Madigan urges education secretary to strengthen oversight of for-profit colleges

By Bryan Cohen | Jun 7, 2013

CHICAGO (Legal Newsline) -- Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan urged U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan Tuesday to increase regulation of for-profit colleges.

Madigan also filed comments with the Department of Education in support of requiring schools to make complete and accurate disclosures about job placement rates and making sure students can pay off loans.

The Attorney General's Office reviewed more than 1,500 student complaints related to the for-profit school industry's allegedly deceptive marketing and lending practices.

"Too often, with promises of higher-paying salaries and better job prospects, young people in Illinois and across the country have been lured into taking on huge amounts of debt to pursue diplomas at for-profit schools," Madigan said in a statement. "Yet, over and over again, many of these institutions' promises have proven empty, and young people have paid the price, going deeply into debt to pursue diplomas that leave them without better job prospects or higher salaries."

While many for-profit colleges and universities are eligible to receive Federal Student Aid by providing programs to help students receive "gainful employment," the attorney general said more clarity is needed to define "gainful employment."

Madigan recommends that for-profit schools be required to meet thresholds for their students' debt-to-income ratios and repayment rates, make clear job placement disclosures and provide students with clear, understandable disclosures about programmatic accreditations.

She also recommended that for-profit schools be restricted from finding new accreditors after a previous accreditor cites the schools for poor practices.

The comments filed Thursday are part of Madigan's ongoing effort to address abusive advertising and marketing tactics in the for-profit school industry. The attorney general has filed multiple lawsuits against allegedly abusive for-profit schools and testified before Congress on growing concerns about the industry.

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