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For-Profit Universities Turn to Republicans for Support

Amid increasing scrutiny from Democrats and the federal government, for-profit colleges and universities continue to turn to Republicans. The APSCU, Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, held their annual convention in June and featured former Florida Governor Jeb Bush. Much of Jeb Bush’s speech centered on denouncing President Obama’s “gainful employment rule”, something many for-profit colleges have vigorously fought against.

For-Profit colleges have come under close scrutiny over the previous few years after allegations of burdening students with massive amounts of debt with little to no job prospects.

With Jeb Bush being considered a serious contender for the Republican nomination for president in 2016, campaign contributions from the APSCU could be beneficial for both Bush, and the for-profit college sector. The presidential election of 2016 is expected to be the most expensive campaign in America’s history, and any serious contender will need an ample amount of financial backing. The partnership could also lend the APSCU a viable ally in the White House, something it lacks in President Obama.

For-profit colleges, which are publicly traded companies and a significant form of profit for Wall Street, dominate the APSCU. Large private student loan lenders like Sallie Mae and Wells Fargo also have an interest in electing a free-market friendly president to back the policies of the industry.

In 2012, the APSCU donated to the campaign of Mitt Romney, who applauded the new aged privatization and free-market concepts of many of the nation’s largest for-profit colleges. A campaign contribution would be a boost to any presidential hopeful in 2016.

Jeb Bush’s words served as a positive change from President Obama’s harsh critique of the for-profit college industry. President Obama has accused some for-profit colleges of “trying to swindle and hoodwink students,” alluding to the idea that these colleges only “care about the cash.” Speaking at the convention, former Governor Bush said, “The new [gainful employment] regs are a sledgehammer to the entire field of higher education.”

Last week, after years of allegations and lawsuits, Corinthian Colleges Inc. reached an agreement with the Education Department to sell 85 of the the company’s 100 plus campuses. They will also close 12 other locations. Corinthian, which owns Everest College, Heald College and WyoTech Schools is a major contributor to the APSCU, as well as a beneficiary of about $1.4 billion in federal financial student aid annually. Wells Fargo, one of the biggest banks in the U.S., is the largest institutional investor in Corinthian Colleges, owning roughly $22.5 million worth of shares.

With the 2016 presidential election just over two years away, the APSCU is poised to be a major financial influence on the Republican nomination and the whole election process in general.