Senators Introduce Bill Mandating Formation Of For-Profit College Oversight Committee

Back in October, the Department of Education finalized a new rule: career colleges — those schools that offer specialized training programs for certain occpuations — would have to do a better job actually preparing students for gainful emplotment, or they’d lose access to federal student aid. As part of those standards, the DoE rule included the creation of an oversight group. Today, two senators introduced legislation to ensure the task force is providing useful information to policymakers, parents and students.

Illinois senator Dick Durbin and Maryland representative Elijah Cummings introduced legislation that would put into law the interagency committed tasked with improving coordination in federal and state oversight of the for-profit college industry.

“Our legislation will streamline oversight of for-profit colleges to combat common deceptive practices and help students get the high quality education they pay for and expect,” Cummings said in a statement. “I am pleased the Department of Education has already taken some action, but Congress must do more to protect these students and the investments taxpayers are making in these schools.”

Today’s legislation stems from the Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Improvement Act [PDF] that Durbin, Cummings and former Iowa senator Tom Harkin introduced last April that created the interagency oversight committee.

The new bill goes a step farther by requiring the formation of an interagency committee – the Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Committee – made up of representatives from the following agencies: the Department of Education; the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau; the Department of Justice; the Securities and Exchange Commission; the Department of Defense; the Department of Veterans Affairs; the Federal Trade Commission; the Department of Labor and the Internal Revenue Service.

According to the original Act, the committee would be tasked with working with attorneys general at the state level to coordinate federal and state activities related to the for-profit college industry. It will also take a proactive stance by warning prospective students about specific, allegedly predatory schools.

Each year the committee will publish a warning list of schools that have engaged in illegal activities, had programs withdrawn or suspended and or have been proven to engage in abuse, unethical, fraudulent or predatory practices. The measure would arm students with information that could prevent them from falling into the debt-trap that has become the for-profit college industry.

The formation of the committee also won the approval of 14 state attorneys general last October.

“For many years, for-profit schools were allowed to operate one step ahead of the law,” Durbin said in a statement. “With so many agencies involved in these oversight efforts it is important that they are effectively working together to hold these schools accountable to taxpayers who often subsidize up to 90% or more of their operations and to students who ultimately are the victims of their schemes. Putting President Obama’s committee into law will give it additional authority to coordinate oversight and take action when necessary.”

Durbin, Cummings Introduce Legislation To Put Coordinated Federal Oversight of For-Profit College Industry Into Law [Sen. Dick Durbin]