Senators Introduce PROTECT Act to Guard Students From Predatory Colleges: What Our Partners and Allies Think

Thousands of students have been defrauded by the predatory practices of for-profit colleges. Many have been left with crushing student debt burdens and no meaningful education or credentials to help them get good-paying jobs. With the shuttering of campuses associated with some the biggest names in for-profit higher education in recent years, it is clear that these institutions present a great risk to students.

In response to this dangerous phenomena, Senators Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) have introduced the Preventing Risky Operations from Threatening the Education and Career Trajectories of Students Act of 2019, also known as the PROTECT Students Act. This legislation aims to protect students and and taxpayers from predatory practices of the for-profit college industry, and would hold them accountable when they engage in unfair, deceptive, and other fraudulent practices. The bill would:

  • Close a loophole that encourages for-profit colleges to target veterans.
  • Ensure that institutions are preparing students for good-paying jobs, and ensure that students aren’t buried in more debt than they can repay.
  • Strengthen protections for student loan borrowers who have been defrauded or cheated.
  • Increase scrutiny of for-profit colleges attempting the convert to non-profit higher education institutions in attempts to escape accountability.

The PROTECT Students Act is endorsed by The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), the Center for American Progress (CAP), the Leadership Conference on Civil & Human Rights, New America Higher Education Initiative, The Center for Responsible Lending, Generation Progress, National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), Third Way, The Education Trust, Young Invincibles, Veterans Education Success (VES), National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients), and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

Higher Ed, Not Debt and our coalition of advocates will continue to fight alongside student loan borrowers and make sure they are protected from the worse practices of the for-profit college industry.

Here is what our partners have to say about this new legislation:

Full statements accessible via hyperlinks, where available.

Center For American Progress (CAP) Associate Director of Postsecondary Education, Antoinette Flores

“Sweeping new legislation proposed today by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-NH) and Dick Durbin (D-IL) wants to ensure that the federal government does its job standing up for students. The PROTECT Students Act, includes a host of changes designed to strengthen basic consumer protections for students—such as codifying key regulations into federal law—while closing loopholes in accountability measures and improving federal oversight of risky schools… As lawmakers work on reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, these changes would go a long way toward ensuring students are enrolling in quality colleges that are not leaving them worse off.”

Center for Responsible Lending (CPL) Senior Policy Associate, Cheye-Ann Corona

“CRL applauds Sens. Hassan and Durbin for introducing this bill to protect students from predatory, for-profit institutions that grant subpar degrees at high cost, often affecting low-income students the most… With Secretary DeVos and the Trump Administration teaming up to drastically reduce funding for higher education programs and propose tax cuts for for-profit institutions for the upcoming fiscal year, CRL is pleased to see a bill that strengthens the Gainful Employment rule among its many important provisions.”

The Century Foundation Fellow, Stephanie Michelle Hall

“The PROTECT Act introduced today in the Senate is aptly named: the legislation would advance critical protections for millions of students, consumers, and taxpayers across the country. The Act is a direct rebuke to President Trump and Betsy DeVos, who, in giving free rein to for-profit colleges, have put countless students—especially low-income, first-generation and minority students—in harm’s way,” said Stephanie Michelle Hall, a fellow at The Century Foundation, a progressive think tank. “The facts and evidence are clear: the vast majority of predatory school practices occur at for-profit colleges. For-profits account for nearly 99% of all student fraud claims, for example, and spend much less on student instruction than public and nonprofit colleges. For-profit schools fundamentally have different incentive structures, which in turn have real and profound impacts on the lives of students. The PROTECT Act recognizes that all schools are not created equal, and sends the message that U.S. taxpayers shouldn’t be propping up the worst performing colleges. It puts the interests of students over shareholders, something that is desperately needed today.”

Generation Progress Executive Director, Brent J. Cohen

“Earlier this month, thousands of students were abandoned when Argosy University closed its doors, and in December, Education Corporation of America shuttered multiple schools, leaving students with few options to continue their education. This follows a long pattern of abuse from an industry that is unchecked, underregulated, and directly preying on some of the most marginalized communities. The PROTECT Students Act is a key piece of legislation that would not only bring relief to current students impacted by unfair and shady practices, but also prevent the for-profit college industry from repeating these abuses in the future. The bill would codify Department of Education rules that Secretary DeVos has tried to roll back, like gainful employment and borrower defense; close the GI Bill loophole that allows schools to enrich themselves on the backs of America’s veterans; and boost oversight. In short, the PROTECT Students Act offers commonsense and basic consumer protections for students. We commend Sen. Hassan and Sen. Durbin for offering relief to cheated students and fighting against the abuse and misrepresentation from for-profit colleges. We look forward to Congress debating this bill as a standalone piece of legislation, or as part of the Higher Education Act reauthorization.”

The Institute for College Access and Success (TICAS) President, James Kvaal

“The PROTECT Students Act includes a sweeping set of protections for students and taxpayers against predatory and low-quality colleges. Whether they paid filet mignon prices for hamburger educations or were cheated by predatory colleges, too many students seeking a better life are left with unaffordable debts and no path to the middle class. We commend Senators Hassan and Durbin for introducing this essential legislation to curb waste, fraud, and abuse by unscrupulous schools at student and taxpayer expense.”

National Student Legal Defense Network (NSLDN)

“We thank Senators Durbin and Hassan for their leadership in bringing these important issues to the forefront. The PROTECT Students Act would be a huge step forward in holding schools accountable and ensuring that students receive the quality educations they deserve. It would help prevent veterans and servicemembers from being targeted by predatory for-profit schools, would ensure that career colleges set up their students for success, and would give student borrowers harmed by fraud and abuse the power to enforce their rights under the Higher Education Act.”

Third Way Senior Vice President for the Social Policy & Politics Program, Lanae Erickson

“We believe students deserve a return on their investment in higher education, and taxpayers do too for the billions of dollars they spend every year. Too many students who enroll in college never get the degree they seek, leaving them with debt but no degree to show for it. And predatory institutions rake in millions in federal student aid dollars and leave students worse off than they were when they enrolled. Our lack of commitment to quality assurance in higher ed has directly led to school closures like ITT, Corinthian, and now Argosy, which leave students suddenly in a lurch with debt, no degree, and no path forward…That’s why Congress must step up and pass the PROTECT Act.”

Young Invincibles (YI) Director of Public Policy, Reid Setzer

“YI is supportive of the PROTECT Act. It contains a series of common sense reforms to improve consumer protections for students. As hundreds of thousands of students remain at risk from predatory for-profit colleges, proposals like the PROTECT Act can safeguard students against unscrupulous practices of, and poor quality educations provided by, unethical and ineffective for-profit colleges. We look forward to this proposal gaining support in Congress and being included in any HEA reauthorization proposal.”

Veterans Education Success (VES) Vice President, Tanya Ang

“We applaud Senator Hassan for introducing comprehensive legislation called the PROTECT Students Act of 2019 that would address the challenges military-affiliated students face. This bill would strengthen the minimum college quality standards at the Education Department, remove the target from the backs of veterans by predatory colleges, and preserve important student protections. We look forward to working with Congress on a comprehensive bipartisan higher education reauthorization that protects the integrity of federal education benefit programs like the GI Bill and provides a return on investment for taxpayer dollars.”

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