By Hannah Finnie
May 30, 2014
Credit : Hannah Finnie.

Representatives Mark Takano (D-CA) and Susan Davis (D-CA) called for the need for stronger federal regulations on for-profit colleges at a Young Invincibles press conference yesterday, alongside a former dean of a for-profit college now turned whistleblower.

Takano, a former teacher of 23 years, described the for-profit college system as a “perverse, insane way to get people skills and education.”

While one in 10 students attend for-profit colleges, such students account for nearly half of all federal student loan defaults, according to a report by Young Invincibles.

For-profit colleges are required by title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965 to prepare students for “gainful employment in a recognized occupation,” but what “gainful employment” entails is not explicitly defined.

Heidi Weber, a former dean of for-profit college Minnesota’s Globe University is now a whistleblower about the industry. Weber emphasized that because students can apply federal student loans to for-profit colleges, this is an issue that affects students and taxpayers alike. Approximately $30 billion of federal money goes to for-profit schools, according to Weber.

The Department of Education recently introduced a plan to increase regulation of for-profit colleges by requiring them to meet certain thresholds for gainful employment. These requirements concentrate on accountability and transparency and would force for-profit colleges to disclose information about their students’ debt-to-earnings ratio and loan default rate.

The press conference specifically called on the Department of Education to take stronger measures to ensure that for-profit colleges are meeting the needs of their students.

The window for public comments on the proposed regulation ended earlier this week on Tuesday. But before it closed, Young Invincibles submitted a petition with 100,000 signatories to urge the Department of Education to strengthen the plan it laid out and close loopholes.

Reps. Takano and Davis, along with Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-MD) and 37 other members of the House of Representatives submitted a letter to the Department of Education calling for stronger gainful employment rules with a petition including 200,000 signatures.

Davis cautioned that not all for-profit colleges are harmful, but said that “we need to be sure…that accountability is there” and that the current system is “just not working.”

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