At a National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities conference this week, Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) invoked a phrase associated with the Holocaust to describe for-profit college regulations issued by the Obama administration.
Inside Higher Ed reports:
In criticizing the private college presidents, Representative Virginia Foxx, the North Carolina Republican who leads the subcommittee on higher education, adapted the famous statement from the German theologian Martin Niemöller on Germans who ignored Nazi persecution. ("First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out because I was not a communist.")
" 'They came for the for-profits, and I didn't speak up...' " Foxx said. "Nobody really spoke up like they should have."
Inside Higher Ed later asked Foxx spokeswoman Ericka Perryman if for-profit regulations were comparable to the Holocaust. Perryman responded, "Of course not."
Students at for-profit colleges are less likely to graduate with a degree than their peers at non-profit private and public schools, and they are twice as likely to default on their student loans -- facts that have led to calls for greater oversight of the industry. Foxx has routinely defended for-profit colleges and previously sponsored legislation to protect them from increased regulation.
According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, Foxx also opposed to student loan reforms that eliminated federal subsidies for private banks in favor of more direct lending.
OpenSecrets.org notes Foxx pulls in a fair amount of funding from the for-profit college industry as chair of the House subcommittee on higher education:
In her first year on the subcommittee, Foxx picked up at least $48,668 from PACs or individuals affiliated with for-profit colleges. We counted 22 companies or trade associations in the for-profit college industry on the list of her top contributors, including: Bridgepoint Education, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, the Apollo Group (which owns the University of Phoenix) and student loan lender NelNet Inc.
Foxx's comments at the NAICU conference were not her first controversial remarks about higher education. In April 2012, she said on a radio program that she has "very little tolerance" for students who graduate with a large amount of debt. Foxx herself paid just $87.50 in tuition when she attended the University of North Carolina, in 1961, or $671.30 in today's dollars, according to The Quick & The Ed, an education blog.
UPDATE, Feb. 8 -- The National Jewish Democratic Council denounced Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-N.C.) for her comments and demanded an apology.
"Representative Foxx's choice of words to protest education regulations is simply indefensible and invoking the Holocaust in this way is never acceptable," NJDC Executive Director Aaron Keyak said in a statement. "Foxx must apologize immediately for her extreme and deeply offensive comparison."