Regulating diploma mills is a little like herding cats.
The institutions, which offer fraudulent degrees in exchange for cash and little or no academic work, crop up overnight and disappear nearly as fast, when consumer complaints rise or law enforcement officials catch the scent. State and federal lawmakers yearn to crack down on these "colleges," but because they're hard to define and hard to nail down, there's often little they can do.
There is no such thing as an offhanded comment from a White House spokesman.
So when Trent Duffy, in explaining Friday that President Bush would seek to bolster the Pell Grant program in part by reducing the subsidies paid to lenders in the student-loan program, called the subsidies "excessive" and described the loan industry as "very profitable," the political winds surrounding the student-loan programs continued to shift.