For nearly 20 years, the State of California has protected its citizens from the possibility of unscrupulous business practices by for-profit colleges and vocational institutions. In the past, some educational establishments have pushed students through in order to increase earnings.
Now, it appears, government oversight of these schools will end in July if all goes as planned according to a report in the Los Angeles Times.
More than 400,000 students are currently enrolled in vocational training and for-profit colleges in the state, which raises fears that dismantling the legal system overseeing ethical standards may invite corruption and abuse.
The agency responsible for regulating the 1,800 schools has had a checkered past in terms of enforcement. Two years ago, Brooks Institute of Photography was investigated for misleading recruitment practices, only to have the case dismissed later by an administrative judge after finding the agency failed to follow state protocols.
According to the article:
"Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Democratic-led Legislature are trying to reach an agreement on how to refashion the law, but none is on the horizon. The issues in dispute include how aggressive a regulatory role the state should have and what to do between July and January, the earliest that a new law could be enacted.
In 2005, an independent monitor appointed by the Legislature concluded that state regulation of the schools "has been plagued by problems for the past 20 years" and that shortcomings identified repeatedly in audits still persist."
All problems with the agency aside, overseeing and regulating institutions is an unfortunate reality at a time when the costs of vocational education, such as those services offered by Brooks Institute of Photography, can be extremely steep. Continued vigilance of how educational instutions maintain ethical standards is needed primarily because students, in my opinion, are vulnerable to scams and exaggerated claims.
Educators, for-profit or not, are responsible to the public in terms of how they represent themselves. Oversight is necessary, in this case, because of it is too easy to sell snake oil and pipe dreams to young people looking to improve their lives through education.