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Info Sought on For-Profit Education Regulators

WASHINGTON (CN) - A government watchdog demands that the U.S. Department Education reveal calendars and other records of meetings the Cabinet department's high-ranking officials held on "outside entities and individuals" involved in "the agency's regulation of the for-profit education industry."

The industry, above all, chain colleges and Internet colleges, were the subject of a scathing report from the General Accountability Office last summer, which found abuses of student aid and loans in every college it investigated.

Dozens of lawsuits and class actions, involving thousands of students, have claimed that the for-profit colleges misrepresent themselves and make promises they cannot deliver, to get their hands on federal aid meant for students, whom the colleges then hang out to dry.

Those class actions were followed by shareholder derivative lawsuits that claimed that publicly traded colleges had propped up their share prices through their misrepresentations, and in some cases, that directors had dumped their own shares at inflated prices, before the GAO report pricked the colleges' financial balloon.

In this week's FOIA complaint, Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington says the Department of Education blew off its request for records.

CREW sought, specifically, information on meetings and appointments between former Deputy Undersecretary of Education Robert Shireman, and Deputy Undersecretary James Kvaal.

"While at Education, Mr. Shireman led the agency's regulatory effort of the for-profit education industry, and questions were rained about his potential conflicts of interest because of his former involvement with a nonprofit education entity," the complaint states.

"Mr. Kvall has taken over Mr. Shireman's role and publicly available documents suggest he too may have been influenced by outside groups."

CREW says the Department of Education promised to respond, but has not.

It wants to see the records.

It is represented by its house attorney Anne L. Weisman.

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