Career Colleges Brace for '60 Minutes'

January 28, 2005

As "60 Minutes" prepares to broadcast a potentially damaging report on for-profit colleges, the Career College Association has begun a public relations campaign aimed at dealing with "any fallout here in Washington or elsewhere," the group's president said in an e-mail to its members last week.

The association, the main trade and lobbying group for the colleges, this week placed the first of eight full-page advertisements in Roll Call, a newspaper that covers Congress. The first ad is a general one about the colleges' success in educating students, but others that appear after the television report appears will "be tightly focused on whatever damage control is required," Nicholas J. Glakas said in the e-mail to the association's members.

The trade group also plans a series of public service announcements on two Washington-area public radio stations about the importance of the career college sector, and a series of stock letters to the editor that its members can personalize to send to local newspapers.

The campaign was first reported Thursday by The Chronicle of Higher Education.

Glakas's e-mail, which bore the subject line "60 Minutes - Communications Strategy," mentions an interview that association officials did on January 11 with representatives of "60 Minutes." It provides no further details about that conversation or the forthcoming television report.

Nancy Broff, general counsel of the association, said in an interview Thursday that the group did not know exactly what would be in the report, but noted that the program is "known for doing slam stories." Several chains of for-profit colleges have been under federal scrutiny in recent years, some of it surrounding accusations about overly aggressive tactics to enroll students.

Broff said the group is "doing exactly what any responsible trade association ought to: being prepared for whatever comes our way."

While the language of Glakas's e-mail makes clear that the association's campaign aims to anticipate and respond to the pending television report, Broff said that part of the PR offensive was already planned. The association took out a "very comparable" series of ads in Roll Call last year, too, she said, in anticipation of Congress's review of the Higher Education Act, which has been largely pushed back to this year.

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