WASHINGTON – U.S. Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) joined her colleagues Dick Durbin (D-IL), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) to reintroduce legislation to establish an interagency committee tasked with improving coordination of federal oversight of for-profit colleges, so that students are not scammed out of an education and into a mountain of debt. The bill, called the Proprietary Education Oversight Task Force Act, would improve enforcement of existing laws and make it easier for students to voice concerns about their experiences with for-profit colleges.
“Students should be protected from predatory institutions that will leave them with thousands of dollars of debt and limited job prospects,” said Smith, a member of the Senate Education Committee. “This bill will protect students and taxpayers alike by improving the oversight of for-profit colleges.”
“Predatory for-profit colleges rake in billions in federal student aid rather than to provide a quality education to students, who are often drowning in debt with a near-meaningless degree. We must step in to provide the proper federal oversight to stop this industry from continuing to take advantage of students,” said Durbin. “The Proprietary Education Oversight Task Force Act will give the power back to students. With readily available information about which colleges are known to take financial advantage of students, students will have the tools to make the best decision for the future of their education.”
“For-profit colleges all too often put profit and enrollment over education by luring students into insufficient academic opportunities and leaving them with insurmountable debt,” said Blumenthal. “With the Proprietary Education Oversight Task Force Act, we bring transparency and accountability to the forefront of the for-profit college industry, creating an environment that supports students in their academic endeavors.”
While for-profit colleges enroll only eight percent of post-secondary students, they account for 30 percent of federal student loan defaults. Despite concerning outcomes, for-profit colleges received more than $14.2 billion in federal student aid in the 2022-2023 academic year. This is nothing new to Minnesota. Several for-profit institutions and campuses have closed or been forced to shut down over the last decade due to misconduct, fraud or financial mismanagement, including: Globe University/Minnesota School of Business, Argosy University, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Tech.
Smith has long been an advocate for increased oversight of for-profit colleges and protecting students. She supports the PROTECT Students Act (Preventing Risky Operations from Threatening the Education and Career Trajectories of Students) a comprehensive bill that would help safeguard students, including servicemembers and veterans, and taxpayers from predatory practices in higher education that are unfair, deceptive, and fraudulent. She has also cosponsored the POST Act which would increase the required amount of revenue for-profit colleges receive from sources other than federal funding in order to participate in federal student aid programs from 10 to 15 percent. She supports a robust Gainful Employment Rule, which protects students from low-performing career and training programs that are high-cost and low-quality, leaving students who attend worse off.
The Proprietary Education Oversight Task Force Act would:
- Task the committee with improving enforcement of federal laws and regulations and increasing accountability of for-profit colleges to students and taxpayers. The committee would be required to hold regular meetings as a group and with State Attorneys General and other stakeholders to coordinate federal and state activities related to for-profit school oversight;
- Create an easily accessible complaint collection and tracking system for students, parents, and stakeholders to report misconduct in the for-profit college industry. This system would allow the committee to more easily share data with federal, state, and accrediting agencies;
- Require the committee to publish a whole-of-government report on the for-profit college industry. The report would include federal oversight actions, student complaints, data on student outcomes, and financial information related to executive compensation, marketing, and other metrics; and
- Require the committee to publish a For-Profit College Warning List for Parents and Students made up of schools that have engaged in illegal activities or for which there is sufficient evidence of widespread or systemic fraudulent or predatory practices.