Blumenthal bill would go after colleges misleading students

“Deceptive and dishonest practices by colleges must be stopped,” Blumenthal said late last week in a press release. “And this bill sends a strong message that colleges cannot continue to conceal poor graduation rates, true tuition and other costs and deficient academic offerings — putting enrollment and profit over education.”

S. 3550, called the ACCEPT Act — the Advancing College Choice and Ethics to Protect Taxpayers Act — is co-sponsored by Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-Iowa).

“The ACCEPT Act forces all colleges to be honest and transparent about their quality and cost, and strengthens key consumer protections to ensure that students and taxpayers get a fair deal,” Harkin said after the bill was introduced in September. “With college debt at an all-time high, the bill will empower students and their families to make a decision that is right for them and lead to the educational and economic advancement they deserve.”

Harkin’s committee requested reports that came out this summer on the for-profit college industry. The two-year-long investigation of 30 for-profit colleges and corporations found that some are taking advantage of students and taxpayer-funded student loans.

“This bill sends a clear message to schools that either deliberately mislead or fail to properly inform prospective students about the education they are seeking,” Harkin said. “Our committee report uncovered widespread deceptive and misleading recruiting tactics in the for-profit education industry, which contribute to high dropout rates, squandered taxpayer dollars and burdensome student debt.”

Blumenthal’s bill would require colleges with a high percentage of student borrowers and a high student default rate to give students more time between acceptance and enrollment. The bill would also prohibit colleges from using financial aid to coerce students to enroll during this period.

“While bad actors have made progress, many continue misleading pitches that lure and trap students in crippling debt, often without degrees,” Blumenthal said. “This bill aims to give taxpayers and students their money’s worth. It forces colleges to put students first by requiring more transparency, strengthening penalties for misrepresentation and providing students with more time to make informed decisions.”

Democrats have increasingly gone after for-profit colleges such as the University of Phoenix and DeVry, while Republicans have said they’d prefer government not interfere in the industry.