October 21, 2021
When Joe Biden was still a presidential hopeful, he pledged to step up oversight of the for-profit college industry if he were chosen to lead the nation.
His administration took steps to fulfill that promise this month. The U.S. Department of Education announced it is reviving an enforcement division dismantled under the Trump administration that will be responsible for investigating whether colleges are abusing federal student aid and posing a risk to students and taxpayers.
“Vigorously ensuring that schools are adhering to the federal student aid program rules and delivering quality education to students is critical in America’s ability to build back better,” undersecretary James Kvaal said in the announcement.
The enforcement unit is being reestablished within the Education Department’s Federal Student Aid office. Its restoration signals that the agency is picking up the mantle of the Obama administration’s quest to crack down on abuses at for-profit colleges. Yet some industry leaders worry the move will unfairly punish these schools.
“Our fear is that this is just one more effort to target our sector and weaponize this new enforcement unit in a way that is going to only make it more difficult for proprietary schools to operate,” said Jason Altmire, president and CEO of Career Education Colleges and Universities, a group representing for-profit colleges.
Altmire noted the enforcement unit’s announcement followed another recent action from the Biden administration that signals an intent to focus on the for-profit sector.
Earlier this month, the Federal Trade Commission warned 70 of the largest for-profit schools that they could face hefty fines if they made misrepresentations to students about their programs.
“This is a coordinated effort,” Altmire said.