Californians have been disproportionately harmed by for-profit institutions that fail to deliver on their promises to students. The vast majority of students affected by the closure of Corinthian Colleges last April were enrolled in Corinthian-owned campuses of Heald, Everest, or Wyotech Colleges, and only a small share of them have received federal or state financial relief.* The majority of students enrolled at Westwood College – a troubled for-profit college chain that recently stopped enrolling new students – are enrolled in California campuses. Of the 56 campuses of Marinello Schools of Beauty, which closed its doors unannounced in February, 39 are located in California. The for-profit education business is one of the most troubled business sectors in the nation, and many of these programs are located within California. It is therefore essential that California ensure that both its oversight of these schools – and protections for students who enroll in them – are strong.
As a result, 2016 is an especially important year for advocates representing the students of for-profit educational institutions in California. This year, the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is scheduled to sunset, which means that the agency will be reviewed and evaluated by the state Senate to determine whether it should be reauthorized to operate for several more years. Public Advocates leads a dynamic coalition of consumer and student advocacy groups which are working to reauthorize the current law – California’s Private Postsecondary Education Act – to ensure that the hard-won student protections created by AB 2296 and SB 1247 are preserved and for-profit institutions in California will continue to be subject to state oversight.
In our coalition advocacy letter submitted in February to the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, we supported the BPPE’s reauthorization, and offered several recommendations on improving the Bureau’s efficacy, including:
- Make student complaints a priority;
- Fund assistance for students in particular need;
- Make leadership changes to promote an emphasis on student protection;
- Expand authority over online schools; and
- Strengthen the Student Tuition Recovery Fund.
We’ve made great progress protecting students from the abuses of for-profit institutions in California, but the fight must continue. Public Advocates will continue to push the legislature and the Bureau to enact laws and regulations that protect the futures of our most vulnerable students and the rest of us from the misuse of public dollars.
*See supra note 9