$4.46 Million Spent in Second Quarter Lobbying against ‘Gainful Employment’ Rules

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At least $4.46 million was spent lobbying on federal student loan issues over the second quarter of the year – mostly in an attempt to block the Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rules. The second quarter period spending was just slightly less than spending for the first quarter, which totaled more than $4.5 million.

The new totals show that the industry has spent in six months this year more than it spent lobbying during all of last year. Last year’s total was just above $8 million.  Although the final – and much weakened – gainful employment regulations were published in early June, many of the companies are still pursuing legislative and judicial routes to having them blocked.

The full House has approved a bill to forbid the U.S. Department of Education from spending any federal funds to enforce the rules, which don’t go into effect until July 1, 2012, and cannot result in any punitive action until three years later.

 The Association of Private Sector College and Universities, an industry group representing more than 1,600 for-profit schools, filed suit last week in U.S. District Court in Washington seeking to block imposition of the rules. The group alleges that the Education Department exceeded its authority in issuing the rules, which seek to ensure that students get the education they pay for.

At the same time, Sen. Tom Harking (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Pensions and Labor Committee, continues to investigate the for-profit industry and is readying legislation that would give the government additional oversight of their financial inner workings.

In the lobbying effort, once again, the larger for-profit education companies spent the most, with Kaplan and its owner, The Washington Post Co., leading the way and laying out $560,000 during the reporting period of April 1-June 30, according to reports filed with the U.S. House of Representatives.

Career Education Corp., which owns American InterContinental University and Sanford-Brown institutes and colleges, among others, tied for second in spending with the Coalition for Education Success, a group of for-profit colleges that has tried to put its members on a higher plain than other for-profits, partly by vowing to adopt a Code of Ethics for its members.  Career Education and the Coalition each spent $460,000 on lobbying in the second quarter.

Corinthian Colleges, which owns the Everest brand of colleges, institutes and a university,  spent $360,000.  Corinthian is widely considered to be the most investigated for-profit company in the field.  Just behind Corinthian in spending was the older proprietary college association, formerly known as the Career College Association (now operating as the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities) at $350,000 and Bridgepoint Education (which operates Ashford University) at $340,000.

The Apollo Group, which owns the nation’s largest for-profit operation, the University of Phoenix, spent $220,000 and DeVry spent $160,000.