Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Rein in loan excesses at for-profit schools

If at first government doesn't succeed at reining in exploitative for-profit colleges, it must try again. Renewed efforts by the Obama administration to crack down on exploitative for-profit programs are good for unsuspecting students and taxpayers. To ensure the health of the federal financial aid system for future generations, the government must find a way to prevent bad actors from getting a share.

The for-profit sector is a fast-growing subset of higher education, where steep tuitions can be heavily subsidized through federal student aid programs but default rates are far higher than at nonprofit private or public institutions. Not all for-profit colleges are suspect. But a 2012 U.S. Senate investigation found that many deployed aggressive recruitment tactics, preying on the poor and ill-prepared who rely on federal student aid to attend. Some compare the situation to the subprime mortgage crisis that saw unprepared buyers take out loans they couldn't afford.

For-profit students make up about 13 percent of the nation's college enrollment, but they gobble up about a quarter of all federal student aid each year. More than half of the sector's students withdraw by the end of two years. Those who do graduate are often buried by debt and qualified only for jobs that will never enable them to repay their loans. The result: For-profit students account for about 47 percent of loan defaults. Meanwhile, college executives and shareholders pocket huge sums. As much as 90 percent of a school's revenue can come from federal student aid.

Two years ago, President Barack Obama tried to rein in for-profit colleges. Proposed Education Department rules would have blocked federal student aid to career training programs whose graduates showed poor debt-to-income ratios and loan repayment rates. But a judge last year struck down a key test of the so-called "gainful employment" rules, saying regulators had established an arbitrary debt repayment ratio that a college's graduates must meet. The judge did confirm the department had the authority to regulate exploitative programs.

Now the Obama administration's challenge is to find a defensible way to differentiate exploitative for-profit colleges from their legitimate competitors. In April, the Education Department announced it is seeking input on how to do that. The entire higher education industry should engage. A strong federal financial aid system is one in which needy students get the help they need to successfully obtain a valuable credential and taxpayers are repaid, too.

Comments

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Updated: 11 hours ago
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18