For-Profit Colleges, A Code of Conduct

Reeling from months of scandal over debt burdens, recruiting practices, and course quality, America’s for-profit college will soon have a “code of conduct.”

According to an article in the Chronicle of Higher Education:

For-profit colleges, under fire from Congress and federal regulators, are working on a code of conduct that they say would deal with their critics’ concerns. The standards, which are being developed by the Coalition for Educational Success… will offer colleges guidelines on increasing transparency and protecting students, and suggest a system to monitor compliance. They will be released in the next 90 days, the coalition said.

The Coalition for Educational Success is a lobbying group for proprietary colleges.

According to the group:

The Coalition is working with former Governors Edward G. Rendell (D-PA) and Thomas H. Kean (R-NJ) along with experts from multiple fields and industries to adopt best practices that will improve and ensure transparency, disclosure, training, provide strong new protections for students, and develop a mechanism to ensure adherence to the new standards.

This is a little questionable. It seems designed to address not the actual companies, but rather the critics of such companies. “See, we’ve changed; now we’ve got a code.”

The real problem seems to be structural; it’s that people assume too much debt to attend these schools, more debt than they can service with the jobs they can get with their for-profit schools

I’ve pointed this out before, but maybe these sketchy businesses should just try operating like regular businesses. A specific code of conduct for proprietary schools isn’t necessary. They’re businesses. Shouldn’t they merely aim to be responsible businesses? This seems would incredibly improve the quality of this sector.

The Darke County (Ohio) Chamber of Commerce, for instance, states that members shall:

“Conduct business and professional activities in a reputable manner so as to reflect honorably upon the business community and “observe the highest standards of ethics in rendering services and/or offering products for sale, based on the members’ own knowledge and expertise.”

If for-profit colleges just operated like that there’d be no need to impose additional government regulations or come up with some list of appropriate behavior.

Just don’t saddle students with more debt than they can reasonably afford to pay. Why do you need Governor Edward G. Rendell to “work with you” to help “provide strong new protections”?

Daniel Luzer

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