Wisconsin Governor All Smiles During For-Profit College Tour

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker speaks to Dorothy Walker, dean of technology and applied sciences at Milwaukee Area Technical College on Friday, July 18, 2014, in Oak Creek, Wis. Walker, whose call to scrap Common Core academic standards for Wisconsin schools is meeting resistance from Republican Senate leaders, said that whatever is adopted may not differ significantly from Common Core standards.

CREDIT: AP/M.L. Johnson.

While many politicians like Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have been steadily campaigning against the harmful effects of student debt, but Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (R) is promoting the institutions that benefit from them most—for-profit colleges.

On Monday, Walker conducted a photo-op at a branch of ITT Technical Institute for Career Development in Greenfield, WI. He took a tour of the campus and spoke to students and faculty.

ITT Tech is one of the most well-known for-profit college chains, not only for its massive scale (145 campuses in 35 states), but also for its predatory tactics. Its tuition costs are extremely high compared to other for-profit colleges (think Associate’s degrees at $44,000 and Bachelor’s degrees at $88,000), and it frequently pressured new students to take out short-term, zero-interest loans as a source of funding. When many students couldn’t repay their loans at the end of the first academic year as required, ITT Tech encouraged them to borrow more, long-term loans.

Additionally, former students stated that the school made false claims about their degree programs and graduates’ job prospects. Credits received at ITT Tech were usually not transferable to four-year or community colleges, and graduates were frequently employed in positions with salaries much lower than the school advertised.

All of these deceptive practices led to a lawsuit in February by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which is a federal oversight agency for financial scams. The CFPB is seeking an injunction against the company, a civil fine, and restitution for victims.

ITT Tech also placed a disproportionate emphasis on recruiting military veterans at its schools in order to reap funds from the G.I. bill, receiving $178 million from 2009 to 2011 alone.

Despite ITT’s terrible reputation, during his visit Walker praised the school and said that “the track record they’ve had in the Milwaukee area, at least, has been a positive one.” Walker has also opposed much-needed reforms that would allow people to refinance their student loans.

“It is indefensible that Governor Walker would use this scandalous industry as a backdrop while they exploit students and taxpayers,” Executive Director of One Wisconsin Now Scott Ross said. “Governor. Walker personally knows what it’s like to not finish a college degree and giving his seal of approval to an industry that locks students into decades of debt, while delivering enormous dropout rates or useless ‘degrees,’ is all the evidence one needs to see he simply doesn’t care about the statewide student loan debt crisis and the victims of the for-profit cartel.”

Carmin Chappell is a reporter with Generation Progress.

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