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For-Profit College Plunge Makes Sperling Rail at Obama

As a humanities professor at San Jose State University from 1961 to 1973, John Sperling pioneered remedial reading classes for Mexican Americans and courses in social problems for police officers.

Defying the education establishment, he expanded such programs into the for-profit University of Phoenix, now largely online and the biggest U.S. university, with almost 500,000 students. Sperling and his proteges transformed a backwater of mom-and-pop trade schools into a $30 billion industry attracting Washington Post Co. and Goldman Sachs Group Inc. as investors. For-profit colleges enroll 12 percent of U.S. undergraduates and consume 24 percent of U.S. Pell grants for low-income students.