A few bad apples can spoil the whole barrel, and that’s something the New York Board of Regents is trying to prevent. In December, the Regents announced two new rules designed to protect reputable proprietary colleges and their students.
The first of the recently adopted regulations affects new proprietary
colleges seeking to establish operations in the state. The Regents will no longer bestow permanent authority to grant degrees until the State Education Department has been assured the new institution is living up to its educational
mission and offering quality services to students. The Regents will closely evaluate these schools for a provisional period of up to five years before issuing permanent degree-granting authority. The adoption of this regulation ends the moratorium on new for-profit schools that was put in place in January 2006.
The second regulation affects the purchase of existing for-profit colleges. The Regents must first approve the potential new owner before the purchase occurs. Both of the new regulations are designed to protect students from colleges that place more emphasis on making profit than on meeting the needs of their students.
“The majority of proprietary colleges in New York provide a quality education,” said Johanna Duncan-Poitier, Deputy Commissioner for Higher Education in New York. “However, isolated incidents of misconduct not only harm students, who often leave college without a degree but with considerable debt, but also hurt the collective reputation of all for-profit colleges.”
It was one of those fraudulent schools, Taylor Business Institute
in Manhattan, N.Y., that prompted the Regents to push for these new regulations, said Tom Dunn, spokesman
for the New York State Education Department.
In September, The New York State Education Department told Taylor Business Institute to cease operations after its failure to comply with academic standards in the Regulations
of the Commissioner of Education. The school was cited for non-compliance in October 2005 and given an opportunity
to bring its operations up to par. Upon failing to do so, the school was ordered to cease operations at the end of the fall term in January.
Career colleges in New York support decisions like the one made to close down schools like Taylor Business Institute. They drag down the reputation of legitimate colleges operating
nearby. Many colleges have voiced support of the new regulations, viewing them as an opportunity to protect and enhance
the credibility of the proprietary education sector.
“Anything that protects the programs for the students of the state of New York is positive,” said Dr. James Melville Jr., President of Technical Career Institutes in New York City. “These are the kind of universals that could be applied to any college – not just proprietary colleges.”
The New York Association of Proprietary Colleges, the advocacy group for proprietary colleges in New York, also supports
the new regulations. “We see these proposals as protecting those of us who are doing an excellent job,” said Ellen Hollander, President of the New York Association of Proprietary Colleges. “I think it promotes integrity in higher education and it will bolster the quality of our programs.”
While the new regulations might make it harder for new for-profit colleges to set up shop in New York, the APC doesn’t view that as a negative. “Will it make it more difficult for people to just come in and do business in New York state? Yes, but we as an association endorse that. It all goes back to protecting students; this will ultimately benefit the students,”
Unfortunately, operations like Taylor Business Institute aren’t exclusive to just one state or region. For that reason, advocates of proprietary education hope to see regulations like those recently passed in New York adopted across the U.S.
“I don’t think any of us like it in this business, this industry, when some school is found to be doing things that are fraudulent and illegal,” Hollander said. “Then it’s the wide brush stroke we’re all painted with. I can’t imagine the proprietary institutions in other states would be against any measures that would hold us accountable to these higher standards.”