Iron Triangles, Part III

January, 2018

Washington -- Barely was the ink dry on Part II when yesterday's events shook the higher education world:

• The Department of Justice is investigating the National Association for College Admission Counseling, in particular its Code of Ethics, to determine if there is an agreement among members "to restrain trade among colleges and universities in the recruitment of students."

• The Department of Veterans Affairs has decided Ashford University, a for-profit school with a troubled history, will maintain GI Bill eligibility after all.

• The Department of Education's negotiated rulemaking process is poised to make it nearly impossible for defrauded borrowers to qualify for federal student loan "borrower defense" cancellation.

This trifecta gives every indication that the for-profit college lobby (CECU) is expanding its iron triangle clamp-hold onto two other cabinet departments, DOJ and DVA. NACAC membership is currently for nonprofit institutions only, but with DOJ breathing down its neck, will that soon change? DVA should be ashamed of itself for bending to lobbying pressure, selling out the very veterans it is supposed to support and protect.

The other part of the triangle, Congress, seems content to take political campaign contributions from the for-profit lobby and watch its people move through the revolving doors of the triangle.

Political scientists, take note of this iron triangle for your case studies. It now involves more than one department in addition to already crossing generational lines and having linkages with other triangles (see Part II). Conflict of interest is rampant; money laundering is evident; moral hazard is palpable; lawsuits have alleged fraud, racketeering, and perjury, but as yet to no avail. It won't be long until some enterprising college (probably for-profit) will have a master's degree offering in how to create and operate iron triangles. It may even be a required stepping-stone to getting hired in the nation's capital.