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Durbin takes for-profit college fight to high school principals

U.S. Sen.Dick Durbin, D-Ill., today urged high school principals across Illinois to ensure that their students are receiving “honest and accurate” information about their higher education options and that they are aware of what he calls risks associated with the for-profit college industry.

Durbin wrote the principals to call their attention to the “often irresistible lure of for-profit colleges,” many of which are facing increased scrutiny from federal and state regulators for a variety of abuses including fraudulent marketing and recruiting practices, falsifying job placement rates, and predatory lending practices.

Durbin asked the principals to make their students aware of all of their options for accessible, affordable higher education, including programs at community college and other not-for-profit institutions.

“I have heard too many heartbreaking stories of Illinois students, often low-income or minority students, who thought they were doing the right thing by signing up at a for-profit college. But after attending, many students find their dream has turned into a nightmare when they end up with a worthless degree that employers don’t even recognize, credits that don’t transfer, and almost twice the average debt of their fellow students who attended traditional public schools,” Durbin wrote.

“The Illinois Principals Association appreciates Sen. Durbin raising this critical issue and holding institutions accountable that choose profits over doing what is best for their students. A person’s education and lifelong success is too important to be exploited,” said Jason Leahy, executive director of the Illinois Principals Association.

Earlier this month, Durbin introduced legislation that would improve coordination between federal agencies that oversee the for-profit college industry. Through the establishment of an interagency oversight committee, the Proprietary Education Oversight Coordination Improvement Act aims to improve enforcement of federal laws and regulations while increasing accountability of for-profit colleges to students and taxpayers.

Five for-profit colleges are currently under investigation by at least one of four federal agencies according to a report in the Chronicle of Higher Education. The report also found that ten for-profit colleges are under investigation by at least one of the 22 states attorneys general that currently have an investigation open into a for-profit college including Career Education Corporation, Corinthian Colleges Inc. Education Management Corporation and ITT which are under investigation in 17, 20, 17 and 16 states respectively.

The for-profit college industry receives more than $25 billion in federal dollars which is enough funding to make it the ninth largest federal agency. While they enroll only about 10 percent of all college students, they take in 20 percent of the Department of Education’s federal student aid funds and account for a disproportionate 46 percent of student loan defaults.

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