During the Obama administration, a team was put in place to investigate alleged cases of abuse by for-profit colleges. But this team has been largely sidelined and instructed to focus on other projects, sources told The New York Times.
This has put an end to many large-scale investigations, including one involving the DeVry Education Group. Last summer, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos hired former DeVry dean Julian Schmoke to act as supervisor to the team.
The team was originated in 2016, largely due to the collapse of for-profit school Corinthian Colleges. After the school closed, many former students began claiming they were misled about programs the school offered as well as their job placement prospects after graduation.
However, once President Trump took office, policies within the department quickly began to shift, according to the Times. Team members needed special approval to request outside documents or even contact for-profit colleges. Now the team has been scaled down from a dozen to three employees, and their duties are to focus on processing student loan forgiveness applications.
DeVry was not the only company on the team’s radar; they were also investigating Bridgepoint Education and Career Education Corporation, companies that run for-profit colleges. These investigations have largely come to a halt in the past year.
What concerns consumer advocates is that some members of the Trump administration have ties to for-profit colleges. For example, White House director of strategic communications, Mercedes Schlapp, consulted with Bridgepoint at Cove Strategies, the consulting firm she co-founded with her husband.
Secretary DeVos’ senior advisor, Robert Eitel, worked as a lawyer for both Bridgepoint and Career Education Corporation – although he had recused himself from involvement with those cases. Diane Auer Jones, who is a senior adviser on postsecondary education, served as senior vice president at Career Education Corporation for five years. Jones had not recused herself from matters involving Career Education Corp, the Times reported. (Keep in mind that these are just concerns from certain groups; they are not outright accusations)
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren has strongly criticized Secretary DeVos’ attempts to roll back regulations on for-profit schools. But a spokesperson for the Department of Education said the department is not interested in “targeting schools based on their tax status.”
For-profit colleges tend to attract non-traditional students who are looking for a more flexible approach to achieving a degree. But there are alternatives these students can consider.
Community colleges and public universities are often more affordable than for-profit schools. And most have online degree programs for students unable to attend classes. Students can also look into apprenticeship programs and on-the-job training programs.
However, since students of for-profit schools are more likely to default on their student loan debt, people who are still interested in attending a for-profit school should do their research first. Before committing to a program, students should look into the school’s rankings and try to find out what percentage of graduates successfully land a job in their field.
Author: Andrew Rombach
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