Republic Report has learned that the Washington Post Company’s Kaplan for-profit college division, was, last year, a member of the controversial business advocacy group the American Legislative Exchange Council. Other major for-profit education companies also joined ALEC. Republic Report has obtained a July 2011 document showing Kaplan Higher Education and other for-profits as members of ALEC’s Education Task Force. This morning, in an email message to Republic Report, Mark Harrad, Vice President of Communications at Kaplan, Inc., a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Washington Post Company that includes Kaplan Higher Education, wrote, “A unit of Kaplan was a member of ALEC for a one year period, which ended in August 2011.”
For-profit colleges are the ultimate special interest. Many receive around 90 percent of their revenue from federal financial aid, more than $30 billion a year, and many charge students sky-high prices. In recent years, it has been fully documented that a large number of these schools have high dropouts rates and dismal job placement, and many have been caught engaging in highly coercive and deceptive recruiting practices. Yet when the bad actions of these predatory schools got publicly exposed, the schools simply used the enormous resources they’ve amassed to hire expensive lobbyists and consultants, and to make campaign contributions to politicians, in order to avoid accountability and keep taxpayer dollars pouring into their coffers.
Are you surprised to learn that these subprime schools joined the now-discredited ALEC, the secretive group that connects corporate special interests with campaign contribution-hungry state legislators in order to dominate lawmaking at the state level? No, you probably aren’t surprised. Much of the action on for-profit colleges takes place at the federal level, where the money comes from, but states are increasingly taking an interest in protecting their residents from predatory practices – through accreditation of schools, investigations of fraud, and other oversight. So for-profit colleges have come to ALEC to seek influence at the state level.