For-profit colleges \u2013 both the campus-based and online varieties \u2013 recently received a gold-plated seal of approval from Congress with the lifting of a mandate that at least half their courses be held live and in person for enrollees to collect federal student aid.This is great news for college bean-counters and those students most interested in short-cuts to a degree \u2013 any degree. Not so great news for anyone interested in the state of higher education. The New York Times gets into the seamier details in a front-page story this morning."This is a growth industry and you get rich not by being skeptical, but by being enthusiastic," says Henry Levin, director of Columbia University's National Center for the Study of Privatization in Education. "People at the academic conferences will say they did a survey about Internet-based education, but there are a lot of phantom statistics and it\u2019s all very promotional. We have not found a single rigorous study comparing online with conventional forms of instruction."So why would Congress so willingly toss your tax dollars at a band of dubious entrepreneurs?"The power of the for-profits has grown tremendously," says Rep. Michael Castle, R-Del. "They have a full-blown lobbying effort and give lots of money to campaigns. In 10 years, the power of this interest group has spiked as much as any you'll find."Who needs a rigorous study \u2013 or to study rigorously \u2013 when there\u2019s money to be made and elections to be won.