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Colleges Flex Lobbying Muscle

Lynchburg College President Kenneth Garren was sipping wine at a reception before Virginia’s gubernatorial inauguration last year when he spotted a familiar face: Sen. Mark Warner.

Garren had known the senator for years and had met with the lawmaker’s daughter on campus when she was considering applying to the small Christian college. At the inauguration party, Garren says, he buttonholed the senator and urged him to oppose a plan from President Barack Obama to create a ratings system for colleges.

Warner (D., Va.) announced two months later that he opposed Obama’s plan, saying he had been persuaded by Garren and other Virginia college presidents. Scores of other members of Congress did the same, and this summer, Mr. Obama announced that he was backing off key elements. The U.S. Education Department released a searchable database about colleges in September, but left the ratings possibilities to others.