Obama cracks down on sector while Romney voices support

It hasn’t gotten much attention on the campaign trail, but President Obama and Republican front-runner Mitt Romney are sharply divided over one of the most controversial issues in higher education today — the growth of for-profit colleges.

While the Obama administration has cracked down on the burgeoning sector, the former Massachusetts governor has held it up as one answer to the wild growth of college tuition.

“They hold down the cost of their education by recognizing that they’re competing,” Mr. Romney said recently on the campaign circuit.

Many Democrats, on the other hand, have spent the past several years targeting for-profit institutions, labeling them frauds and pushing for federal measures to rein them in. The Obama administration responded last year with its “gainful employment” rule, which penalizes for-profits if their students can’t find work and begin repaying federal loans within three years of graduation.

As its justification for the rule, the Education Department has estimated that 26 percent of all student-loan money and 46 percent of all student-loan dollars in default come from for-profit programs, despite those schools claiming only about 12 percent of college students nationwide
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