March 17, 2021
California lawmakers working on how to stop fraud at for-profit colleges had to face the reality Tuesday that pushing the regulators to increase protections may end up costing students higher tuition.
While legislators pushed for the Bureau for Private and Postsecondary Education to do a better job, bureau officials revealed that it can do so only by increasing fees to the schools they oversee by, in some cases, more than 1,000%. Such fees are routinely passed on to students, officials said.
“I thought the math was wrong,” Assemblyman Evan Low, D-San Jose, who chaired the hearing, said when he tried to calculate the percentage of one increase and came up with 1,309%. But his math wasn’t off. The bureau is proposing to jump the fee to operate an accredited school from $750 to $10,564.
At issue is how the state can best monitor an industry with a history of fraud that often attracts low-income students from underrepresented groups. There are more than 1,000 for-profit schools in California spread over 1,800 locations serving roughly 600,000 students, the bureau reported to lawmakers referring to the full scope of its program.
Legislators from four Assembly and Senate committees grilled representatives of the bureau at an oversight hearing as they began the process of reauthorizing the bureau. They railed on its history of weak enforcement and took turns pointing out the bureau’s failures.