For-profit colleges in Tennessee, which were left out of the state’s recent higher education overhaul, say they want the same transfer agreements with four-year colleges as community colleges.
And these schools, many with satellite campuses in Chattanooga, Knoxville, Nashville and Memphis, have hired influential lobbyists to plead their case with state legislators.
‘We would absolutely like to work ourselves into getting articulation agreements (with universities),’ said Anne Landis Williams, executive director of the Tennessee Association of Independent Colleges and Schools, an organization of for-profit schools and colleges.
UT officials told its trustees at a recent board meeting there was growing concern about possible legislation to allow across-the-board transfer agreements for for-profit schools.
Allowing a pipeline from for-profit schools, which do not have regional academic accreditation, would weaken a public bachelor’s degree, UT officials argue.
‘I am not saying we need to go to war with proprietary schools … but this is just the tip of the iceberg,’ Anthony Haynes, UT associate vice president of public and government relations, told UT trustees in February.
In 2008, legislators — responding to growing complaints against the sector — pushed for increased oversight of proprietary schools. At the time, some schools were being criticized for enrolling students without accreditation and closing without notifying students.
The hearings culminated in proprietary schools being brought under the oversight of the Tennessee Higher Education Commission.
Since then, for-profit schools have been working to protect themselves against unfavorable bills in the Legislature. Dick Lodge, a longtime lobbyist, has been hired by Remington College in Memphis and Kaplan Higher Education Corp., an online education giant with an office in Nashville. Lobbyist Bill Nolan represents the National College of Business and Technology, which has six Tennessee campuses.
‘A third of our member schools have lobbyists,’ Williams said. ‘I think educating (people) about who we are is huge, showing why we are a viable choice to students.’
With state oversight, leaders of for-profit schools say their students should be able to transfer the credits they earn for their associate’s degrees to bachelor’s degree programs at state schools.
But UT officials say they don’t want to have to accept students from proprietary schools that do not have accreditation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and aren’t held to the same curriculum standards of state schools.
Williams said for-profit schools now are working to form transfer agreements with universities on a case-by-case basis. The University of Memphis has agreements with some proprietary schools there, and she said the association is looking to use those partnerships as a model.
Legislation that would graft for-profit schools into statewide articulation agreements would be the next step, Williams said.
‘We do want our credits to transfer, and we do want our students to achieve the success they want to achieve,’ she said.