McCain challenges federal targeting of University of Phoenix

U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) recently wrote Education Secretary Arne Duncan regarding what they claim is unfair targeting of the University of Phoenix and other for-profit educational institutions.


U.S. Sens. John McCain (R-AZ) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN) recently wrote Education Secretary Arne Duncan regarding what they claim is unfair targeting of the University of Phoenix and other for-profit educational institutions.

A task force headed by the Department of Education that includes multiple federal agencies prompted the senators to question the lack of transparency in the task force's overall purpose and activity, including the role played by U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) concerning his position on for-profit higher education.

“As Congressional leaders … we are seeking clear and consistent oversight of all postsecondary institutions to ensure students and families are afforded a quality and accessible education,” McCain and Alexander said. “It is our understanding that this task force is comprised of at least eight federal agencies and will utilize staff and other resources of those agencies. It is our hope that these publicly funded resources will be directed toward a fair and transparent review of issues facing for-profit and nonprofit institutions, and not for a preconceived, political agenda to stir the pot of public perception. To do so otherwise would neither be productive nor benefit the public trust.”

McCain and Alexander recently joined U.S. Sens. Jeff Flake (R-AZ), Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) to ask Duncan to clarify the task force’s range of authority and objectives, especially vis-a-vis federal agencies having taken adverse actions against the University of Phoenix and similar establishments.

In the letter, the senators express serious concern about the lack of information about the interagency task force’s overall authority, mission, duties and activities. They also question Durbin’s participation in a task force meeting at which he discussed his views on for-profit higher education.

The letter follows previous communication from Alexander, McCain and Flake to Defense Secretary Ashton Carter asking him to reconsider the Defense Department’s decision to put the University of Phoenix on probation for its participation in a Tuition Assistance Program for active-duty military personnel.

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