At a press conference, Kline said that the President’s idea to make community college free for students on track to graduate with good grades was “too lofty,” but then questioned why the proposal doesn’t cover all colleges, which (besides contradicting himself) is a particularly interesting question for Kline to ask considering where many of his campaign dollars come from–the for-profit college industry.
Last fall, City Pages had a cover story about Minnesota’s 2nd congressional district representative, and it was less than flattering to say the least. A particularly telling excerpt from the piece explains what went wrong in the case of Kline and his broken promises:
Since entering Congress in 2003, Kline had carefully nourished this self-image of waste-cutting conservative. But when he was named chairman of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce in 2010, that zeal mysteriously dissipated. Kline was in a prime position to slash the $33 billion annually going to for-profit colleges. Instead, he became the industry’s fiercest bodyguard.
Why would a “waste-cutting conservative” defend for-profit schools, and then later reject a proposal to provide free education for Americans? Kline’s history as a veteran is especially chilling when it comes to the topic of for-profit schools, but it’s important to first break down how the for-profit college industry works.
What is a for-profit school?
Where a non-profit school offers a learning environment designed to serve students’ interests and need for a degree, a for-profit school is a business to make money for its shareholders by offering a service–in this case it’s education.
Why are for-profit schools considered predatory?
The underlying goal of all for-profits is to make money because it’s a business at the end of the day. Considering for-profits are considered “high-tuition schools,” it would seem logical that these schools spend a decent amount of their tuition on students. However, for-profits spend on average more than $10,000 less per student for instructional costs than private non-profit colleges. The difference between research money spent per student is even more vast: $8 at for-profits compared to $5,887 at private non-profits. All of that may seem like poor business handling, but when you consider that only 28 percent of for-profit college students graduate with a four-year degree compared to 65 percent of students at private non-profits, it becomes clear that the for-profit industry’s questionable methods can easily be considered predatory.
The case of Kline’s support of the for-profit college industry is especially impudent considering his military experience. Kline spent 25 years in the U.S. Marine Corps, which may lead people to believe that he would legislate with veterans in mind. However, upon receiving more than $130,000 in campaign contributions from the for-profit industry, Kline began working for the industry responsible for more than 60 percent of military students defaulting on their loans.
For-profit colleges began exploiting veterans, who have access to college education subsidies due to the GI Bill, by persuading them that their education options are limited to the for-profit industry, recruiting veteran students specifically for their federal dollars (in one case even recruiting at Camp Lejeune’s Wounded Warrior ward to enroll injured Marines), and signing vets up for thousands of dollars in loans without their knowledge.
A former military student of the for-profit University of Phoenix said the college “treats military students like cash piñatas.”
The Center for Responsive Politics said the congressman has collected almost $900,000 from for-profit colleges since 2009.
That’s why it’s especially shameful for Kline to slam President Obama’s proposal to make college more accessible: not only is Kline proving, yet again, that he’s working on behalf of a “huge, incredible scam,” but he is also actively working to make it more difficult to change the way the higher education system works in the United States.
President Obama’s proposal is the start of a national conversation trying to fix the fact that student loans are only second in terms of debt to home mortgages, and Kline’s response to that proposal was a quick foot-down on the catalyst for progress.
It’s not a secret that Kline does not work for veterans or students based on his continuous support for (and from) the for-profit college industry. But with his response to President Obama’s community college plan, it’s clear that his refusal to work for his constituents and the middle class shows Kline’s true colors.