California Agency That Regulates Career Colleges Expires

July 02, 2007

The California state agency that oversees some 1,600 for-profit career colleges in the state went out of business over the weekend, leaving the state with no special regulatory body for the sector, which enrolls more than 400,000 students.

The Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education was originally scheduled to “sunset” last year, but lawmakers extended its life for an additional year to give themselves time to work on legislation for a new agency that could regulate the for-profit college industry without some of the bureaucratic inefficiencies that had plagued the existing agency.

But no agreement was reached, and now, according to the Los Angeles Times, consumer groups are alarmed that students will be left vulnerable to unscrupulous colleges. They say that if lawmakers and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger cannot agree on a new agency soon, students who attend the colleges could find themselves back in the “Wild West” situation of the 1980s, when weakly regulated colleges would make unrealistic promises to prospective students about the jobs they would get if they enrolled.

Some leaders of those groups, along with U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters, Democrat of California, will hold a news conference today to discuss the situation. Ms. Waters, who was a state assemblywoman before being elected to Congress in 1990, helped to establish California’s tougher regulations covering for-profit colleges. —Goldie Blumenstyk