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David Halperin
David Halperin advises organizations on strategy, policy, politics, communications, and legal matters, and he writes at He was previously: founding director of Campus Progress and senior vice president at the Center for American Progress; senior policy advisor for Howard Dean's presidential campaign; founding executive director of the American Constitution Society; White House speechwriter and special assistant for national security affairs to President Clinton; co-founder of the Internet company RealNetworks; and counsel to the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Entries by David Halperin

VIDEO: With Senator Warren Watching, Suze Orman Denies, Admits, Rationalizes Teaching at University of Phoenix

(208) Comments | Posted September 17, 2014 | 8:41 PM


At an event in Washington DC this morning, speaking alongside Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), financial guru Suze Orman at first seemed to deny what is a documented fact: that she teaches a personal finance course at the nation's biggest for-profit college, the University...

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Consumer Protector Cordray: Corinthian Colleges Deceived and Bullied Students

(1) Comments | Posted September 16, 2014 | 4:13 PM


For a couple of years now, I've argued that Corinthian Colleges might be the worst predator of all the big for-profit college companies, a remorseless giant engaged in endless abuses of students who needed career help, not more problems. But now that...

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Bill Maher, John Oliver Slam Predatory For-Profit Colleges

(0) Comments | Posted September 15, 2014 | 8:10 AM

In a single week, two of America's best comedic truth-tellers -- John Oliver and Bill Maher -- hit hard against the predatory for-profit colleges that rip off taxpayers and ruin students' lives.

On his HBO show Last Week Tonight, Oliver attacked these profit-making colleges for their sky-high prices, meager spending on instruction, and deceptive and coercive recruiting tactics, including the enrollment of soldiers who had brain injuries and couldn't even name the courses they'd signed up for. Oliver added, "I will say this for for-profit colleges: They've just given us all a first-class education in the depths of human depravity." Oliver noted that of the 115 people enrolled in one ITT Tech engineering program in 2012, only 27 graduated, and just 13 found work in the field. "Everyone else would have genuinely been better off studying engineering at Hogwarts, because at least that way they'd have a fucking owl to show for it," he said.

Oliver noted that the for-profit college's shameless trade association, APSCU, had waged a successful campaign against the Obama Administration's rule ("gainful employment") to hold the industry accountable, in part by generating letters that the senders didn't even bother to read and fill in the blanks -- "I am a career college student at [INSTITUTION] studying [PROGRAM]. [INSTITUTION] is providing me with the education and training necessary to obtain the job I've always wanted as a [CAREER]."  In response, Oliver offered his own letter, which you can now send to APSCU:

To Whom It May Concern:
I am [NAME HERE], a human being with [DESCRIBE AT LEAST SOME LEVEL OF SENSE] who is sick of your [SYNONYM FOR BULLSHIT].
Whatever the benefits of for-profit schools, your trade group is protecting the worst actors, and [ADDITIONAL INSULTS]. [IDEAS FOR PLACES TO CRAM THIS LETTER ONCE ROLLED UP]. [PROPOSALS FOR HUMAN WASTE PRODUCTS TO BE EATEN].
Thank you for your time,

Five days later, on his HBO show, Real Time, live from Washington DC, Maher announced that Rep. John Kline (R-MN) was  the "winning loser" of Maher's "Flip a District" contest, aimed at defeating a "sellout" incumbent.  Maher said the issue that Kline, the chair of the House education committee, "may be the worst on" is student debt. Kline, Maher said, "has done more to keep twenty-somethings in their parents' basements than anyone else alive." He called Kline "the champion of for-profit colleges, which they used to call diploma mills, but that's back when you at least got a diploma." Maher charged that "at the University of Phoenix, Kline's biggest donor, 88 percent do not graduate -- that's a worse rate than celebrity rehab." As Jerry Seinfeld grinned and GOP politician / lobbyist Haley Barbour sat stone-faced, Maher said Kline is "bought and paid for" by the for-profit college industry -- and "this is the problem with Washington."

If you want to know more about how the for-profit college industry abuses students and corrupts Washington, boy, do I have that material for you: here and here.

Now, there are entertainers who defend and promote the for-profit college industry -- from Debbie Gibson to Rob Schneider, Suze Orman to Lanny Davis. But all of them have been paid to do so.  Maher and Oliver are only interested in finding targets whose misdeeds are worthy of our outrage. There are some fine for-profit colleges out there, but the predatory companies that dominate the industry surely are worthy of public outrage -- and public demand that these institutions be held accountable.

This article also appears on Republic...

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APSCU, Chamber Sought to Stack Rulemaking Panel With Execs From Troubled For-Profit Colleges

(0) Comments | Posted September 10, 2014 | 4:08 PM


The main lobbying group for America's for-profit colleges, APSCU, proposed last year to stock the Department of Education's 28-member negotiated rule-making panel on the crucial "gainful employment" rule with 11 nominees, nine of whom were executives at APSCU-member for-profit college companies, including multiple companies now...

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Obama: We'll Protect You Against Predatory Colleges. Students: Please Do

(3) Comments | Posted August 28, 2014 | 5:19 PM


Speaking at the American Legion convention in Charlotte Tuesday, President Obama pledged, "For veterans going back to school under the Post-9/11 GI Bill, we'll keep standing up against dishonest recruiting and predatory practices that target and prey on you and your families."  The...

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What College Was Michael Brown About to Attend?

(2) Comments | Posted August 26, 2014 | 10:05 PM


Had Michael Brown not have been shot to death by a police officer, he might have had his financial future ruined by the college he was about to attend. It has been widely reported that Brown had enrolled at for-profit Vatterott College, although...

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Dept. of Education Letter: Corinthian Misled Students and Overseers About Job Placement

(1) Comments | Posted August 26, 2014 | 5:52 PM


Republic Report has obtained a toughly-worded 17-page letter sent on Friday from the U.S. Department of Education to collapsing for-profit Corinthian Colleges, with the government charging that Corinthian's Everest Institute misrepresented job placement statistics at its Decatur, Georgia, campus to the school's accrediting agency and to...

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Post-Corinthian: Gates, Gingrich, Graham, and Fake "Susan and Dave" Aren't Done Opposing For-Profit College Rules

(3) Comments | Posted July 25, 2014 | 12:53 PM

Are "Susan and Dave" a for-profit college student, or the parents of a for-profit college student?  From the comments they posted on two different websites this week, seems like, both. Actually, it seems like a lie, perpetrated by a wealthy industry that will say or do anything to keep tapping billions...

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For-profit College Group APSCU Has Consistently Harbored Fraudulent Schools

(1) Comments | Posted June 30, 2014 | 2:19 PM


I mailed this letter today to Mr. Arthur E. Benjamin, Vice Chair, American Institutes Holdings LLC; Mr. Donald E. Graham, Chairman and CEO, Graham Holdings Company; and Mr. Steve Gunderson, President and CEO, Association of Private Sector Colleges and...
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U.S. Gas Exports Flow Through DC Lobbying's Revolving Door

(0) Comments | Posted June 26, 2014 | 4:14 PM

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Even as President Obama pursues an aggressive new public effort to fight global warming by regulating U.S. power plants, his administration is quietly advancing an energy policy -- exporting America's liquid...

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Jeb Bush Denounces Obama Rule to Hold For-Profit Colleges Accountable for Burying Students in Debt

(0) Comments | Posted June 23, 2014 | 9:39 AM

Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush (R) last week denounced President Obama's proposed "gainful employment" rule, which is aimed at holding accountable those career education programs that take taxpayer dollars but consistently leave their students with overwhelming debt.  According to a post on Twitter by the trade association of for-profit colleges,...

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For-Profit Corinthian Colleges on the Brink: Who's Responsible?

(13) Comments | Posted June 20, 2014 | 3:40 PM


Corinthian Colleges, a for-profit company that operates career training schools, is in deep trouble. Last week, the U.S. Department of Education, which has been providing Corinthian with about $1.4 billion dollars annually in student grants and loans, sent Corinthian a letter saying the...

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SNL 'Making Copies' Guy, in Business With For-Profit College, Attacks Obama

(0) Comments | Posted June 10, 2014 | 2:35 PM


Barack. Barack-O. Barack-O-Rama. The Obamanator! Makin' some copies. Copying the Gainful Employment Rule. 845 pages!

You remember Rob Schneider on Saturday Night Live with his breakout character, the guy who sat by the office copy machine and annoyed people...

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Obama Task Force on Chemical Dangers: Strong Enough?

(0) Comments | Posted June 6, 2014 | 9:22 AM

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Last year, a devastating chemical plant explosion in the town of West, Texas,  killed 15 people and injured 160 more.  The tragedy seemed to reawaken in President Obama a determination to improve safety and security at...

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Leader of Attack on Obama Global Warming Plan? Rudy Giuliani's Firm

(0) Comments | Posted June 5, 2014 | 3:42 PM


After the attacks of September 11, 2001, New York's Rudolph Giuliani became "America's mayor," mobilizing his city and standing as a defiant foe of the forces of terrorism. Then, after the devastating force in the New York area of superstorm Sandy,...

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For-Profit College Enrolls, 'Exploits' Student Who Reads at Third-grade Level

(0) Comments | Posted June 2, 2014 | 4:01 PM


A librarian at a southern California campus of Everest College abruptly resigned last week, deeply upset that the for-profit school had admitted into its criminal justice program a 37-year-old man who appears to read at a third-grade level.  The man, who...

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Obama Must Stop Giving Taxpayer Billions to Colleges That Ruin Students' Lives

(0) Comments | Posted May 27, 2014 | 10:38 PM


Tonight at midnight ET is the deadline for people to comment on the Obama Administration's gainful employment rule for career college programs.  Below is the text of my comment (pdf here), just submitted. 

To: Secretary of Education Arne Duncan

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Top Donor for House Education Chair Is For-Profit College Facing Federal and State Fraud Probes

(0) Comments | Posted May 23, 2014 | 9:18 AM


As reported yesterday by OpenSecrets, Representative Virginia Foxx (R-NC) has no serious opposition in her bid for reelection, yet has received more than $800,000 in campaign contributions. More than half of that money has come from outside North Carolina, much...

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Marco Rubio: The Dirty Energy President

(0) Comments | Posted May 13, 2014 | 11:30 AM

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On Sunday's ABC This Week, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) expressed two notable opinions. First, he said he's ready to be president of the United States. Second, he asserted that climate change is not caused by humans...

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Suze Orman Warns Against Private Student Loans, Yet Teaches at University of Phoenix

(1) Comments | Posted May 6, 2014 | 9:42 AM

Last year I reported that Suze Orman had been hired by the University of Phoenix to teach an online personal finance course and had appeared at a Capitol Hill event where she promoted the school, which is the largest for-profit college in the country.  It was difficult to understand how a woman who proclaims herself "undeniably America's most recognized expert on personal finance" could accept such a role when, for many people, enrolling at a for-profit college can be the worst financial decision they make in their entire lives.  While some graduates of the University of Phoenix and other for-profit colleges have succeeded in building strong careers, many students fare poorly, as many of the big for-profit schools, including Phoenix, have sky-high prices, low actual spending on student instruction, high dropout rates, and weak job placement records. The result is that often former students end up with overwhelming debt; for-profit colleges have 13 percent of U.S. college students, but an astonishing 47 percent of student loan defaults. Most of the biggest for-profit schools, including Phoenix, are now under investigation by federal and state law enforcement agencies for abusing students. 

Now, ace student advocate Mike DiGiacomo, whose new petition to hold for-profit schools accountable has already surpassed 100,000 signatures, has alerted me to a piece of video that highlights Orman's hypocrisy. In the clip, you can see Orman, in an episode of "Oprah's Money Class" from February 2012, state emphatically, "Private student loans should be avoided at all costs."  

This is very good advice. Private student loans, in contrast to federal direct loans, have high interest rates and origination fees and are not subject to most loan forgiveness programs. They quickly bury students in an avalanche of debt.

Yet the University of Phoenix routinely channels its students into private student loans.

The school's website does "recommend" that "private loans only be considered after applying for federal financial aid," but it then quickly gets down to business and directs students to a private company's website, Student Lending Analytics, that compares private loan providers and offers links to lender websites.

University of Phoenix students often have little choice but to sign up for private loans, as they likely discover when they speak with one of the school's financial aid counselors. Tuition for an associate's degree in business at the University of Phoenix Online is $24,500, while the same degree costs $4,087 at Phoenix College in the Maricopa Community College system in Arizona. A bachelor's in business at the University of Phoenix costs $74,575, while the University of Arizona charges $44,200 for the same degree. Federal loans and grants don't come close to covering Phoenix's high prices, and like other big for-profits, the University of Phoenix does not normally provide anything like the level of in-house scholarship funding to lower-income students that many nonprofit and state colleges offer. So many students who attend the University of Phoenix see no option but to take out these private loans.

Yet by December 2011, Orman was already singling out the University of Phoenix in USA Today for praise, saying that the school "makes all its students go through a free and mandatory three-week orientation course to make sure they understand the full costs of college before they sign on the dotted line." And by last year she had joined the faculty, and she appeared at an event in the halls of Congress just as the University of Phoenix and other for-profit schools were lobbying for congressional support to fend off the Obama Administration's "gainful employment" rule, which would hold career training programs accountable precisely for leaving students with insurmountable debt. Perhaps some Members of Congress, inclined to worry about the value and conduct of for-profit colleges, were reassured by Orman's celebrity endorsement of the University of Phoenix, just as potential students might be.

Orman can be seen on the University of Phoenix website, firmly warning students against overborrowing, seemingly oblivious to the fact that 26 percent of the students at the school default on even their low-interest federal loans within three years of leaving.

I don't know how much the University of Phoenix is paying Suze Orman. But it appears that Orman is committed to improving your bottom line, unless doing so interferes with improving her bottom line.

This article also appears on Republic...

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