Audit of for-profit college board underscores need for changes, lawmaker says

04/20/2011 11:51 PM

The state audit released Wednesday showing inadequate oversight by the board that regulates for-profit colleges reinforces the need to shift some oversight functions of degree programs to a different education agency, state Rep. Reginald Meeks said.

Meeks, a Louisville Democrat, officially requested that state Auditor Crit Luallen look into the Board for Proprietary Education. That board is supposed to oversee more than 130 for-profit colleges and trade schools in Kentucky.

Meeks said he has confidence in the new 11-member board to make the changes the board promised in its official response to the audit. But he said he still wants to see for-profit colleges that offer at least associates and bachelors degrees to be regulated by the state Council on Postsecondary Education, which oversees the state’s public and non-profit colleges and universities.

“There is ample justification for moving those colleges, those for-profit college that offer undergraduate degrees, graduate degrees and even degrees beyond masters, to moving them under the CPE, so that they are regulated, they are overseen by the same folks who oversee the public institutions,” Meeks said on Wednesday’s edition of Pure Politics.

Meeks proposed legislation earlier this year that would give the CPE jurisdiction over for-profit colleges, but it didn’t pass.

The major findings in Luallen’s audit of the oversight board included:

  • The 11-member board failed to take action against a school found to be operating without a license

  • Board members didn’t always follow procedures for reviewing applications for new schools
  • And the board has been slow to pay out claims to students who have debt leftover from attending Decker College, which went under in 2005.

Auditors also found weak record keeping for travel vouchers and receipts, as well as minutes of past meetings.

Kentucky’s attorney general is also investigating whether several have overhyped their job-placement rates to prospective students.

Complaints from people who “came out of the woodwork” after Meeks and the General Assembly started digging into problems with some of the for profit schools highlighted the urgency for the audit.

“Professors that were not teaching the subject matter. Students felt they were not being prepared properly. They were concerned because when they raised the issue within the college, whatever college it might have been, they were… they felt threatened in some way. There were issues about unbelievable loan amounts that had to be taken out,” Meeks said.

Meeks says in his discussions with board members, he has found the board members are committed to rectifying the situation, but at this point the colleges should be moved.

Meeks says there would still be plenty left for the board to do.

“There are a number of areas, including trade schools, including some of the career schools, barbering and other careers like that,” Meeks says.

- Lanny Brannock and Ryan Alessi


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