On behalf of vulnerable adult student populations such as military veterans and former foster youth, CAI and its sister organization, the Center for Public Interest Law (CPIL), are advocating to improve the oversight and regulation of of private, for-profit postsecondary schools. Too often, these for-profit schools charge high tuition, spend public funds and generate high debt for their students — with dubious results. Many of these schools engage in highly visible and potentially misleading marketing campaigns aimed solely at increasing their profits, and they are not committed to providing students with a quality education. Due in part to the lack of appropriate student support services provided by these schools, many students drop out prior to graduating, and those who do graduate rarely find the lucrative careers commonly touted in the schools' ubiquitous advertising. Either way, they are saddled with debt that many are unable to climb out from under.
A July 2012 report by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee revealed that although federal taxpayers are investing billions of dollars a year in for-profit colleges, “more than half of the students who enrolled in in those colleges in 2008-9 left without a degree or diploma within a median of four months.” Consider some of the other findings from this report:
- For-profit colleges are owned and operated by businesses. Like any business, they are ultimately
accountable by law for the returns they produce for shareholders. While small independent for-profit colleges have a long history, by 2009, at least 76% of students attending for-profit colleges were
enrolled in a college owned by either a company traded on a major stock exchange or a college owned by a private equity firm. The financial performance of these companies is closely tracked by analysts
and by investors.
- Congress has failed to counterbalance investor demands for increased financial returns with
requirements that hold companies accountable to taxpayers and students for providing quality education, support, and
outcomes. Federal law and regulations currently do not align the incentives of for-profit colleges so that
the colleges succeed financially when students succeed.
- Many for-profit colleges fail to make the necessary investments in student support services that have
been shown to help students succeed in school and afterwards, a deficiency that undoubtedly contributes
to high withdrawal rates.
- More than half a million students who enrolled in 2008-09 left without
a degree or certificate by mid-2010. Among two-year Associate degree-seekers, 63% of students
departed without a degree.
- The vast majority of the students left with student loan debt that may follow them throughout
their lives, and can create a financial burden that is extremely difficult, and sometimes
impossible, to escape.
- In the absence of significant reforms that align the incentives of for-profit colleges to ensure colleges
succeed financially only when students also succeed, and ensure that taxpayer dollars are used
to further the educational mission of the colleges, the sector will continue to turn out hundreds
of thousands of students with debt but no degree, and taxpayers will see little return on their
CAI and CPIL have joined with a USD-wide campaign to address these abuses. The USD Initiative to Protect Student Veterans joins the efforts of military leaders and elected officials to educate and protect military veterans from the misleading practices of some for-profit educational institutions and lenders. The Initiative’s multi-pronged approach includes
- a research component;
- the Veterans Legal Clinic, which assists veterans who have disputes with for-profit schools or lenders over the use of GI Bill funds and education related loans, and which is directed by Robert F. Muth, who previously served as a Captain and Judge Advocate in the U.S. Marine Corps; and
- state and federal advocacy led by CAI and CPIL, along with powerful allies such as Public Advocates assisting us on our state work and noted youth education advocate David Halperin contributing greatly to our work at the federal level.
- Register now to attend a free screening of Fail State, an expansive documentary exposé into the dark side of American higher education, chronicling decades of policy decisions that gave rise to a powerful and highly-predatory for-profit college industry, on March 28, 2018
- CAI Signs Coalition Letter on Dep't of Defense Action regarding University of Phoenix (Oct. 28, 2015)
- CAI Coalition submits comments on regulations aimed at protecting the interests of private postsecondary students (July 20, 2015)
- CAI joins coalition in urging Secretary of Education to develop proactive, risk-based, student-centered strategy to prevent private for-profit educational institutions from putting students and taxpayers in jeopardy (June 3, 2015)
- CAI Compiles State by State Summary of Private Postsecondary School Oversight and Governing Statutes and Regulations
- CAI Presentation Illustrates What to Know about For-Profit Colleges Before You Enroll
- CAI Submits Comments to U.S. Department of Education's Proposed Rule on Gainful Employment (May 23, 2014)
- CAI and CPIL sponsored AB 2099 (Frazier), which generally deems an institution ineligible for initial and renewal Title 38 awards if the institution has a 3-year cohort default rate equal to or greater than 15.5% or a graduation rate of 30% or less for students taking 150% or less of the expected time to complete degree requirements, or does not satisfy the other criteria for qualification for Title 38 awards in the bill.
- CAI, CPIL and their colleagues prepared comments in response to the U.S. Department of Education's Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to establish measures for determining whether certain postsecondary educational programs prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation, and the conditions under which these educational programs remain eligible for the student financial assistance programs authorized under title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.
- In March 2014, David Halperin published Stealing America's Future: How For-Profit Colleges Scam Taxpayers and Ruin Students' Lives, chronicling efforts to protect students and taxpayers from predatory for-profit colleges.
- In addition to military veterans, CAI and CPIL are identifying members of other populations, such as former foster youth, that are commonly victimized by predatory and misleading marketing campaigns of some private, non-profit postsecondary schools.
- In Feb. 2014, CAI and CPIL joined Public Advocates in a letter urging the California Legislature to sustain and increase the oversight of private, postsecondary educational institutions.
- In Feb. 2014, CAI and CPIL joined a coalition of advocacy groups in a letter to President Barack Obama, urging him to timely issue a stronger, more effective proposal to ensure all career education programs that receive federal funding prepare students for gainful employment upon program completion.
- Nationally, our advocacy led the U.S. Department of Education to issue a Feb. 27, 2014 "Dear Colleague" letter clarifying that in order for an institution to be considered legally authorized by a state for Title IV funding eligibility purposes, (1) the state must authorize an institutino by name to opertae educational programs beyond secondary education; and (2) the state must have a process applicable to all institutions (except tribal and federal institutions), to review and appropriately act on complaints concerning the institution, including enforcement of applicable state laws. CAI and CPIL will continue efforts to stimulate more federal enforcement and oversight.
- CAI is currently engaged in a national study of state performance in private. for-profit school regulation and student protection.
- CAI and CPIL are compiling a compendium of recent apparent violations by private, postsecondary schools, such as deceptive ads, and has compiled an extensive list of examples of specific television ads by for-profits containing dubious claims. .
- CAI and CPIL urge the FTC to initiate rulemaking on the unfair competition problems that have arisen from misleading advertising by some private, for-private schools.
- CAI and CPIL are monitoring the activities of state attorneys general, with 32 now cooperating in joint investigations and sharing information amongst themselves.
- CAI and CPIL are reacing out to other federal agenices with potential jurisdiction over certain aspects of private, for-profit schools, such as the Department of Justice, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Department of Education.
- David Halperin pens State Attorneys General Open Major Investigations of Big For-Profit Colleges.
- Advocacy within California resulted in the revitalization of the key regulatory entity—the Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE),
- CAI and CPIL successfully sponsored AB 2296 (Block) (Chapter 585, Statutes of 2012), which requires specified disclosures by private for-profit postsecondary schools—many of which were marketing deceptively to youth, including transition age foster youth and young veterans.
- President Obama responded to this issue during 2012 with a major Executive Order to address some abuses which the Initiative will continue to monitor. In addition, the Project hopes to call attention to federal legislation that would limit public monies spent for marketing (rather than education) for school recipients.