After a year of repeated for-profit college scandals — including the recent closure of Dade Medical College — Florida lawmakers are poised to consider new, tougher rules governing the schools.
The change follows several years in which lawmakers loosened standards and opened up more public money to for-profits. For the moment, the buzz is about greater consumer protections at the schools, which rely heavily on taxpayer money but receive little government oversight.
For-profit colleges enroll nearly one in five Florida college students — close to 300,000 students in total.
Though lawmakers are talking about stronger regulations, the proposals so far aren’t as aggressive as what some other states have done to protect students. And some Florida lawmakers may be hesitant to take any action whatsoever against an industry that donates generously to political campaigns, and has many powerful friends.
That’s particularly true in the conservative House. Two House lawmakers who chair important education-related committees were previously honored as “legislator of the year” by the for-profit college industry.
The 2016 legislative session starts on Jan. 12. Committee meetings have already begun.
One for-profit college bill that’s being debated would shut down schools with student loan default rates over 40 percent — resulting in the closure of a handful of beauty schools and barber colleges. It easily passed its first Senate committee stop in mid-November.
Other proposals are directly linked to the fallout from the Oct. 30 closure of Dade Medical College.