Issue: Education
Topic: Access to Higher Education
Case Date: February 1, 2012


Public Advocates is working to ensure that California’s postsecondary education system provides quality education programs to our students, trains our workforce capably, and rewards taxpayers’ investment in education. This work takes place in the unusual higher education marketplace that is characterized by information that is hard to verify and compare, severely limited state resources for public institutions, private companies’ profit imperatives and an open spigot of public funding.

Even without red flags, a market of this type deserves careful monitoring by policymakers and advocates. But in fact, emerging trends reveal just such red flags, notably poor graduate rates, extreme student loan burdens and default rates, and that these are most prevalent among private for-profit schools, which disproportionately enroll low-income students and students of color.

We are engaging with policymakers, civil rights, consumers and education advocates and educators to ensure that our state system supports and rewards schools that provide quality academic programs and operate with integrity and transparency, and protects students – and precious state dollars – from those that do not.

Latest Updates

AB 573

August 26, 2015— AB 573, authored by Assembly member Jose Medina, would help students affected by the closure of the for-profit Corinthian Colleges with some  economic relief and educational opportunities*. : Specifically, the bill would:

  1. Waive community college fees for students harmed by the Corinthian closure, and provide funding for community college counselors to assist students who want to transfer and enroll in other programs.
  2. Provide legal assistance to help students, including specialized legal assistance for veterans, with the loan forgiveness process.
  3. Provide tuition recovery to Heald and California online students, including veterans.
  4. Restore the year(s) of Cal Grant eligibility for Heald students.
  5. Establish a single point of contact to respond to the closure of institutions within the Attorney General’s office, in cooperation with the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education, to ensure that students are provided with accurate and consistent information from the agencies involved in the school closure process.

Public Advocates has been working hard to support AB 573, and to advocate on behalf of the students affected by the Corinthian closure and all students at for-profit institutions. We are engaging with policymakers, educators, and civil rights, consumers, and education advocates to make sure  that our state system supports and rewards schools that provide quality academic programs,  operate with integrity and transparency, protect students – and precious state dollars – from those that do not.

SB 410

Public Advocates supports SB 410 because it will make the good disclosure requirements required of for-profit institutions under current California law more meaningful and accurate. Public Advocates supported AB 2296 (Block) in 2012, which dramatically improved disclosures to students considering enrollment at for-profit institutions. AB 2296 sought to correct inaccurate job placement disclosures, fix misleading salary disclosures, and provide students with the loan default rate information the state uses to assess schools. In most respects AB 2296 was successful, however, a second definition of “graduate” was added to the Act through Education Code Section 94874, which unfortunately lacked clarity and allows for potential data manipulation.

The added definition in Section 94874 defines “graduates” as those who graduate within 100% of the originally scheduled completion date of their program. While this is useful information, it does not give a full and complete picture of the success of for-profit and other private institutions. Because it includes only those graduates who completed their programs within 100% of the scheduled time period, it excludes data of students who took more time to complete their programs from the reporting data. Application of this definition as it is currently written results in misleading job placement rates, salary, and licensing data, as well as less accurate and confusing information for students.

SB 410 corrects this by updating the Code to use the term “on-time graduates” to determine how many students graduated on time during a given reporting year, and “graduates” to report job placement, salaries, and licensing rates for all graduates during the given reporting year. This bill would clarify a problematic section of the Education Code, and would allow the hard-won protections of AB 2296 to be fully enacted.

BPPE Regulations on Disclosures to Prospective Students, School Performance Fact Sheets, and Annual Reports

July 21, 2015 – Public Advocates and our partners offered comments at a hearing held by the Department of Consumer Affairs and the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education on their proposed regulations on Disclosures to Prospective Students, School Performance Fact Sheets, and Annual Reports, as required by AB 2296 (2012). These gainful employment regulations –which show how well institutions deliver on their promises to students to help place them in jobs once they complete their studies– are critical because job placement rates are one of the most important pieces of information that students rely on in deciding whether to enroll at an institution, and these numbers will not be reliable until there are established and uniform methods for calculating them.

These regulations are long overdue, and Public Advocates believes that the regulations need to be stronger and take more steps to improve disclosures for students considering proprietary education institutions. We submitted written comments with several of our community partners, and are monitoring the process to ensure that the Bureau takes notice of our comments, and acts with the best interests of students in mind.

*Bo Kovitz, Student Aid: Corinthian College Bill Moves Forward, The Press Enterprise (July 12, 2015), available at here

Landmark Bill Protects Students

October 17, 2012— Students seeking post-secondary education in California will have new transparency into the performance of the schools they apply to, thanks to Assembly Bill 2296, which was signed into law by Governor Brown on September 26. The landmark bill protects students by closing troubling loopholes in current laws governing many of the state’s for-profit colleges and vocational schools.

Effective January 1, 2013, those higher education institutions regulated by California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) must report accurate information about their performance. Before enrolling, students will now be able to see the salaries of a school’s graduates and the share of a school’s borrowers who defaulted on their student loans. If the school is unaccredited or offers unaccredited programs, it also will have to make that clear.
In addition, the BPPE must take additional steps to ensure that schools disclose how many of their graduates obtain jobs “in the field” for which they are trained — not just any job at all. These changes establish California as a leader in demanding accurate disclosures from for-profit schools.

Strengthening School Performance Disclosures

July 2, 2012— Public Advocates and our partners are currently focused on AB 2296, a bill authored by Assembly Member Marty Block, which would ensure that prospective students receive accurate and meaningful information when they consider schools covered by the Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (Bureau). Under current law, these primarily for-profit schools offering vocational programs are required to give students a “Fact Sheet” about their performance, including the job placement rates and salary information of their graduates. However, significant loopholes allow schools to provide misleading information to students.

AB 2296 addresses these loopholes in the following ways:

  • Currently, the definition of job placement allows a school to count a graduate as “employed in the field” if she has obtained virtually any job – whether or not it is the type of job for which the student’s degree was supposed to prepare her. AB 2296 removes this over-broad definition and requires the Bureau to develop a meaningful definition that measures employment in the occupations for which a program represents that it trains its graduates.
  • The bill fixes the currently misleading salary disclosure requirements to ensure that schools provide information on what their graduates actually earn.
  • AB 2296 also ensures for the first time that students are provided with information on 1) a school’s graduates’ inability to repay their loans, which the state and federal government use to assess school quality, and 2) a school’s accreditation status and the limitations of attending an unaccredited school or program.

AB 2296 has passed out of the Assembly and the Senate Committee on Education. If it becomes law, AB 2296 will make California a leader in requiring strong, accurate school performance disclosures to students and parents.

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