Friday, July 6, 2007

California Regulation of For-Profits and Why National Accreditation Does Not Stop Fraud

Per a Inside Higher Education article, California's Governator characterized the statute and regulations that created Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, which regulates for-profit vocational post-secondary schools, “fundamentally flawed,” in a message vetoing an extension of it. This will leave the state's for-profit, career, technical and vocational school industry unregulated if the legislation is not replaced by July 1, 2007. Actually the statute worked rather well until it was amended in 1997 by a Republican legislature in response to complaints from for-profit schools as explained by a 2000 article San Francisco Weekly which details the the history of regulation of for-profit trade schools in California. It is a must read for anybody wondering about how California vocational school regulation came to this somber state. The article details how California went, from its haven as a diploma mill in the early 1980s, to the passage of the Maxine Waters School Reform and Student Protection Act in 1989, which created the Council for Private and Postsecondary Education and which cleaned up the for-profit education. That act expired in 1997 and Governor Pete Wilson vetoed an extension of it. Then of course, the for-profit vocational schools lobbied to eviscerate it and the Republican legislature gave the for-profit industry its wish and diluted the protections in the original legislation not to mention reducing the contributions schools had to make to a tuition reimbursement fund. Thus here were are now..

The bill being argued before the California legislature would exempt institutions regionally accredited by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, or WASC, from the state’s private college oversight system, which has always focused on unaccredited, or nationally accredited for-profit colleges. This is not new, the old law also exempted WASC. However, nationally accredited schools want the same exemption arguing that their accreditation is just as good as regional accreditation and is recognized by the Department of Education.

This is an argument these schools have been circulating for some time now, just like water in the toilet before it hits the drain. The schools who have a history of deceiving students are nationally schools, Crown College (Tacoma), Court Reporting Institute, Florida Metropolitan University, Brooks College, Bryman College and these are just the ones that come readily to mind. Did their accreditors do anything to stop them from deceiving students? That would be negative. Court Reporting Institute (CRI) was shut down by the Washington state licensing agency and finally filed for bankruptcy protection while the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) did nothing and that isn't the first time this has happened. The Department of Education and New York State regulators shut down two ACICS accredited schools while ACICS stood idly by. If California is going to exempt nationally accredited career, technical and vocational schools from its regulatory scheme, why bother having regulations at all?

National accreditors have shown precious little inclination to regulate the schools they accredit. Accrediting isn't regulation I guess. I watched while educators and students sent extremely serious complaints to the ACCSCT about Crown College and yet they continued to deceive students and offer a sub par education. ACICS ignored the problems with CRI as the state finally shut them down. These accreditors time appears to be taken up more with lobbying for their schools and against regulating them.

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