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A sly Foxx, after all
In case you missed it Monday, a key member of what my colleague Hunter calls the congressional dimwit caucus, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), takes a jaded view of Americans who take out student loans. Uh ... make that a jaundiced view. Er ... make that a jackass view. You see, she and her husband worked their way through school all on their own in the early '60s, and they borrowed very little. She says she has "very little tolerance" for those who graduate with a lot of debt. The younger generation, she insinuates, is a bunch of slackers. Be summer janitors. A burger flippers. That should cover tuition, books and living expenses with no problem, just as it did in the years when Jack Kennedy was president and the Foxxes were getting their degrees.

Without that student-loan debt, however, as Andrew Leonard shows in a fine little smackdown of the congresswoman, Foxx would be short many thousands of bucks in her campaign coffers. Among her top contributors are the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities and Corinthian Colleges. Fly-by-night for-profit education operations are something Foxx has eagerly gone to bat for despite continuing reports from the Government Accountability Office showing these operations, especially the online-only versions, to be massive rip-offs, offering inferior education and exceedingly low graduation rates. One of the biggest rip-offs is the fact that they thrive on student grant and loan money.

To help them out, Foxx introduced HR2117, the Orwellianly named Protecting Academic Freedom in Higher Education Act to "prohibit the Department of Education from overreaching into academic affairs and program eligibility under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965." In other words, as Danny Weil says, Foxx's act amounts to "no regulations allowed." Or, as Leonard suggests for a retitling: “The Protecting the Freedom of For-Profit Schools to Suck off the Government Teat Without Any Accountability Whatsoever Act.”

Her bill is (which passed the House by a wide margin, including many Democratic votes) is designed to repeal two new requirements established by the Obama administration:

Specifically, a new federal definition of what constitutes a legitimate academic “credit hour” and a new requirement that all online providers of post-secondary education be accredited in each and every state in which they do business.
Nothing extreme. Tweaks. But tweaks that the for-profit colleges industry couldn't abide. So Foxx argued that these interfere with the schools' innovation, effectiveness and efficiency, something they supposedly excel at while traditional institutions plod.

What Foxx's bill was really about was guaranteeing that the schools would be able to continue to qualify as student loan-approved operations. As a 2010 study released by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) showed, the five largest for-profit schools reported in 2009 that federal grants and loans made up 77.4 percent of their revenue. Leonard quotes Harkin's conclusion:

The Federal government and taxpayers are making a large and rapidly growing investment in financial aid to for-profit schools, with few tools in place to gauge how well that money is being spent. Available data show that very few students enroll in for-profit schools without taking on debt, while a staggering number of students are leaving the schools, presumably many without completing a degree or certificate.
That was exactly what the Obama administration's changes were designed to address and exactly what Foxx's repeal bill was designed to maintain. Thus, while ranting about her intolerance for individuals who take out student loans, and making herself once again to look like an out-of-touch doofus, she vacuums up campaign money from institutions she then shills for those who could not survive without those loans.

Quite the gig. Perhaps she's not such a dim wit, after all.

Originally posted to Meteor Blades on Tue Apr 17, 2012 at 02:45 PM PDT.

Also republished by Daily Kos.

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