You can’t say they didn’t try. Corinthian Colleges Inc. – the for-profit college operation behind chains Everest, Heald and WyoTech – spent hundreds of thousands of dollars for lobbying right up until it was announced that its schools would be closing or sold.
CCI’s demise came amidst allegations of bogus job-placement stats, grade manipulation, and misleading marketing. The company, which is party to a number of federal and state lawsuits and investigations, spend $320,000 on lobbying in the quarter ending June 30, Bloomberg reports.
Sure, $320,000 might seem like a drop in the bucket when you consider CCI brings in nearly $1.4 billion in federal financial aid each year, but it’s significantly more than some public and ivy league universities spent.
During the same quarter, Corinthian spent more than twice that of Harvard University ($165,000) and $100,000 more than the University of California.
“It’s a classic case of a company that is not winning and perhaps cannot win its argument on the merits,” said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics in Washington tells Bloomberg. “That’s when the money is deployed to help grease the skids on their agenda.”
While it’s not uncommon for for-profit education companies to lobby, it appears that CCI was still spending large amounts of money during the same time that the Education Department had imposed a 21-day waiting period before CCI could draw on federal student aid.
So what was on Corinthian’s agenda considering its future was already in limbo?
Spokesman for the company, Kent Jenkins tells Bloomberg the expenditures covered advocating for legislation and negotiations with the Department of Education over the 21-day delay.
Lobbying for legislation that would prevent the Department of Education from imposing gainful employment and credit hours rules.
Bloomberg reports that CCI hired two firms for $90,000 in 2013, one of which specifically lobbied for the bill introduced by North Carolina Rep. Virginia Foxx.
Foxx’s legislation is in stark contrast to rules proposed by the Obama administration earlier this year that would set standards for career colleges – such as CCI schools – to do a better job of preparing students for gainful employment, or risk losing access to taxpayer-funded federal student aid.
While it appears that CCI won’t have to worry about any possible gainful employment rule since most of its campuses are slated for sale or closure, that didn’t stop the company from spending $1.08 million in lobbying in 2013.
Again, that expenditure was significantly higher than other institutions. In fact, CCI was ranked third among others in the industry.
The Association of American Medical Colleges led with $2.47 million, while San Diego-based Bridgepoint Education Inc. was second with $1.35 million.
In addition to lobbying for Foxx’s legislation, Corinthian’s political action committee donated $5,000 to her 2014 re-election campaign. It also made campaign contributions to co-sponsors of her bill Florida’s Alcee Hastings and Minnesota’s John Kline.