By David Halperin

The Chronicle of Higher Education, a venerable publication read by college faculty and administrators nationwide, has been sending invitations all over Washington, inviting policy experts, Capitol Hill staffers, media, and others to an October 19 panel discussion entitled “Student Loan Default Aversion: Forum on Research and Best Practices.” According to the invitation, the “lively discussion” will address the question, “How can students reap the benefits of higher education without the fear of financial devastation in the event of a default?” It’s a sensible, important, and indeed an urgent question, given America’s mounting student debt crisis.

But the invitation asks us to “Join the Career Education Corporation and the Education Finance Council to explore” this topic, and those two enterprises are listed as the sole sponsors of the event, with the Chronicle of Higher Education as its “host.”

Career Education Corporation (CEC or CECO) is the nation’s fourth largest for-profit college, and one whose record hardly qualifies it to impart wisdom on issues of student debt. Yet, as I discovered, CEC not only is sponsoring this Chronicle event — it selected all the panelists.

When the U.S. Department of Education measured colleges this summer, under its new “gainful employment” rule, to determine which schools — because of high prices, low graduation rates, and poor job placement outcomes — left large numbers of students with unmanageable debt, 11 of 44 programs at CEC’s Sanford-Brown college flunked all three prongs of the tests, whose standards are almost absurdly low.


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