U.S. Sens. Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy are teaming with five of their Democratic colleagues in reintroducing the Students Before Profits Act, a bill designed to protect students who attended for-profit colleges from predatory lending and deceptive marketing practices.
Currently, for-profit colleges enroll 10 percent of all postsecondary students, but account for 35 percent of all student loan defaults. The legislation would authorize enhanced civil penalties on institutions and their executive officers if they engaged in fraudulent marketing to prospective students while giving the Department of Education “broader discretion” on whether the owners or executives of these colleges should assume personal liability for losses associated with Title IV federal financial aid funds, as well as determining if these schools should be disqualified from participating in financial aid programs.
Murphy authored the bill when it was first introduced in 2015. The impetus for the reintroduction of this bill, according to the senators, was a decision by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos to name Julian Schmoke, a former dean at for-profit DeVry University, to run the department’s student aid enforcement unit.
“Bad actors in the for-profit college industry have found new allies in the Trump Administration, where former executives have been put in charge of protecting against the very abuses they perpetrated themselves,” Blumenthal said.
“Unless Congress takes action, this administration will roll back the hard-won protections that keep these programs accountable for the false promises they sold millions of students. The Students Before Profits Act would protect against these wanton rollbacks by codifying critical requirements to hold for-profit schools accountable for abuse, and allowing students who have been victimized recourse to seek relief.”
“Putting a leader of a company that just got fined $100 million for defrauding students in charge of the government agency protecting students from being defrauded is head-spinning. Since the administration seems determined to turn the elements of the Department of Education into a get-rich-quick scheme that rewards the wealthy and big corporations on the backs of students, Congress is going to have to step up,” Murphy said. “Not every for-profit college is predatory, but the only way to separate the good from the bad is to crack down on the for-profit colleges who do prey on students, and hold their executives personally liable for any fraud they commit.”
The bill is being supported by U.S. Sens. Dick Durbin of Illinois, Sherrod Brown of Ohio, Al Franken of Minnesota, Elizabeth Warrenof Massachusetts and Kamala Harris of California.