On Politico: Taming the for-profit college monster
The for-profits have used our taxes to finance a race to the bottom: the more you abuse students, the more money you make. Their wealth may doom to failure the current approach to regulation, which has created benchmark after benchmark that schools must flunk to lose federal aid. Not only has the industry schemed to weaken and evade such tests, but also it has exploited opportunities to gain sympathy and support from non-profit and state colleges, when new rules add greater compliance burdens for those schools as well.
Although greater public awareness of for-profit college abuses has recently reduced student enrollments – and the share prices – for some for-profit colleges, these companies still can and do devote enormous resources to blocking accountability measures.
It’s time for a new approach to overseeing this taxpayer-dependent industry, one that starts by asserting that the evidence warrants treating for-profit colleges differently. For-profit education can be an important part of the landscape, but the tension between pleasing shareholders and serving students is now patently obvious.
The second tenet is that federal aid is, for a school, a privilege, not a right. Instead of new measures to determine whether aid should be taken away, for-profits should be required to apply anew for eligibility.
The U.S. Department of Education should house a nonpartisan board that establishes broad criteria for eligibility. The board, comprised of members without prior financial ties to for-profit education, would hold public proceedings and use expert judgment to make decisions. Approval would require a unanimous vote every two years. As much as possible, eligibility decisions should be insulated from legal maneuvering and court processes.
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