Bill Clinton was paid a whopping $16.5 million from 2010 through 2014 by a for-profit education company, recently released Clinton tax returns show.
Clinton signed on as the honorary chancellor of Laureate International Universities, a subsidiary of Laureate Education, in 2010. Despite the honorary nature of his position, that didn’t stop the company from paying him on average approximately $3 million a year.
The investment likely paid off, though, as Clinton has lent Laureate significant legitimacy and has served as an advocate for the company overseas, making appearance in countries like Peru and Malaysia to praise it. In addition to these direct payments, Laureate also donated to the Clinton Foundation and has cooperated with the Clinton Global Initiative.
“Laureate students represent the next generation of leadership. I have seen a commitment to quality and leadership throughout the Laureate network, and I have enjoyed being a part of it,” Clinton said in a statement after he stepped down from the post last April. His departure came shortly after his wife Hillary Clinton began her campaign for the presidency, though Laureate says Bill simply left because his five year contract was up.
The big payouts from Laureate were noted by Bloomberg News in an article July 31, as part of a wider write-up about the release of the Clinton’s tax returns and the $139 million they have earned in the past eight years. Until now, neither Clinton nor Laureate had been willing to reveal how lucrative the arrangement was for the former president, but the total is much higher than the approximately $1 million estimated by “Clinton Cash” author Peter Schweizer.
The sheer scale of the company’s payments raise additional questions about possible conflicts of interest for Hillary Clinton. While Hillary was Secretary of State, Laureate was made part of the State Department’s Global Partnership, and its non-profit affiliate received millions of dollars in grants from the State Department.
Laureate is the world’s largest for-profit education company, with over 50,000 employees working in dozens of countries. However, it’s generally received less publicity than other for-profit educators such as Apollo Education Group (which operates the University of Phoenix), likely because it is privately-owned (and therefore not on a stock exchange) and because it has a small footprint in the U.S. But the company has several major investors, such as billionaire financier George Soros, and its revenue is over $4 billion a year.
Laureate has grown rapidly, surging from fewer than 250,000 students in 2007 to over 800,000 students in 2013. With that rapid growth has come controversy, especially in Latin America where it has its largest presence. The company has been accused of spending too much on marketing and focusing on boosting enrollment at the expense of academics. Laureate argues that it is filling an important niche, offering expanded academic opportunities in countries that lack enough schools to adequately serve a growing middle class.
In 2014, one of its major schools in Chile lost its accreditation due to quality concerns. Accreditators noted that the school had added thousands of students while simultaneously cutting staff, and in the process had sent graduation rates in some fields to under 20 percent.
The company has run into trouble in the U.S., too. An effort by the company to purchase Thunderbird School of Global Management was aborted after an uproar from alumni, and four of its schools in the U.S. were on a recent Department of Education watchlist of schools subject to heightened monitoring of their finances.
Laureate wasn’t the only for-profit educator Clinton had major dealings with. He also received at least $2.6 million in consulting fees from GEMS Education, a for-profit educator based on Dubai, United Arab Emirates.
While on the campaign trail, Hillary Clinton has voiced some criticism of for-profit educators, accusing them of predatory practices.