., March 14, 2014 – Following the public release of the gainful employment regulation NPRM, Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, released the following statement:

“The U.S. Department of Education’s actions confirm that they engaged in a sham negotiated rulemaking process with the sole goal of reaching a predetermined conclusion that will result in eliminating higher education access and opportunity for millions of students based on the type of institution they attend.

“The Department has never been interested in constructive input or ensuring that student access is protected. As a result, millions of new traditional students will lose access to postsecondary education and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lifetime earning potential.

“Stakeholders have repeatedly expressed concerns that this regulation would restrict access to postsecondary education for an increasingly diverse group of students, many of whom would not be able to attain education at another institution, either because of capacity, location, scheduling or financial aid.

“If the regulation were applied to all of higher education, programs like a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a law degree from George Washington University Law School and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University, would all be penalized. The logic behind singling out our students and institutions despite this fact is discriminatory, punitive, and will lead to a higher education system that fails countless students.

“The Department should carefully listen to the input and concerns of those impacted by the regulation, something that has been missing from the rulemaking process to date, and either reverse course or modify the regulation to limit the impact on students.”

U.S. Chamber of Commerce: What is the Gainful Employment Rule Really About?

March 10, 2014
Written by Cheryl A. Oldham

It is true that the cost to attend college continues to grow – rising faster than any other sector of American society. However, research still supports the notion that a college education leads to greater economic returns to the individual and to society. Furthermore, virtually all middle-class jobs now require postsecondary skills and credentials. Therefore, we want more people to attend college, have access to greater opportunity, and achieve the American dream. Yet the price tag is high and thus the debt—particularly for low-income students—continues to grow.

The administration is right to be concerned and to consider appropriate ways for the federal government to play a role in mitigating this burden for students and families. We agree. What we don’t agree with is its misguided approach, outlined in the Chamber's letter to the OMB and the Department of Education.

Under the auspices of addressing college costs and student debt, the Department of Education is making its second attempt (after the first was struck down by a federal judge) at defining gainful employment. And again, only for-profit higher education institutions (and a few community college programs) must meet the department’s measures. It’s unclear how the tax status of an institution has anything to do with the quality of education, but I digress.

Four years ago, the administration put forth a vigorous argument in support of a definition of gainful employment that included a 12% debt-to-earnings ratio. That is to say, the annual debt payments of a program’s graduates would be capped at 12% of their earnings. This time around, the department has proposed an even tougher standard and lowered the ratio to 8%.

If a graduate’s annual debt payments are greater than 8%, the program from which the student graduated from would lose eligibility for federal aid even if every graduate pays back his or her loans!

What’s ironic is that the department’s own National Center for Education Statistics report from October 2013 found that 26% of bachelor’s degree recipients at public four-year institutions faced monthly loan payments greater than 12% of their monthly income. Thirty-nine percent of private non-profit institutions exceeded the 12% threshold as compared to 35% at for-profit colleges.
As is clear from this report, traditional higher education institutions and programs of study, if subject to this rule, would not be able to meet the debt-to-earnings test. If the administration truly wished to tackle the issue of cost and debt in higher education, it would look at the entire sector.

Is the administration prepared to say that public and not-for-profit private institutions don’t have a gainful employment problem? Their own numbers say that they do.

So what is really going on here? The gainful employment rule is about ideology and the notion that private enterprise and education do not belong together. We disagree.

The for-profit sector serves close to 3 million students—mostly non-traditional. Many are adult students with families and full time jobs who are attending school to improve their life situation. Non-traditional institutions of higher education are providing them the opportunity to do so.

This rule will shutter programs serving hundreds of thousands of students who will not be able to find comparable programs that are equally convenient, will accept them and their credits, and that have the capacity to properly serve them. Students affected by this misguided rule will have no choice but to drop out of school and abandon their dreams.

Having an effective higher education system is essential to providing a strong foundation for both individual success and U.S. competitiveness. The proposed gainful employment rule would have a chilling effect on private sector innovation and result in reduced access, fewer choices, and less opportunity for students. Clearly, this is not in line with the administration’s stated goals of once again leading the world in the number of college graduates.

At a time when there are 4 million open jobs across the country, partially due to a workforce that lacks the skills needed by employers, we need to be expanding options and access to higher education for students, not limiting them. Employers all across this country need the assurance that America’s education system is preparing students for the 21st century economy. Not just traditional students, but all of those who attend institutions of higher education with the desire for a better life for themselves and their families.

The gainful employment rule will do nothing to lower costs and will only deny many of these students this opportunity.

The New York Time: For-Profit Colleges (Letter, Apollo Group Senior Vice President Mark Brenner)

March 09, 2014

To the Editor:

College, the Great Unleveler,” by Suzanne Mettler (Sunday Review, March 2), presents an elitist view of higher education. Ms. Mettler doesn’t acknowledge that a “one size fits all” higher education (traditional, expensive, campus-based) no longer fits the needs of most college students today.
The article’s premise would deny opportunities opened by for-profit institutions for “nontraditional students,” from hard-working veterans to high school grads who simply need flexible learning while working through school.

The for-profit sector needs expanding and improving, not shrinking. Traditional colleges have their place, and we have no intention of fighting the education culture war Ms. Mettler is declaring on us from the Ivy League. But a majority of America’s students deserve the opportunities and flexibility that elite institutions (inaccessible to most students) don’t provide.

Phoenix, March 4, 2014
The writer is senior vice president for corporate communications and external affairs at the Apollo Group, owner of the University of Phoenix.

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Apollo Education Group Starts Nontraditional Course Catalog

March 05, 2014

The Apollo Education Group, the parent company of the University of Phoenix, is starting a website to help people find courses that teach skills they need to land specific jobs in the technology industry. Call it a course catalog for nontraditional courses, most of which have no connection to colleges’ degree programs.

The website, called Balloon and announced on Tuesday, will be pitched to adult learners who want to pick up skills that have been flagged by technology companies as requirements for certain job openings. The idea is to make recruiting more efficient for companies, while giving learners a better idea of what skills employers in the tech industry are looking for apart from the general ones indicated by a traditional degree, said Robert W. Wrubel, chief innovation officer at Apollo.

Here is how Balloon will work, according to Mr. Wrubel: Users will be able to browse actual job listings posted by companies such as Adobe and Amazon, see the skills those companies are requiring of candidates, and then search a database of 14,000 courses for the ones that teach those skills. For example, if you start typing “cloud computing” into Balloon’s search engine, the auto-complete function will show a number of listed job titles related to cloud computing. If you select “cloud security analyst,” Balloon will display three required skills, 18 relevant courses, and 27,729 job listings. It will also tell you that cloud security analysts typically make $53,000 to $79,000 a year.

The courses in Balloon’s database are from nonuniversity providers, including Coursera, Udacity, and Udemy. Eventually, said Mr. Wrubel, the site could add career-focused courses from traditional colleges, including courses offered by the University of Phoenix. Balloon will probably not weigh in on course quality, he said, but it might develop a Yelp-like feature with which users and employers could review and rate the courses.

Mr. Wrubel, whose own résumé includes executive stints at an advertising-distribution company and as co-founder of a chain of yoga studios, talked only in vague terms about Balloon’s business model. There are “dollars to be made” in arranging happier marriages between companies and job candidates, he said. Balloon might eventually sell recruiting services to companies.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Apollo’s announcement came on the heels of a report from Gallup suggesting that employers value a “candidate’s applied skills in the field” far more highly than where an applicant went to college or what his or her major was. That study was the latest in a series of recent reports, including one published last year by The Chronicle, that describe a mismatch between the training colleges provide and the skills employers want in job candidates.

APSCU Press Release: Private Sector Colleges and Universities Create Multi-Billion Dollar Education and Workforce Economy, Generate Jobs and Provide Tax Revenues

Washington, D.C., March 4, 2014 — Private sector colleges and universities account for nearly 250,000 jobs in the United States with a total economic impact of over $47 billion, according to an economic analysis prepared by John Dunham & Associates and released by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU).

With an enrollment of nearly four million students, private sector institutions provide students with access to in-demand skill training and ensure employers have access to job-ready employees. As a result of their critical role in the education to employment pipeline, private sector institutions support a multibillion dollar economy, employ tens of thousands of faculty and staff, and provides billions of dollars in tax revenue to local, state and federal government.

Key findings from the analysis include:
  • Economy: The total economic impact by the sector on the country is over $47 billion.
  • Jobs: Private sector institutions support nearly 250,000 direct jobs.
    • Over 64,000 individuals are indirectly employed in jobs as suppliers to private sector institutions.
    • Over 96,000 individuals are indirectly employed as a result of private sector institutions.
  • Wages: Private sector institutions account for over $10 billion in wages. 
  • Taxes: Over $3.8 billion in federal taxes are generated through private sector institutions. At the state and local level, over $2 billion dollars in taxes are generated.
“Our sector invests in students and their communities. This is not just about access and opportunity to postsecondary education, but the contributions we make to local communities and local employers,” said APSCU President and CEO Steve Gunderson. “Our institutions serve every state and district in the country. We are proud of this presence and the educational services we provide.”

The economic impact study is broken down by state and congressional district level. Examples of key findings in states include:
  • Colorado: Private sector institutions in Colorado have a $1.2 billion total economic impact on the state, produce $271 million in wages, and generate $50 million in state and local taxes.
  • Maryland: Private sector institutions in Maryland have a $399 million total economic impact on the state, produce $94 million in wages, and generate $16 million in state and local taxes.
  • New Jersey: Private sector institutions in New Jersey have a total economic impact of $827 million, produce $165 million in wages, and generate $37 million in state and local taxes.
  • Oregon: Private sector institutions in Oregon have a $349 million total economic impact on the state, produce $58 million in wages, and generate $12 million in state and local taxes.
  • Virginia: Private sector institutions in Virginia have a total economic impact of $1.2 billion, produce $334 million in wages, and generate $63 million in state and local taxes.
  • Washington: Private sector institutions in Washington have a total economic impact of $486 million, produce $74 million in wages, and generate $14 million in state and local taxes.
To view the complete analysis and select a specific state or congressional district, visit

The Chronicle of Higher Education: For-Profit Colleges Add $20-Billion to Economy, Trade Group Says

March 04, 2014


Washington — The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities has released an analysis that says for-profit colleges have a direct impact of about $20-billion on the United States economy.

The analysis was released as some 200 officials of for-profit colleges, students, and employers of the colleges’ graduates are gathering here for a three-day lobbying push on Capitol Hill against tighter regulation. The analysis, prepared by John Dunham and Associates, also includes localized reports that show the economic impact of the colleges, state by state.

Based on data from the 2011-12 year, the analysis says the colleges “trained 855,562 graduates in technical fields with midlevel skills” and provided the equivalent of 242,650 full-time jobs that produced tax revenues of more than $3.47-billion. The association, the sector’s main trade group, said that was the latest year for which data were available. Enrollments and employment in the for-profit-college sector have each shrunk somewhat since then. The analysis also estimated the sector’s indirect economic benefits at more than $47-billion.

The Dunham firm is no stranger to the political arena. As it tells potential clients on its website, it “can help you respond to threats and opportunities in the policy arena by providing strong analysis, as well as unique, credible messages and tools for use in lobbying, stakeholder engagement, communications, and litigation support” (emphasis is in the original).

Inside Higher Education: Gainful employment debate aired out in The New York Times

March 04, 2014

By: Paul Fain

A proxy war over the regulation of for-profit colleges is being waged in the editorial pages of The New York Times.

In the last week the newspaper has published four opinion pieces that touch on federal oversight of the industry -- two in favor of tightening the screws and two (by the same columnist) defending for-profits for their role in educating underserved students.

The flurry of punditry comes just before the U.S. Department of Education is expected to release its final draft "gainful employment" rules for vocational programs at for-profits and community colleges. It also relates to broader debates over how to treat the for-profit sector in President Obama's proposed college rating system and in the eventual Congressional reauthorization of the Higher Education Act.

As a result, both critics and supporters of the industry appear to have pled their case to the gatekeepers of what is arguably America's most prominent forum for debate.

On Saturday the Times ran an excerpt from a new book by Suzanne Mettler, a professor of history at Cornell University. Mettler's book is titled Degrees of Inequality: How the Politics of Higher Education Sabotaged the American Dream. In the excerpt she takes Congress to task for the "polarized plutocracy" that led to its support of for-profits, which she notes are heavily dependent on government funding.

"By the late 1990s, Republican leaders championed the for-profits as the 'private sector,' " Mettler wrote, "never mind that 15 of the large publicly traded for-profits receive on average 86 percent of their revenues from federal student aid."

Some Democrats also signed on, she said, thanks to the industry's lobbying and campaign contributions.

"The result? In the House of Representatives, where Democrats and Republicans agree on almost nothing, they have united to protect $32 billion taxpayer dollars for the for-profit college industry," she wrote.

Andrew Kelly, director of the Center of Higher Education Reform at the American Enterprise Institute, is a big fan of Mettler's writing. But he said she is mistaking the "plutocracy" for old-fashioned constituent influence.

Some of the Democrats who broke ranks in the House on for-profits come from urban districts, Kelly said, which are home to large minority and low-income populations that those institutions tend to enroll. And for-profit campuses are common in urban districts.

"Members of Congress tend to represent the interests of the organizations in their district," Kelly said in an email. "And those organizations tend to contribute money to incumbents who are up for reelection."

Mettler criticized the Apollo Group, which owns the University of Phoenix, the largest of for-profit institutions. Mark Brenner, Apollo's chief of staff, fired back, saying a "majority of today's students deserve opportunities and flexibility that sometimes-inaccessible, elite institutions simply don’t provide."

'Menace' or 'Indispensable'?

Mettler's book excerpt calls for the feds to step up with tighter regulation of for-profits. Echoing her was Brent Staples, an editorial writer for the newspaper.

Under the headline "The Robber Barons of the For-Profit College Sector," Staples' column last week said bad actors in the industry represent a "menace" that requires more federal oversight.

Citing investigations by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and attorneys general in 32 states, Staples said some for-profits "saddle students with crushing debt while furnishing them useless degrees – or no degrees at all."


Advocates for the industry have been able to stir up some support in the newspaper, however.

Marc Jerome is president of Monroe College, a small for-profit with campuses in the Bronx and New Rochelle, N.Y. He was also on a federally appointed negotiating team that failed to reach consensus in December on proposed gainful employment metrics.

Jerome landed a prominent role in a sympathetic opinion piece that Eduardo Porter, a Times columnist, wrote last week. Porter wrote that Monroe's graduation rates beat that of nearby community colleges. Monroe also fares well on job placement and loan default rates, Porter reported.

He cited Jerome's claim that Monroe had been unfairly targeted by the feds. And, while exploring both sides of the gainful employment issue, Porter appeared to side with Jerome on for-profits being "indispensable" for serving poorer, more diverse students than traditional colleges.

"The United States must satisfy a growing demand for higher education, particularly from low-income students," concluded Porter. "If for-profit colleges are discouraged from fulfilling it, somebody else has to."

PR and Lobbying

The Education Department has submitted its gainful employment rules to the White House's Office of Management and Budget. The final product could emerge any day, where it will then face a round of public comments.

PR campaigns probably won't stop gainful employment, given the time and effort the department has put into creating them. A lawsuit might. And sources said for-profits are likely to sue to knock down the regulations, as they did successfully with a previous iteration.

But both critics and supporters of for-profits are angling for the feds to alter the final proposal in their favor. So they have met with White House officials and taken to editorial pages.

Noah Black, a spokesman for the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), which is the primary for-profit trade group, said the Times's commentary section has been "incredibly biased" against the sector.

"Opinion columnists educated at elite, private institutions have questioned why our nation should provide students historically underserved by traditional higher education with the opportunity to access federal financial aid and attend an institution that meets them where they are in their career," Black said via email. "Our hope is the administration will not be swayed by the elitist opinions of the Ivory Tower, but rather consider the fact that the gainful employment regulation will cut off access to postsecondary education for millions of students looking to prepare themselves for in-demand careers."

The Porter piece proved equally irksome to advocates of strict gainful employment rules. (He later reprised the bottom line of his column in a brief blog entry.)

Carrie Wofford is a former Democratic staffer on the U.S. Senate's Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee who now helps lead a nonprofit group seeking stronger protection for students who are veterans of the U.S. military.

In contrast to the Staples and Mettler pieces, which Wofford said were "appropriately heavy on the facts," she said Porter made a few incorrect assumptions.

For starters, while Wofford said Porter was correct to say for-profits could offer innovative educations, she cited a voluminous Senate investigation which found that they rarely spend a large portion of their budgets on academics.

"Many students at for-profits complain that the education they receive is out of date and not up to the standards employers expect," Wofford said in an email. "That's a spending choice for-profits make."

Porter may have stepped on a few toes by giving Jerome a platform to criticize community-college graduation rates. APSCU's president and CEO, Steve Gunderson, has promised to avoid that sort of cross-sectoral squabbling. But Monroe isn't a member of the association. And Jerome talked about low completion rates at community colleges often during the negotiated rulemaking sessions.

"He took every opportunity to criticize our institutions," said Jee Hang Lee, vice president for public policy and external relations at the Association of Community College Trustees (ACCT).

Lee said Jerome and Porter relied on "myopic" data to criticize community college-graduation rates. Federal databases only count first-time, fulltime students, which are small portion of total enrollment at most community colleges.

Kelly, however, said he thought Porter did a good job summing up the for-profit dilemma in Washington.

"Policy makers are frustrated by the outcomes at for-profit colleges and rightfully annoyed about abuses within the sector," Kelly said. "But these colleges do occupy an important slice of the higher education market, especially in an era of tight public budgets and training that is more tightly linked to the job market."

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