The head of a for-profit university that donated up to $5 million to the Clinton Foundation was rewarded with an invite to a high-profile State Department dinner at the request of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.
Doug Becker, CEO of Laureate International University, got his senior VP, Joseph Duffey, into the meeting of world-class academics at the August 2009 dinner because Becker was someone “who Bill likes a lot” and his school was “the fastest growing college network in the world,” Clinton wrote in an e-mail to her chief of staff revealed on WikiLeaks.
“It’s a for-profit model that should be represented.”
Roughly nine months later, the university signed Bubba to a sweet deal as an “honorary chancellor,” paying him $17.6 million over five years until the contract ended in 2015 as his wife launched her presidential run.
Analysts said Duffey’s presence at the dinner likely opened doors to the school that otherwise might have remained closed.
“A lot of these private-education guys, they’re looking to get into events like this one,” Sam Pitroda, a higher-education expert who was at the dinner, told The Washington Post.
“The discussion itself is irrelevant. It gets you very high-level contacts, and it gets you to the right people.”
Bill Clinton made high-profile appearances at some of the university’s 70 campuses in 25 countries, adding some presidential luster to the operation. Becker himself acknowledged the value of the Clinton relationship during a 2010 appearance at a Laureate campus in Malaysia.
“People know that somebody like President Clinton, the most important thing to him is his reputation,” Becker said.
David Bloomfield, an education professor at Brooklyn College and the CUNY grad center, said such for-profit schools often leave students buried in debt.
“For-profit universities have been rife with corruption, using federal student-loan money fund their operations and often leaving students high and dry,” Bloomfield told The Post.
“A lot of the student debt we read about is students who enrolled and didn’t complete their degrees and found them worthless in the job market.”
At Laureate’s Walden University in Minneapolis, just 44 percent of grads are making payments on their loans compared with 67 percent nationwide.The school is under investigation by Minnesota education officials.
The graduation rate at Laureate’s New School of Architecture and Design in San Diego is a paltry 33 percent, and the average student graduates with $43,417 in government loans.
Hillary Clinton also has bad-mouthed for-profits — even though Becker donated thousands to her presidential campaigns.
“[Students] find little support once they actually enroll, or they graduate and discover that, when it comes to finding a job, their degree isn’t worth what they thought,” she said last year.
Laureate Education, the Baltimore-based company that operates the schools, has $4.7 billion in debt, according to a filing for an IPO, which has been delayed.
And a report by the Senate Education Committee in 2012 found that Laureate devoted more of its revenues to marketing and profit, 54 percent, than the industry average of 42 percent, The Wall Street Journal reported (paywall).
The Obama administration’s College Scorecard shows that Laureate’s five US campuses have graduation rates comparable to ITT’s, a for-profit technical school that recently closed down its 140 schools after filing for bankruptcy.