Thursday, January 18, 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.

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Another voice: Self-dealing by nursing home owners threatens patient care

The outsourcing of logistical support services, which became commonplace in the U.S. military in the 1990s and later was adopted by state prison systems, has now come to dominate the nursing home industry. And while nursing homes, unlike the military...
Published: 01/17/18
Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Editorial: Making illegal sewage discharges legal is wrong answer

Three years into a crisis with its sewer system, St. Petersburg has a dandy new idea for dealing with the environmental fallout of dumping dirty water into the aquifer. Instead of committing to banning the outlawed practice, a consultant suggested th...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

Editorial: Tighten substitute teacher rules in Hillsborough

A substitute teacher at a Plant City elementary school berated a class of fourth graders — and then the school principal. Another compared a student to a stripper. Others were caught napping, hitting children, making sexual remarks, giving students b...
Published: 01/16/18
Updated: 01/17/18
Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

Editorial: Balancing the playing field for workers’ compensation

For the longest time, injured workers in Florida were basically at the mercy of the whims of employers to treat them fairly. A 2003 law aimed at reducing the cost of workers’ compensation coverage for businesses had the desired impact, but it also di...
Published: 01/16/18

Another voice: Why just Florida?

Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week. First they announced a new offshore drilling plan that ...
Published: 01/16/18
Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Editorial: King’s legacy still relevant in digital age

Today’s holiday honoring the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. couldn’t be more timely. At a moment when the nation’s civic dialogue is choking on personal and political division, it is hard to remember an earlier time when role models were role m...
Published: 01/15/18

Another voice: 38 minutes of fear in Hawaii

In 1938, Orson Welles panicked the nation with a false alarm about a Martian invasion in the radio broadcast The War of the Worlds. That was farfetched, of course. But what happened on Saturday, sadly, was not so hard to imagine — or believe.Authorit...
Published: 01/14/18
Updated: 01/16/18
Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

Editorial: Florida’s chance to make it easier to restore civil rights

As it has for decades, Florida stubbornly clings to an inhumane, inefficient and indefensible system of justice that permanently sentences more than 1.5 million residents to second-class citizenship. This state automatically revokes the right to vote...
Published: 01/13/18
Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

Editorial: Speak out against Trump’s vulgar remarks

President Donald Trump’s vulgar outbursts during a White House meeting on immigration are racist and indefensible no matter how he parses them. They are not presidential, they undermine U.S. foreign relations and they do not reflect America’s values....
Published: 01/12/18

Editorial: Pinellas commission stands up for accountability

The Pinellas County Commission has gotten the message that it should not be a rubber stamp. Commissioners sent a clear signal this week they will demand more accountability of local agencies by refusing to approve nominees for the board for CareerSou...
Published: 01/11/18
Updated: 01/12/18