For-profit School Change Proposed for Kentucky

Reacting to concerns about state oversight of for-profit schools, a Louisville lawmaker has filed legislation that would give the state’s Council on Postsecondary Education supervision over all schools in the state that offer associate’s degrees and higher.

The council currently oversees schools that offer bachelor’s degrees and higher, with the state Board of Proprietary Education having licensing authority over 131 for-profit schools that offer associate’s degrees, certificate and diploma programs. About 19,000 students are enrolled in for-profit schools in the state.

State Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, said after fielding student complaints about for-profit schools himself, and participating in two recent committee meetings in Frankfort where for-profit schools were discussed, he felt the state needed to increase its oversight of such schools.

“The bottom line is we need better oversight so we can look out for the future of Kentucky residents,” Meeks said. “It makes no sense whatsoever to have Kentucky students in programs that don’t lead to career and job opportunities.”

Meeks, who works for the University of Louisville, said the proposed change in oversight, which would take effect July 1, 2012, makes sense because the council already oversees associate degree programs offered by the state community and technical colleges.

For-profit schools have been discussed twice by the Interim Joint Education Committee in Frankfort over the past two months. During those meetings, which included testimony from students who felt misled by some for-profit schools, several lawmakers said the state needs to take steps to strengthen oversight of such schools and protect the students as consumers.

Representatives of some for-profit schools in the state say they are being unfairly portrayed. They contend they offer quality programs to students, many of whom are working adults with families, and often work in partnership with local employers to provide skilled workers.

Meeks agreed that there are for-profit schools that offer quality programs in Kentucky that benefit students and employers. There are some that do not, however, and leave students “in greater financial strain than they already are in and not able to have the career flexibility they are going to school for,” he said.

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