US Loosening of for-profit school rules triggers concern
How a school bomb-scare case sparked a media vs. FBI fight
The young hacker was told in no uncertain terms: You are safe with me. "I am not trying to find out your true identity," AP journalist Norm Weatherill assured the teenager in an online chat. "As a member of the Press, I would rather not know who you are as writers are not allowed to reveal their sources."But Norm Weatherill was no reporter. He was FBI agent Norman Sanders Jr., and the whole conversation was a trap. Within hours, the 15-year-old hacker would be in handcuffs as police swarmed his house.
Concerned that for-profit schools that don't deliver on promises may come roaring back under President Trump, advocates for students, teachers, and veterans urged Congress Wednesday to refrain from rolling back regulations enforcing the industry.
Their, signed by 53 organizations, including Public Citizen and Consumer Federation of America, arrives amid concerns that Trump’s promise to cut down on what he considers cumbersome regulations could again empower some of the worst offenders in the for-profit education business.
“We believe protections for students and taxpayers should be strengthened, not scaled back,” read the letter, which was also sent to Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who's been a fierce proponent of for-profit charter secondary schools. “Veterans, low-income students and students of color have been disproportionately harmed by predatory colleges.”
Could Trump's 2018 budget kill Big Bird?
Is Big Bird on the chopping block? President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget, released late last week, envisions zeroing out millions in federal funding for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, the private non-profit that channels funding to programming and operations for public TV and radio nationwide. Broadcast giants National Public Radio (NPR) and the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), as well as about 1,500 local affiliates, rely on the funding — the budget move would slice about $485 million from their collective bottom line, according to Politico.
Enrollment in for-profit schools has declined in recent months as regulators crack down on abusive and fraudulent lending and recruiting practices that have left students heavily in debt with little to no employment prospects. Students at for-profit colleges accounted for about one-third of defaults in the three-year period starting in 2013, according to the Department of Education. Several for-profit schools, including Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, have shut down after they were ordered to to pay hefty fines or prohibited from allowing new students to use federal loans to pay for their tuition.
The student advocate groups that signed the letter were particularly alarmed two weeks ago when the Department of Education issued adelaying the implementation of the so-called gainful employment rule, says Jennifer Wang, director of the Washington, D.C. office of the Institute for College Access & Success, which signed and helped draft the letter.
The Rock says he can hit a golf ball 490 yards
Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson is a very strong man. Probably one of the strongest in Hollywood, actually. But are we supposed to believe he can hit a golf ball further than almost anyone in the universe?Apparently so.On Tuesday, The Rock shared a photo on Instagram of him playing a round of golf on set while filming for the HBO series “Ballers.” He took the opportunity to brag about how far he can drive a golf ball, which he claims is 490 yards.“The world record longest drive is 515 yards set in 1974. My drive here measured an estimated 490 yards by the scientists holding the rulers,” The Rock wrote.
Finalized by the Obama administration in 2014, the rule requires career education programs receiving federal funding at public, non-profit and for-profit colleges to provide information to students to help them assess the value of the education they would receive such as on-time graduation rates, percentage of students that land jobs in the chosen field, typical wages for graduates and debt amounts students can expect.
The worst-performing programs cited by the Department of Education — those that consistently leave their graduates with more debt than they can repay – are required to show evidence of improvement or lose eligibility for federal funding.
The group cited McCann School of Business and Technology in Hazelton, Penn. as an example of its concerns. The school charges $31,000 for tuition fees for its 70-week program to get an associates degree in medical assisting. Only 7% of enrolled students complete the program on time and less than half – 46% -- find a job, they said. The median annual earnings of people who complete the program is $20,000. But the typical graduate of this program in 2014-2015 had over $26,000 in student loan debt, the letter said. “This program has not passed standards established by the U.S. Department of Education,” according to McCann on its website.
Death on a Prison Bus as Safety Improvements Lag
Federal officials promised last year to look into the mistreatment of detainees, some held for minor offenses, on buses operated by for-profit companies. Little has changed.Bathroom stops were infrequent, several prisoners said, so the passengers urinated in bottles and defecated on the floor. The heat failed, and they huddled together for warmth as temperatures dropped to freezing. The conditions were so deplorable that at one point, they all scribbled down their contact information on a fast-food wrapper, hoping to reconnect later to sue the owner of the bus, Prisoner Transportation Services, the nation’s largest for-profit extradition company.
McCann declined to comment through a public relations representative, saying it hadn’t read the letter.
According to the coalition, other rules that could be targeted by the Department of Education or Congress include:
*The borrower defense rule. Finalized in Oct. 2016, the rule lays out a process for providing loan relief to students who are victims of fraudulent schools. Relief measures include having loans discharged if their schools suddenly close and they don't enroll in another school within three years.
The rule also prohibits schools from imposing mandatory arbitration clauses and class action bans, which force students to promise that they won’t sue the school in court if conflicts arise.
Because the rule is relatively new, the student advocates are concerned that the Republican-controlled Congress may look to kill it by using a relatively obscure legislative tactic called Congressional Review Act, Wang says. The act authorizes Congress to review and cancel regulations that were introduced by federal agencies in the last six months.
*Commissioned sales. Using commissions to encourage for-profit school recruiters was largely banned 20 years ago. But the Department of Education closed some loopholes – “safe harbor” provisions -- in 2010, citing reports of ongoing aggressive recruiting practices that drive students to take out loans they couldn’t afford or enroll in programs where they likely couldn’t succeed.
“To protect students and taxpayers, in 2015 the Education Department’s Inspector General called for greater oversight and enforcement of the ban on incentive compensation. We agree on the need for increased oversight and strongly oppose the creation of any loopholes in the statutory ban on incentive compensation,” the letter read.
Follow USA TODAY reporter Roger Yu on Twitter @.
Charter Advocates Mount Opposition to DeVos Private School Agenda .
Dozens of charter school supporters have condemned the push for private school funding in Trump's fiscal 2018 budget blueprint.Charter school advocates are increasingly pushing back against Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos’ private school choice agenda.
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