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Several higher education policy experts with differing views on the value of for-profit institutions came together to develop a set of policy recommendations for holding for-profit institutions accountable in a recent report from Opportunity America.

“Like too many issues in education, the question of how to regulate for-profit colleges and universities has become deeply politicized,” the report begins. “Legitimate questions about how to encourage market-driven investment in career-oriented education while protecting students from exploitation have been drowned out by partisan posturing and unproductive fights over ideology and motives.”

The goal of the working group was to develop a practical approach for regulating proprietary institutions. They proposed six policies, several of which would apply to all postsecondary institutions, including:

  • Program-level disclosure requirements—debt-to-earnings ratios, completion and repayment rates—for all institutions
  • Minimum debt-to-earnings and completion standards for all programs at all institutions
  • For for-profit institutions, a series of escalating sanctions for poor debt-to-earnings outcomes as determined by comparing colleges to other colleges with comparable shares of Pell-eligible students
  • For for-profit institutions, a series of escalating sanctions for poor completion rates, also determined by comparing institutions
  • Increased scrutiny and potential consequences for unusually rapid growth and decline for all institutions
  • Potentially measuring cohort default rates at the program level.