Ashford University investing in Iowa, screwing American students

(Good piece, important issue to consider when it comes to costs & accountability in higher ed. - promoted by Mark Langgin)

This evening, Chris Kirkham with The Huffington Post wrote a scathing article about Ashford University, which is a for-profit college located in Clinton, Iowa that has 76,000 students, 99% of them take classes online.

This online college has been basically robbing students blind, 60% to 70% of people who enroll there drop out and are stuck with huge debts.  What’s worse, the public corporation running the school has been robbing the federal government blind too.  Huffpost reports that nearly 85% of their revenues, nearly $600 million last year, came from the federal government.

Now, you may ask, how is this happening in our backyard without more of an uproar? One reason might be the campaign contributions and political glad handing that the parent company for Ashford University, Bridgepoint Education, has undertaken this past year.

Bridgepoint Education PAC contributed at least $7,250 to Iowa politicians in 2010.  The contributions have been mixed between D’s and R’s, but the Clinton County Republican Central Committee was able to squeeze $350 from their PAC.   Click here to see the Bridgepoint Education PAC campaign finance records.  Bridgepoint Education also invested over $40,000 on lobbyists in 2010.

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ActBlue/FEC Deadline is 11 AM (CST) Today

Today at 11 AM Central Time, any and all comments to the Federal Election Commission on their pending decision regarding presidential primary matching funds on contributions received through ActBlue are due.

Multiple organizations are vocally opposing this ban, as it effectively disregards ActBlue’s nature as a grassroots fundraising system and largely violates the meaning of matching funds through public funding.  As the netroots’ own Adam Bonin wrote in his letter to the FEC on behalf of DailyKos and BlogPAC:

Obviously, while ActBlue is a “political committee” in the strictest sense of the term, in reality it does not act as such.  ActBlue is a conduit for individual contributor preferences, to track and aggregate small-dollar contributors.  It asserts no control over the recipients of its funds; the site’s only criteria is that the recipient be a Democrat. It fulfills FECA’s anticorruption goals by reporting contributors’ names, addresses, employers, and occupations to campaign, which in turn provide that information to the Commission as is legally required.

This is a clear a case as any of reformers accomplishing via technology what law alone cannot do: leveling the playing field between moneyed interests and small-dollar contributors by allowing anyone to become a “bundler”, and to allow such contributors to have visual, real-time confirmation of their impact upon the process.  In the same way that the public financing system itself is designed to encourage and magnify the impact of small-dollar contributions, ActBlue facilitates those contributions occurring in the first place.

If you’re at all interested in supporting the Edwards campaign’s position–which isn’t a tacit endorsement, but an affirmation of your belief in grassroots fundraising–please make sure to submit your comments.  You can see more by reading desmoinesdem’s earlier post here.

You can do that in a variety of ways:

– Visit JohnEdwards.com and send a comment through our simple form.

– Write an E-mail to Mary Dove, the FEC Commission Secretary at mdove@fec.gov

– Fax your comments to the Secretary at (202) 208-3333 and to FEC’s Office of General Counsel at (202) 219-3923

Sign the letter from Public Campaign

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