Ending School Debt Without Empowerment
Recently progressive senators representing a diverse set of states introduced the “Protecting Students From Worthless Degrees Act.”
Don't get upset, we're not talking about an attack on valuable but not always financially rewarding subjects like art history, English or other humanities. This Act is aimed at tactics some for-profit colleges employ that load students with debt and provide little academic experience to show for it.
A few weeks ago, Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) unveiled the findings of a two-year investigation into for profit colleges, called “For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success.” That report, produced by the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, caused the senators to introduce more protections for students looking at attending for-profit colleges.
According to a joint press release Oregon's Senator Jeff Merkley, says the Act would prevent non-accredited programs from receiving taxpayer-funded tuition dollars from programs like: Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, G.I. Bill benefits, and Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Funds.
Non-accredited programs often make false promises to students about career preparation in certain fields, the HELP Committee report found. But without an accredited degree, students in many states find that they are not employable. For-profit colleges offer a good number of these non-accredited programs.
Maryland's Senator Barbara Mikulski, the Act's co-sponsor, stated, "I'm for choice and opportunity in higher education, but we cannot be enablers of debt without empowerment. It's appalling that schools are providing students with worthless degrees while leaving families buried under debt. It's wrong for families and the federal government to make investments in higher education and be left with nothing to show for it.”
Institutions of higher education, many of them for-profit institutions, are exploiting students and taxpayers for exorbitant amounts of money, without offering anything but student debt in return, the senators say. The continued allowance of this federal loophole can only serve to shackle potential workers with student debt, and squander valuable taxpayer dollars that could instead be used to strengthen the national and local workforce.