News Analysis: For-Profit College Codes of Conduct Seek to Quell Skeptics

How many industry codes of conduct does it take to persuade the public that for-profit colleges are serious about reform?

For those keeping score — and ignoring the obvious wiseacre reply, "One, but they really have to want to change" — the answer, as of Thursday at least, is three.

The sector’s main trade association has one that it updated a year ago. A group of regionally accredited for-profit colleges introduced its own in July, written in lofty language and in calligraphy reminiscent of the Declaration of Independence. And this month, a third was unveiled by the Coalition for Educational Success, the same organization that has pressed to weaken proposed federal regulations on for-profit colleges.

Among several stated and unstated reasons for the codes: the hope that lawmakers and regulators will view them as a sign that the industry can regulate itself and that new regulations, some already on the books, are unnecessary.

But the codes, and the industry’s response to them, send mixed messages. For one, in signing on to the codes, some college companies are claiming credit for being willing to enforce some of the same regulations that their industry trade association is seeking to have gutted by suing in a federal court.

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