Politics & Government

Bill to tighten regulation of for-profit schools advances in legislature

FRANKFORT — A bill that would end the for-profit education industry's control of its own state regulation cleared the House Education Committee on Tuesday and is headed to the House floor.

The committee approved House Bill 125, aimed at restructuring the State Board for Proprietary Education, which regulates some for-profit schools. The bill also would move many of the state board's responsibilities to the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education.

The state board licenses about 120 for-profit schools offering two-year associate's degrees, technical certificates or other diplomas in various career fields. Under the current law, six of the state board's 11 seats are held by representatives of for-profit schools, appointed by the governor.

This presents a clear conflict of interest, said Rep. Reginald Meeks, D-Louisville, the bill's sponsor. Legislative hearings have uncovered student complaints about for-profit schools that the state board failed to address, including complaints about schools represented on the board, Meeks said.

"I think people now realize the activities of the board and the schools have gone unsupervised for too long," Meeks said.

Among other things, HB 125 would transfer the state board's oversight of seven two-year, for-profit colleges to the Council on Postsecondary Education, which already oversees the state's public and private four-year colleges and universities.

It would reduce the size of the state board from 11 to nine members and limit the for-profit schools to two seats, ending their majority control. It would tighten the rules requiring the board to investigate complaints.

The for-profit education industry has come under scrutiny in the past year by Congress and the states after complaints from students who say they went into debt — often using federally guaranteed financial aid — without getting the educations or subsequent job placements the colleges promised.