Anthem, the defunct for-profit college, and Rep. John Kline, Minnesota's Most Reprehensible Congressman (TM), were never BFFs.
But they were friendly. Like super friendly.
During the course of his Capitol Hill career, the Burnsville Republican has taken in about $1 million from for-profit colleges — institutions like ITT Tech, which advertise financial empowerment, yet habitually deliver worthless degrees and leave students suffocating in debt.
Anthem College played the same game.
The health-career school offered classes in St. Louis Park for medical assistants and massage therapists. Anywhere between 200 and 540 people enrolled annually. Students could earn job training certificates, diplomas, and associate's degrees, with tuition running as much as $40,000.
But buyer beware: Similar programs were offered at Minnesota community colleges for around $5,000.
Back in Anthem's glory days, the school had an ally in Kline. Company execs showed their appreciation by cutting seven checks to Kline between 2010 and 2014. The company also helped bankroll the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities PAC, the industry's lobbying arm, which funneled almost $80,000 to Kline.
Kline, in turn, played resolute obstructionist to any step toward reforming for-profit schools. As chairman of the House Education and the Workforce Committee, he allowed these predatory institutions to feed off federal student loan and grant money to the tune of about $32 billion every year.
The Minnesota Anthem location closed up shop in 2014. In fact, all of its locations nationwide have shut their doors. Anthem is bankrupt.
Last summer, the Department of Education established a mechanism for former students of another fallen for-profit, Corinthian, to have their education loans forgiven. The bill is estimated to cost taxpayers north of $3 billion.
Now Kline's work protecting the industry is about to cost even more.
Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson wants the Department of Education to forgive federal loans of students who attended Anthem's St. Louis Park location. Rough estimates place the aggregate debt load in the tens of millions of dollars.
"We knew a lot about Anthem because of the complaints we'd received," says AG spokesperson Ben Wogslund. "There was a pattern of fraud and deception.
"We are specifically focusing on forgiveness for students who attended Anthem because, since it went bankrupt, it's the only recourse. The students can't take it to court. Neither can we. There's no there there [to sue]."
How does Kline feel about his constituents being on the hook for his sins? That's tough to say. His press secretary Troy Young didn't return repeated messages.