Posted: 05/10/15 00:46
by Dave Mindeman
This is kind of depressing, but it needs to be talked about.
Our system of making laws is deeply flawed in favor of lobbyists. And it makes the concept of doing the right thing....nearly impossible.
My case in point deals with the For Profit college lobbyists who are backing John Kline's foolishly named "Supporting Academic Freedom Through Regulatory Relief Act".
What this law does is protect the For Profit Colleges by barring the regulations on for-profits, among other regulatory rollbacks.
As we are well aware, John Kline is deep in the back pocket of For Profits and has been pushing against the administration in its attempt to clamp down on the predatory recruiting and loan defaults the For Profits are famous for.
Kline's efforts have been slowed down in Congress and a July 1 deadline that could put these rules in place is getting closer.
But now we get to the really disappointing part of all this.
For years, the higher education establishment has viewed the for-profit education business as both a rival and an unsavory relation -- the cousin with the rap sheet who seeks a cut of the family inheritance. Yet in a striking but little-noticed shift, nearly all of the college establishment's representatives in Washington are siding with for-profit colleges in opposing the government's crackdown.
In a ridiculous turn of events, the higher education lobby (yes, the public and private institutions have lobbyists, too) has taken their own anti-regulatory stance and sided with the For Profits on promoting this bill.
I was stunned as I read this. Public and private universities do not operate as For Profit businesses. In theory, their only interest is getting students a good education at an affordable price.
This bid for GOP favor may seem counter-intuitive, given that many conservatives view academia as a bastion of pampered liberalism. In reality, the higher education lobby represents an industry as self-interested as any other -- the two largest of its many trade groups reported spending $500,000 on federal lobbying last year -- and it spies an opportunity in the deregulatory instincts of the Republican majority.
Why? Why is this happening now. Well, here is an explanation:
Early on, the traditional higher education lobby generally backed the administration. When the revised regulations came out last fall, Terry Hartle, chief lobbyist for the American Council on Education, which represents 1,700 schools from Abilene Christian University to Yale, called them "an honest effort by the department to find an appropriate balance." He added, "These issues are complicated, and they're trying to get it right." Then the Republicans took control of the Senate and the signals changed.
The academic community senses that the Republicans have the upperhand on this issue....and what the heck, why should they promote more scrutiny and regulation on their own methods, when the For Profits are going to get away with it anyway.
As usual, it is all about self-interest and playing to the ones in power.
I would suspect that if Kline's bill would somehow pass both the House and Senate (it will have to overcome a Democratic filibuster in the Senate), it would still have to overcome a Presidential veto.
But I sense that the public and private academic institutions are trying to curry some favor with the Republican majorities in Congress, in hopes of getting brownie points with the House and Senate leadership.
And of course, they need to pander to John Kline as well. He still has the gavel and control of the Education and Work Force Committee.
I guess that's how lobbying works. You don't do what is right for the country in general - you only deal with your own self-interest.
Of course, getting John Kline's attention takes more than "agreeing" with him, you have to "grease the wheels"....if you know what I mean.