A budget committee of Wisconsin's Legislature last week voted down a proposal by the state's Republican governor, Scott Walker, to eliminate Wisconsin's oversight board of for-profit institutions, the Wisconsin State Journalreported. In February Walker proposed nixing the Educational Approval Board as part of his budget plan. Cutting the small state agency would "decrease the regulatory and fiscal burden" on for-profits, he said at the time.
After the Legislature committee voted down the proposal last week, David Dies, the board's director, said the recent attention has been beneficial. "Ironically I think this whole process has helped create visibility and awareness for the agency," he told the State Journal.
The owner of the defunct Ivy Bridge College has sued the Higher Learning Commission over the institution's demise two years ago. The lawsuit, which Ivy Bridge filed in a federal court last week, alleges that the accreditor unlawfully shut down the college as part of a politically motivated "witch hunt."
Ivy Bridge was an unusual public-private partnership between Tiffin University, a small nonprofit institution located in Ohio, and Altius Education, a Silicon Valley-based education technology company. The two entities paired up to offer online, two-year degrees under the Ivy Bridge brand. It enrolled roughly 3,000 students in 2013.
The commission raised questions about Ivy Bridge's ownership structure, arguing that Altius had too much control of the program. The accreditor, affiliated with the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, also criticized aspects of the academic quality of the degree tracks, although it had praised Ivy Bridge in previous years. Tiffin was forced to withdraw from the partnership as a result of the commission's scrutiny, and Ivy Bridge and Altius collapsed.
Ivy Bridge's lawsuit claims the commission failed to follow its legal standards during its "complete sham" of a crackdown on the partnership. "HLC was under political pressure to kill nontraditional higher education, so that's what it did," the lawsuit said.
The co-owners of the Charleston School of Law said last week that they might not enroll a new class of students in the fall, according to The Post and Courier and other news outlets. The for-profit law school in South Carolina last year was in discussions with InfiLaw System, a for-profit chain, about a possible sale. But state regulators voted down that plan. Last week the school's owners said it was losing money and would struggle to keep its license.
The Oregon Justice Department has ordered Penn Foster College to refund a former student's tuition and to change its claim about accreditation, The Oregonian reported. The former student complained to the department when Portland Community College declined to accept credit he had earned at Penn Foster and told him that the credit was from a national accreditor and that Portland Community College only accepted regionally accredited transfer credits. The former student said that this was inconsistent with what Penn Foster told him, and the agency agreed. Penn Foster denies wrongdoing but did agree to the settlement.
On the college's website today, the statement about accreditation states explicitly that credit may not transfer in all cases. “Penn Foster College is nationally accredited, and our college graduates have been able to gain employment and transfer credits to other colleges and universities upon completion of our degree programs,” the statement says. “However, these decisions are up to the discretion of the colleges, universities or individual employers, and students should check with those entities to determine if they will be able to transfer credits or use their degree in a satisfactory capacity. No form of accreditation guarantees that any learning institution will accept credits from any school as transfer credits.”
U.S. Senator Marco Rubio, a candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, last year sought leniency for Corinthian Colleges after the Education Department imposed tight limits on the for-profit provider's access to federal aid, Bloomberg reported. In a letter to senior department officials obtained by Bloomberg, Rubio argued that the department should show leniency to Corinthian while it was cooperating with the department's investigation. “It has been brought to my attention that the U.S. Department of Education has recently placed extreme financial constraints on Corinthian Colleges, Inc. by restricting the company's timely access to federal financial aid. It is my understanding the Department of Education has requested extensive documents be provided by Corinthian Colleges for review, and Corinthian has acted in good faith to try to provide these documents as expeditiously as possible,” Rubio wrote.
The Bloomberg article also noted that Corinthian Colleges contributed $5,000 to Rubio's political action committee during the 2014 election cycle.
A spokesperson for Rubio defended the letter, telling Bloomberg, “Senator Rubio felt it was important to protect the thousands of students in Florida from being punished and having their educations disrupted while the investigation was underway. His priority has always been to improve access to higher education options and increase transparency in higher education.”