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Thirty student, consumer and veterans' groups called on Education Secretary Betsy DeVos Thursday to seek public comment and impose conditions on the sale of several Education Management Corporation properties to a Los Angeles nonprofit.

EDMC agreed in March to sell Argosy University, South University and the Art Institutes to Dream Center Education Holdings LLC. The Dream Center is a Christian missionary organization that says it will convert the for-profit colleges into nonprofit enterprises.

The sale requires approval from accreditors as well as the Department of Education. The groups wrote to DeVos saying her approval should be contingent on several conditions:

  • Whether the operations of the EDMC institutions are likely to avoid the predatory practices identified by federal prosecutors
  • Whether the structure of the colleges going forward will actually meet claims of nonprofit status
  • Whether taxpayers are protected against insolvency

"A transfer of ownership could, theoretically, shift the schools’ focus to become positive forces in their communities," the letter reads. "Inexplicably, however, the purchaser seems unaware of the need for change, declaring that 'the Dream Center will continue to operate these institutions as they have operated.' That is alarming and unacceptable."

The groups also argue that a change of ownership should only be approved on a provisional basis and with several conditions involving continued monitoring of the former EDMC entities.

It's the second time in recent weeks that DeVos has been challenged to exercise her authority to approve a major transaction involving a higher ed institution. Last month, a former Education Department official and the Illinois attorney general said DeVos should block a proposed purchase by Navient Corp. of the $3.7 billion federal student loan portfolio held by JP Morgan Chase & Co.