Congratulations, One Dupont. You are now officially carrying the water for the worst of the for-profit higher education industry.

On Monday, the American Council on Education (ACE) sent a letter to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce supporting Republican legislation that would overturn just about every effort that the Obama administration has made to rein in the for-profit college sector’s worst actors, who have been caught time and again taking advantage of low-income students to gain access to federal student aid funds. ACE begins the letter by saying that it “recognize(s) the need for safeguarding public funds.” Well, this is a strange way to show that.

Among other things, the Supporting Academic Freedom through Regulatory Relief Act, which was introduced by Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), would repeal the Gainful Employment rule, which aims to stop for-profit colleges and other vocational programs from saddling students with unmanageable levels of debt. For-profit college lobbyists have been working overtime to get this regulation overturned. Their job just got easier with ACE and 26 other major higher education associations, who signed onto the letter, in their corner.

ACE argues that it would be better to address these issues as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act so that they can be considered “in a thoughtful, comprehensive way with the full input of Congress and other stakeholders.” But the leaders of ACE know full well that this Congress will never do anything to protect vulnerable students from unscrupulous for-profit schools. It is telling that the first higher education legislation that the House education committee has introduced this year would deregulate an industry that has put so many students at risk.

What makes this stranger is that ACE has been supportive of the Gainful Employment Rule in the past. In comments it submitted to the U.S. Department of Education last March, the group said that the regulation was “clearly in the interest of students and the federal government.” But that was before the Republicans took control of both chambers of Congress.

The leaders of ACE and the rest of One Dupont may see this as an opportune time to suck up to the Republican majority so they can get what they want. Never mind the students who will suffer as a result.

[Cross-posted at Ed Central]

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Stephen Burd

Stephen Burd is a senior policy analyst in the Education Policy Program at the New America Foundation.