New York State apparently has more for-profit schools than it can regulate.

Now in other states they don’t really try to regulate such schools but, since the 1940s an agency has been in charge of monitoring the for-profit schools located in the Empire State. New York State’s Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision (BPSS):

……Oversees and monitors non-degree granting proprietary schools in New York State. The Bureau is responsible for ensuring that the overall educational quality of the programs offered will provide students with the necessary skills to secure meaningful employment and for protecting students” financial interests while attending proprietary schools. BPSS licenses/registers proprietary schools and credentials proprietary school teachers to ensure that appropriate standards are met.

Apparently not very well. According to an article by Benjamin Lesser and Greg Smith in the New York Daily News:

The state’s Bureau of Proprietary School Supervision can’t keep up with a rising tide of new schools – and has largely abandoned probes into unlicensed schools altogether.

At a recent board meeting in October, one official warned that the agency was “in chaos.” In the mid-1990s, a staff of 40 covered 300 schools. Today, a staff of 20 covers 500 schools, with 100 to 150 applications pending.

So now the agency essentially doesn’t really bother to investigate schools. The bureau only has five investigators total and shut down no schools for operating without a license last year.

Part of the problem is that the bureau has so little funding. Staff are reluctant to travel very far to investigate New York’s for-profit schools. Back in 2009 BPSS shut down three schools for violations. All of them were in the New York City area or on Long Island.

Back in September, New York’s for-profit schools argued that the state should be exempt from the Department of Education’s new rules about for-profit schools since the Board of Regents already regulated the schools with BPSS; further national regulation was unnecessary.

There’s some reason to question the true independence of this regulation group (the bureau’s only funding comes from contributions by the schools it regulates) but it looks like the bureau doesn’t even have the staff capacity to do cursory regulations. [Image via]

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Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer