For-Profit Colleges: What’s Left?

One would have thought that the quarrels about for-profit colleges would have died away with the Education Department’s final rules last month to restrict federal student loan money to those institutions if too many graduates don’t earn enough to pay back their loans.

Yet the conversation about career and technical colleges droned on at a roundtable discussion last week in the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee. Chairman Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, thinks the rules don’t go far enough and wants to explore their recruiting tactics, especially in the military. The roundtable was very much a one-sided affair. Republicans have boycotted the last two events Harkin has held, saying his approach is biased. Most for-profit schools also have declined invitations to appear before his committee.

Still, a few policy changes may be on the horizon. Harkin wants to include military aid in the federal share of the so-called "90/10" rule that requires for-profit colleges to receive 10 percent of their revenue from non-federal sources to be eligible for student-aid programs. (Consumer advocates say members of the military are "aggressively recruited" to programs that ultimately fail to meet their needs.) Harkin also thinks for-profit schools should be held to higher levels of accountability because they serve a disadvantaged population.

Is there more to be done in the for-profit arena to make sure the schools are adequately serving students? Or has the Education Department taken care of many of the problems with its new rules? Do for-profits need more accountability requirements? Or are they being unfairly singled out? Is it reasonable to include military aid in the 90/10 rule, as Harkin suggests?


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