Mass. For-Profit Schools Could Face More Scrutiny

Students at occupational schools can learn hundreds of specialized skills to land jobs in fields ranging from airplane maintenance to culinary arts, but accusations that these for-profit schools use misleading recruiting practices and encourage students to take on loans they cannot afford have lawmakers calling for more oversight.

"It is upon the legislature and the administration to try to provide the best-quality training and programs. This is a step towards that," Sen. Michael Moore, D-Milbury, co-chair of the Joint Committee on Higher Education, said Tuesday.

Last week, the committee recommended legislation that would transfer oversight of the schools from the Education Department to the state agency that handles professional licensing, a move that would intensify scrutiny of the industry.

Under the proposal, proprietary schools in the state would be monitored by and registered with a new office in the Division of Professional Licensure, allowing the agency to investigate consumer complaints made by students, and ensure the quality of programs.

Moore and co-chair Rep. Tom Sannicandro, D-Ashland, said students told the committee about recruiters giving them false information about the school or career prospects, or the school tacking on extra fees unexpectedly. In one case, the dean of a college took the admission test for a prospective student.

Some students who completed their school’s training program were not able to pass state licensing or certification tests required to get a job.

"Many for-profit schools are great and provide great service, but there are some taking advantage of a certain population," Sannicandro said.

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