The PJ Tatler

Sen. Harkin Launches New Attack on For-Profit Schools

Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), who has lied about serving in Vietnam, has proposed legislation that would clamp down on how for-profit schools and universities can market themselves. According to an editorial in the Des Moines Register:

Last week, Harkin announced new legislation that would prohibit schools from using money from federal aid on advertising, marketing and recruiting. They are already prohibited from using this money for lobbying. The Protecting Financial Aid for Students and Taxpayers Act would ensure Pell Grants, GI Bill funds and other public money is not used for activities that serve no educational purpose. Lawmakers in Washington should support this legislation.

“Taxpayers should not be picking up the tab for colleges with dismal graduation rates that spend up to 30 percent of their revenue on marketing machines,” said Harkin, chairman of the HELP Committee.

Dismal graduation rates? If that’s the problem, then why isn’t Harkin going after taxpayer-funded community colleges? They have some of the worst graduation and outcome rates in all of education. By their own admission, community colleges aren’t making the grade.

Calling the American dream imperiled, the American Association of Community Colleges issued a report on Saturday intended to galvanize college leaders to transform their institutions for the 21st-century needs of students and the economy.

Released here on the opening night of the group’s annual conference, the report acknowledges the sector’s historic growth and success but also argues that even so, far too many community-college students do not graduate. The study also found employment preparation inadequately connected to the needs of the job market, and a need for two-year colleges to work more closely with high schools and baccalaureate institutions.

“As they currently function, community colleges are not up to the task before them,” it says.

The report, “Reclaiming the American Dream: Community Colleges and the Nation’s Future,” is blunt: The colleges must “redesign their institutions, their mission and their students’ educational experiences” to ensure that they meet the needs of a changing society.

Should taxpayers pick up the tab for the obviously far left political indoctrination that goes on all across the increasingly expensive state university culture? Should taxpayers foot the bill for university presidents and deans to live like minor kings, with lavish salaries and sprawling government-owned mansions and fleets of expensive cars? Should taxpayers foot the bill for tenured professors who do little in the way of actual teaching, sloughing those duties off onto graduate assistants? Taxpayers are footing the bill for all of that and much more waste that has become part of the state university culture. Harkin’s bill doesn’t address any of it.

We hear quite a bit these days about unsustainable student debt and the higher ed cost bubble. But we hear very little about how to stop higher ed costs from skyrocketing. My view is that Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s call for state universities to aggressively fight rising costs and establish a $10,000 degree is a very good first step to rein in the insane higher ed costs families and students are faced with now. Sen. Harkin’s oppression of for-profits, which compete with state schools and in some ways are more effective at achieving positive outcomes for students, is counter productive. Government officials — governors, senators, and so forth — have quite a bit of power when it comes to encouraging state institutions to change their ways. But rather than demand reform in state universities, they tend to use those institutions to build up their personal pork portfolio. Harkin is inserting himself and big government into the operations of free market schools, empowered by the Obama administration’s takeover of the federal student loan program and via the GAO’s heavy-handed report on for-profits. This won’t help anyone but Sen. Harkin.