Scrutiny of For-Profit Ties to Nonprofit Foundation

August 1, 2016

An investigation in The Portland Press Herald details questions being raised about the EDMC Foundation and its ties to the for-profit Education Management Corporation, known as EDMC. The article notes that many for-profit entities start tax-exempt foundations, but that the foundations aren't supposed to simply be arms of the business trying to advance the goals of the business. In the case of the EDMC Foundation, the article notes that strong ties between board members and senior officials of EDMC and also the purpose of the foundation. The EDMC Foundation provides scholarships, but only to students who attend EDMC institutions.

“If the Coca-Cola Foundation’s purpose was to give grants to people to buy Coke, that would not be seen by the IRS as an appropriate use of the charity,” said Robert Shireman, a former U.S. Department of Education official in the Obama administration, now a senior fellow at the Century Foundation and a prominent critic of for-profit higher education.

Some quoted in the article speculate that the foundation helped EDMC appear to comply with the 90-10 rule, which requires for-profit colleges to show that 10 percent of their revenues are coming from sources other than federal aid. EDMC officials denied any wrongdoing and said that the foundation's purpose was indeed charitable.

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