Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is joining her Kentucky colleague Jack Conway in waging a war on for-profit colleges – with taxpayer funds – while turning a blind eye to problems in non-profit and state schools. Except, in Bondi’s case, there are demonstrable instances of mismanagement, fraud, and abuse in those taxpayer-funded colleges that she appears to be ignoring for the time being.
A few examples of taxpayer waste that Bondi should be focusing on:
- State-funded Daytona State College, Florida A&M University, Edison State College, and Miami-Dade College all currently face losing their accreditation due to issues ranging from low performance standards to admitting students without required courses to employing too few professors.
- Florida’s biggest state universities are under fire for rampant abuses within their athletic programs. Numerous Florida State University athletic teams have been forced to vacate wins due to academic misconduct, while University of Miami athletes have been discovered accepting illegal gifts and money. The University of Central Florida is also under investigation for recruiting misconduct.
- The Florida state college corruption extends all the way up to state elected officials; former Florida House Speaker Ray Sansom came under fire for securing funding for a building at Northwest Florida State College that was in fact an airport hangar for political donors’ private jets.
Sounds like enough material for some high-profile state investigations, right? Actually, Attorney General Bondi is focusing her government investigation on a handful of small, for-profit schools. The charges against the schools largely revolve around allegedly false claims used by recruiters leading to enrollment of students who were under-qualified and/or unable to repay their loans upon completion.
Could it be that Bondi and others, including federal regulators, are attacking for-profit colleges chiefly because they have taken a piece of the higher education pie in recent years that was traditionally serviced by state-run community colleges and vocational schools? The fervor with which state officials in Florida, Kentucky, Texas, and other states are going after for-profit schools suggests motivation beyond the desire to prevent a few gullible students from falling for glitzy ad campaigns.
At the federal level, the Department of Education’s proposed ‘Gainful Employment’ rule would create new narrow metrics to define “gainful employment” based on student debt-to-income levels and loan repayment rates.
What the DOE’s formulaic approach is missing is that these institutions serve student communities with significant risk factors such as low incomes, full-time employment, and delayed enrollment which adversely impact degree attainment and account for their having a higher loan default rate than less inclusive institutions. Even with these challenges, the fact remains that for-profit colleges have a better record of graduating low-income and minority populations than public institutions and private, not-for-profit schools, at a substantially lower total government and taxpayer cost.