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By Patrice K. Muhammad Originally posted December 14 11:35 p.m. Updated December 15, 3:30 p.m.
Press conference scheduled for Wednesday, Dec. 15 at 11 a.m. in Room 114 of the State Capitol
Kentucky’s Attorney General Jack Conway will hold a press conference on Wednesday revealing actions planned against for-profit colleges. For-profit colleges differ from public and private institutions in that most offer certificates instead of degrees. Some even promise advanced degrees such as Masters and Ph.D’s that have been reportedly deemed useless to those seeking employment and advancement after graduation. Examples of for-profit colleges in Lexington are National College, Spencerian and Sullivan University. There are 130 for profit colleges currently operating in the state of Kentucky.
Since November, the Kentucky General Assembly’s Joint Committee on Education has been hearing complaints from current and former students of these schools and also from Legislators representing them. Two students of an unnamed college spoke about their struggles while working through a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) to Registered Nurse (RN) program. They reported being cheated out of valuable instruction time by thier professors and being berated by college officers for complaining. Also, their nursing program was investigated by the Kentucky Board of Nursing and has reportedly been shut down.
Mayor Elect Bill Shackles (Bardstown, KY) was at a committee meeting and heard some of the complaints. ”Most of those students are working people trying to advance themselves. We heard stories about how expensive these schools are, how they are promising degrees in half the time, some closing their doors and the credits not transferring. These are terrible stories,” said Shackles. He is also President of Kentucky Black Caucus of Local Elected Officials (KBC-LEO).
The for-profit schools are being regulated by the Governor appointed, Kentucky State Board for Proprietary Education. The nine member board allows 3 seats for persons affiliated with for-profit schools and 3 seats for technical college representatives and 3 seats for the general public. The board has the authority to investigate student complaints, among other things, and even reimburse students who were enrolled in programs that closed before they earned their certificate. Barely any money has ever been paid to complainants. The board chair Mark Gabis (Daymar College) and representatives from some for-profits also appeared before the Committee on Education to defend their success records and validity.
Nationally these schools have come under fire from U.S. Department of Education. Many schools target students that would be eligible for financial aid and are now posting higher than average loan default rates. In an October 28, 2010 release from the Dept. of Education, “The Obama administration today released a broad set of rules to strengthen federal student aid programs at for-profit, nonprofit and public institutions by protecting students from aggressive or misleading recruiting practices, providing consumers with better information about the effectiveness of career college and training programs, and ensuring that only eligible students or programs receive aid. Students at for-profit institutions represent 11 percent of all higher education students, 26 percent of all student loans and 43 percent of all loan defaulters. More than a quarter of for-profit institutions receive 80 percent of their revenues from taxpayer financed federal student aid.”
The conference Wednesday is a result of the Attorney General’s office “watching and looking closely at the hearings and now this office is prepared to take action,” according to Shelley Johnson, Deputy Communication Director for the Attorney General. Their office was actually was the legal representative of the Proprietary Board at a rate of $125 per hour, as they are for many State Boards. On December 7th, the AG notified the Propriety Board that they would no longer represent then.
Shackles said of the announcement, “I think I can speak on behalf of the KBC-LEO in saying we support the Attorney General for coming down hard on these colleges. Anytime you take advantage of people who are bettering themselves through education, that’s just wrong.”
The conference is expected to last around 30 minutes and though unconfirmed, unnamed sources have reported that the Attorney Conway will announce a lawsuit on behalf of the students at a state for-profit and also the announce the investigation of nearly 10 schools.