Kamala Harris, the junior Senator from California, has been fueling speculation that she might be a Democrat contender for President in 2020. For months now, she has been holding fundraisers with high-dollar big-wigs, and now there are indications that she will be “knocking on doors in Iowa” according to former Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, who is running for Governor in California in 2018.
Harris first came on my radar in 2015, when she partnered with the Department of Education to close some for-profit colleges in California when she was the Attorney General. In an earlier post on the subject, I noted that Harris worked in conjunction with the Department of Education specifically targeting the Corinthian College system. According to the Wall Street Journal, “Last summer the Education Department began to drive Corinthian out of business by choking off federal student aid for supposedly stonewalling exhaustive document requests. The Department claimed to be investigating whether Corinthian misrepresented job placement rates as California Attorney General Kamala Harris alleged in a lawsuit.”
Corinthian agreed to turn over their education centers to other non-profits, but Kamala Harris refused to release any buyer of potential future liability, meaning anyone purchasing would be under constant threat of a lawsuit. Last November, “the nonprofit Education Credit Management Corporation (ECMC) “agreed to buy more than 50 Corinthian campuses for $24 million plus $17.25 million in protection money to the feds for a release from liability. But ECMC passed up Corinthian’s 23 schools in California because Ms. Harris wouldn’t quit.” The alternative to having no buyer for these particular schools would ultimately be to shut them down.
It was in April 2015 that Corinthian was slapped with the $30 million fine, which effectively drove the final nail in the coffin of the remaining schools because no one in their right mind would shoulder the liability. As for the hefty penalty, “The Department assessed the maximum fine of $35,000 per regulatory violation, which its bureaucrats count as each student that was improperly counted.” By the end of the month, all the rest of the schools indeed closed, throwing out of employment and school, thousands of people.
What makes this whole affair particularly odious is that that “the federal government [didn’t] specify how for-profits calculate their job placement rates. States and accrediting agencies have disparate and often vague rules, which notably don’t apply to nonprofit and public colleges.” Thus, Corinthian Colleges was really just a part of the larger assault on for-profit colleges by the Obama Administration, all tied to his recently implemented “Gainful Employment” rules.
Part of the new regulation change dealt with colleges and federal aid, and it appears Corinthian was a ripe target. What’s more, the Department of Education found a ready and willing partner in Kamala Harris, who just happened to be running for a very important Senate seat in California at the time, the seat of retiring Barbara Boxer. She was elected a year later. Harris has demonstrated her willingness to play along to get along — so it’s important to keep an eye on her in the many months ahead.