By Diane Smith
Texas students would soon be able to scrutinize for-profit and career colleges using the state’s online accountability system for higher education institutions, under legislation awaiting Gov. Rick Perry‘s signature.
Entering information about for-profit and career colleges in the state databank will help students gain a sense of “buyer beware,” said Sen. Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, who authored the measure, SB1534.
Under rules that Shapiro said will better protect students, career schools also must post online the names of regulatory agencies that oversee their programs as well as how to file complaints.
Students “were getting stuck between a rock and hard place,” Shapiro said, explaining how she was moved to act after watching a news report about investigations into for-profit schools. “There was nobody paying attention.”
The institutions have been criticized because many students take on huge debt in exchange for degrees that don’t deliver the jobs or paychecks they expected. For-profit schools have been the subject of state and federal reviews.
The Coalition for Educational Success, which includes for-profit schools, maintains that career schools fill a need for nontraditional students. They are well-managed and responsible, the group says.
The state’s databank, compiled by the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board, tracks how Texas colleges and universities perform as the state works to improve graduation rates. Measures include four- and six-year graduation rates and degrees awarded.
“The legislation will provide an additional level of transparency for these types of schools,” board spokesman Dominic Chavez said.
SB1534 directs the board to include career colleges that offer degree programs.
Shapiro said the measure can complement new federal rules aimed at making sure students are better protected as consumers. Under those rules, for-profit schools have to prepare them for “gainful employment” in a recognized occupation to qualify for federal aid.
The U.S. Education Department said students of these institutions make up 12 percent of all higher education students, 26 percent of all student loans and 46 percent of student loan dollars in default.
If Perry neither signs nor vetoes SB1534, it can become law without his signature.
Diane Smith, 817-390-7675