Bob Huff Loves Corporate Welfare for failing, for-profit schools.

I used to think Democratic Party legislators were the ones guilty of wasting taxpayer money, money so hard to come by in this state.

First, let’s look Bridgepoint Education with their 1,250 dollar contribution to Bob Huff.  Who is Bridgepoint Education?  Bridgepoint Education is a for-profit education company that operates online and on-campus based schools in the San Diego region and they are the fifth highest private employer in San Diego.  Fine, it’s great that there are expanded education opportunities for people looking to expand their skills. However, there’s one major problem with Bridgepoint Education they get federal and state grants and the taxpayers are getting little in return with the company. Their profits are going up, but students are not completing their programs or even getting a decent job from their education.

The story began when a former executive for the for-profit University of Phoenix decided to look for a private liberal arts college for sale.  They found and bought one in Iowa which was already accredited, making it easier to quickly get students.  Then, regulations by the Department of Education in 2006 allowed schools with more than 50 percent of their students online to be eligible for federal assistance, leading to the growth of their company.

Bridgepoint has been more concerned with padding their bottom line by  selling their “services,” rather than providing a product to their “customers.” 84 percent of their students dropped out of their education program in 2010 according to the US Senate Education Health Labor and Pensions committee.  Meanwhile Bridgepoint has milked the taxpayers for almost $600 million in federal subsidies annually to help bring the school a tidy profit.  Aside from scrutiny from the Senate education committee, they are also being investigated by the Iowa Attorney General and the New York State Attorney General offices.

Bob Huff as a member of the Senate Education committee has some pull, but very limited influence in a state dominated by the Democratic Party.  Bob Huff voted NO on SB 70, an education trailer bill that dealt with many issues including the regulation for-profit colleges in their acceptance of Cal-Grants.  If more than 30% of students default on their loans from institutions that accept the state grants, that institution will have its aid  rescinded.

Senator Huff is a proponent of “distance learning,” as demonstrated in his press release for his education summit in Fullerton back in April of this year.  Perhaps Senator Huff got his contribution because he is a big proponent of distance learning, but voters would rather appreciate it when he gets money from donors who actually graduate their students to the workforce and don’t leave us with more unfunded mandates to clean up after.

Private schools that operate on a for-profit basis should not be operating without oversight. As long as they provide a good product and help lead students to success there should be nothing to complain about.  When the private sector fails to perform then it’s justifiable to give them the boot for a given period of time until they comply with the regulations to accept public money.  Education is the same as health care:  services must be rendered to the highest standards.  The problem with the for-profit sector in these two industries is they try to skimp on their services in the effort to attain the highest profit.  If they want to behave in this manner then they should operate on private sector money alone.

Financial literacy and career counseling is vital, whether at a public-sector or private-sector institution of higher education.  With an over 1 trillion dollars in student loan debt in our nation we need to make sure our limited money is spent effectively to help provide opportunity to those who need it due to the likely budget cuts to compensate for our 16 billion in shortfalls in California.  Oddly, the majority of Republicans in both chambers voted against reforming the for-profit education sector, but maybe if they realized that they are helping to encourage government waste and ruin they will recognize the error of their ways.

About Matt Munson