For-Profit Seal of Approval

WASHINGTON — A for-profit-college trade group has released standards of conduct that it hopes will become a Better Business Bureau-style "seal of approval" for colleges that sign them, giving assurance and consumer protection to students. But industry observers say too few for-profit institutions have endorsed the standards from the Foundation for Educational Success to give that seal real power, at least for now.

The foundation drummed up support from a fairly large number of lawmakers for the Tuesday release of the standards, including members of Congress from both political parties, two attorneys general and U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat who has been a vocal critic of the for-profit sector.

"For-profit colleges signing on to a voluntary code of conduct shows that some in the industry are willing to take a first step towards establishing standards of transparency and accountability," Durbin said in a written statement. "More needs to be done and those schools which resist even this modest effort tell us all we need to know about their own practices and records."

Consumer groups generally praised the specific tenets of the five-page “Standards of Responsible Conduct and Transparency,” noting that they go slightly further than expected in some areas. But critics of the colleges also say the standards mostly describe practices already required by law. For example, the standards prohibit bonuses or other incentive payments for admissions or financial aid employees, which are a no-no under recently strengthened federal guidelines.

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INSIDE HIGHER EDUCATION

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