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Sen. Blumenthal: Regulate 'Misleading' Colleges

Ever felt like you didn't get much bang for your buck when it came to your college degree? Richard Blumenthal is cracking down on what he calls deceptive behavior that results in students incurring college debt for little academic or professional r

 

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal called for a crackdown on the use of deceptive and misleading pitches in higher education that lure college students into taking on thousands of dollars in student loan debt for little academic and professional advancement in return.

After receiving complaints from college students, Blumenthal introduced a bill that would prevent these abuses by requiring colleges to disclose information such as cost of attendance, student outcomes, academic offerings, and procedures for withdrawing and filing complaints. The bill is called the ACCEPT Act – the Advancing College Choice and Ethics to Protect Taxpayers Act (S.3550).  

“Deceptive and dishonest practices by colleges must be stopped,” Blumenthal said. "This bill sends a strong message that colleges cannot continue to conceal poor graduation rates, true tuition and other costs, and deficient academic offerings – putting enrollment and profit over education.

Senator Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Labor, and Pensions, joined Blumenthal in introducing the bill as an original co-sponsor.

In July, Harkin released a report on the for-profit college industry – the result of a two-year long investigation of 30 for-profit colleges and corporations. Although none of the for-profit colleges and corporations investigated by Harkin are headquartered in Connecticut, three of corporations operate colleges in Connecticut: Apollo Group, which operates University of Phoenix in Norwalk, Career Education Corporation, which operates Sanford-Brown College, and Lincoln Educational Services Company, which operates Lincoln Tech.

The Aim of the Bill

•Ban deceptive practices, and strengthen the federal ban on misrepresentation by colleges by expanding the ban’s reach, increasing the penalty for violations, and targeting high-risk institutions and repeat offenders.

•Require colleges with a high percentage of student borrowers and a high student default rate to provide students with a waiting period between acceptance and enrollment. The bill would also prohibit these colleges from using financial aid to coerce students to enroll during this period, and ensure that prospective students at these colleges have the time to become fully informed of their financial aid eligibility at least one week prior to enrollment.

•Require colleges to make front-end disclosures to all prospective students regarding cost of attendance, student outcomes, academic offerings, and procedures for withdrawing and filing complaints.

•Provide all students with disclosure sheets on the colleges they are considering. These disclosure sheets would include key data on costs and outcomes with comparative context from states and the nation.

A Constituent Reaches Out

In January, Blumenthal received a letter from Madison, Conn. resident Seth Grenier. In 2008, Grenier enrolled in a software game development program at Westwood College, a for-profit college based in Denver, Colo.

According to Seth, his online courses involved outdated technology that was not fit for the needs of employers in the field. He also felt his courses were rushed and his instructors were not helpful.

Eventually, he became frustrated with the program and – after looking into Westwood College’s reputation and finding similar complaints from other students – withdrew in 2010. Although Seth withdrew from the program before the upcoming semester, he was still charged fees for it. Now, he and his parents are saddled with $30,000 in student loan debt.

Sue Donem September 28, 2012 at 01:20 PM
So at a time when college tuition costs are far outpacing inflation, Senator Blumenthal chooses to impose new regulatory costs on college administrations. Yet another politician who doesn't understand the consequences of his actions: this will add to overhead costs which will be passed along to consumers, aka students. Obviously the information he is mandating is valuable and useful, but I would hope that people who are a) smart enough to go to college and b) about to make a substantial financial investment can conduct their own research and due diligence. Keep in mind that there are plenty of laws and regulations on the books to protect against outright fraud.
Amo Probus September 28, 2012 at 02:05 PM
BUNK Here is yet another instance of government trying to fix a "problem" it created in the first place. College tuition far outpaces income for a simple reason. The government got involved in providing 'cheap' loans and colleges took advantage of this new pool of money by increasing tuition. Had the government stayed out of it, parents and students would have resisted these significant tuition increases. It's anagalous to Fanny Mae and Freddie Mac on the housing market. Too much government money (read taxes and debt) feeding lifestyle ambitions that helped to ruin our economy. even Joe Biden, arguably the least intelligent VP since Bush 1's choice, understands this: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/video/2012/02/06/biden_admits_government_subsidies_have_increased_college_tuition.html
Sue Donem September 28, 2012 at 02:18 PM
BTW, the example of the constituent (there is the implication that this is what initiated Blumenthal's action) proves my point: AFTER enrolling in a college and being disappointed, the student "looked into Westwood College’s reputation and finding similar complaints from other students – withdrew". So all colleges now have to comply with Senator Blumenthal's new mandates because some kid didn't know enough to do his homework. Pun intended.
Connecticut15 November 05, 2012 at 02:27 PM
It would be interesting to see whether there is any parallel in timing of huge increases in college costs with the tremendous loosening of mortgage qualifications enacted upon the market by the Dept of Justice, Fannie Mae, and Freddie Mac. THen, take a look at the people involved. Most higher education institutions told parents they should borrow against their home values and access home equity loans for a college education. That may have worked for one child but could hardly work for multiple children in a family. Then many elite institutions including Columbia had relationships with college loan entities - Governor Cuomo as Attorney General uncovered those practices.

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