In recent weeks, The Washington Post has come under much-deserved criticism for using both its news and editorial pages to lobby against regulations the Obama administration has proposed that would strengthen the government’s oversight over for-profit colleges.
In defending themselves, Post executives and editors say that the newspaper has been fully upfront about its ties to Kaplan Inc., one of the largest publicly-traded chains of for-profit colleges in the country. Kaplan, in fact, accounts for about 60 percent of the newspaper company’s total revenue. As a result, any crackdown on the proprietary school sector could be a significant blow to the newspaper’s bottom line (which would explain why Donald Graham, the Post’s chairman and CEO, has been making the rounds on Capitol Hill — a fact first reported by Inside Higher Ed.)
This line of defense recently received the backing from, of all people, the newspaper’s ethical cop — the ombudsman Andrew Alexander. In a column last month entitled “From Kaplan to Buffet, Post gets it right on transparency,” Alexander defended the Post, saying that the newspaper “has consistently disclosed the Kaplan connection.”
“I’ve often criticized The Post for insufficient transparency on everything from news sources to refusing to share its ethics policies with readers,” he wrote. “But on its commitment to disclose self-interest, praise is deserved.”
With all due respect, we at Higher Ed Watch have to disagree. The truth is that The Washington Post has not been completely transparent about its ties to the for-profit higher education industry. The newspaper has time and again failed to disclose the substantial stake it has in Corinthian Colleges, a giant for-profit higher education company that doesn’t exactly have a stellar reputation, even among those in the industry. By all indications, Corinthian, which serves nearly 70,000 students at more than 100 colleges in the United States and Canada, appears to be one of the companies most in jeopardy if the administration moves forward with its proposed “Gainful Employment” regulations because of the substantial amount of debt its students take on.
Enough about that! Did you hear what Dave Weigel said in a private email?