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Education news and notes from Tampa Bay and Florida

For-profit college group sues federal government over policy changes



It was bound to happen sooner or later.

For several years now, we've been writing about questionable practices and government investigations of the for-profit college industry. Recently federal regulators have begun cracking down with new rules designed to prevent deceptive marketing and financial aid programs.

Now the colleges are firing back. In a lawsuit filed today against the federal Department of Education, an industry group has asked the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to overturn three regulations it says are beyond the government's authority and "particularly harmful" to students and schools.

"If these vague and poorly written regulations are implemented, they will have a chilling effect on job creation and innovation, forcing our schools to waste resources defending themselves against frivolous lawsuits at the expense of investment in students, faculty, facilities and technology,” said Harris Miller, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

The lawsuit itself makes for pretty dense reading, but it comes down to a few basic claims: that the federal government goes beyond its authority in asking states to regulate such schools; illegally prevents schools from offering employees merit-based salaries, such as tying their pay to recruitment goals; and goes too far in limiting what school officials may say (or promise) to prospective students.

"APSCU agrees that statements made to intentionally mislead students are unacceptable," the group said in a statement. "The new ... regulations permit the Department to impose severe penalties on schools for inadvertent, insignificant, or innocent statements—including such statements made by third party advertising and marketing partners.  Such statements need not be material or cause actual damage.  Moreover, penalties can be imposed without due process.  As a result of these regulations, schools will be forced to provide less information to prospective students out of fear of being held liable for any mistakes that are made. "

You get the idea. For a different perspective, take a look at Stephen Burd's dogged coverage of the for-profit college sector for the New America Foundation in recent years. Let the battle begin.

[Last modified: Friday, January 21, 2011 3:46pm]


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