February 4, 2014

Breaking For-Profit College News: VA Shopping Tool, Coalition Letter, Andrews Quitting

Screen Shot 2014-02-04 at 11.37.46 AMDevelopments are happening at lightning speed on for-profit college issues.

This morning:

1. The Department of Veterans affairs launched a new website, the GI Bill Comparison Tool, allowing vets, and to some extent other students, to compare college options. The initiative is part of action on President Obama’s 2012 executive order to protect vets and current service members against predatory education practices, an order that the for-profit colleges’ trade association, APSCU, called a “deeply unfortunate development.”  The site is still missing some information as to some colleges, but it has a lot of useful material for prospective students — for-profit colleges are clearly identified as such, and you can see comparative graduation rates, loan default rates, and other useful information.

2. The coalition of veterans, students, civil right, consumer and other groups that has been urging the Obama Administration to get tough on for-profit colleges sent a letter to the President asking for a strong “gainful employment” rule. For-profits continue to oppose such a rule, which would cut off federal aid to programs that consistently leave students deep in debt.  The letter, which lists principles that would be important to protecting students and taxpayers from abuses, was signed by groups including the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, League of United Latin American Citizens, AFL-CIO, and Consumers Union. (My work is supported by two groups that signed the letter, The Institute for College Access and Success and the Center for Public Interest Law, and I participated in the process of producing it.)

3.  Media reports say that Representative Rob Andrews (D-NJ) is resigning from Congress this month to join a Philadelphia law firm. With the previously announced retirement of Representative George Miller (D-CA), Andrews was in line to be the top Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee — which would have been bad news for students, because Andrews is a leading recipient of campaign cash from the for-profit college industry and, perhaps not coincidentally, a leading cheerleader for the industry on Capitol Hill.

All of this is against the background of mounting problems for predatory for-profit colleges, including investigations of Career Education Corp., Corinthian, EDMC, ITT Tech, and other schools by a bipartisan group of state attorneys general and federal agencies including the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and the Securities and Exchange Commission.