State and federal investigations have uncovered deceptive and illegal practices in some for-profit higher education institutions and private vocational schools (career colleges). In response, since 2016 the Washington state Legislature has passed bills to assess and improve the state’s framework for oversight and regulation of career colleges, increase transparency, and support student consumers. One of these (in 2018) Engrossed Second Substitute House Bill 1439, directed the completion of a study the Legislature commissioned the Center to begin in 2016 to “objectively analyze and make recommendations about systemic overlaps and gaps in jurisdiction regarding for-profit post-secondary degree-granting institutions and private vocational schools” in Washington state. The 2018 work led to the completion of a report with options and recommendations for a tuition recovery trust fund, a state ombuds to serve career college students, and improving the collection and availability of data related to postsecondary institutions. That report is available at here.
In 2019, the Legislature directed the Center to coordinate a work group to develop options and recommendations to improve consistency, simplicity, transparency, and accountability in higher education data systems. To minimize duplication, centralize data reporting, and create an easy-to-navigate postsecondary data system and dashboard, this process tasks the Center to work with the Washington Student Achievement Council (WSAC), the State Workforce Training and Education Coordinating Board (the Workforce Board), the Employment Security Department, the State Board for Community and Technical Colleges, the four-year institutions of higher education, the Education Data Center, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction, the Washington State Institute for Public Policy, the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Committee, and other organizations. A final report is due to the Legislature on December 1, 2019.
The Center’s 2016 situation assessment, coordinated with WSAC, the Workforce Board, and the State Department of Licensing, produced 44 recommendations to improve the State’s oversight of the sector. In 2017, the Center facilitated agreements within a pair of work groups on: 1) an overarching vision and values to guide administrative and policy improvements; and 2) a coordinated inter-agency approach to anticipating and responding to school closure events. The Center is now working with the agencies, schools, and other key parties to collaboratively develop recommendations regarding:
- The creation of an ombuds to serve students of degree-granting institutions and private vocational schools;
- Strengthening agencies’ abilities to respond to, and protect student consumers from, school closures; and
- The collection, reporting, and sharing of student-level data among agencies and with the public.
Read the Situation Assessment Report (pdf).
Read the For-Profit Degree-Granting Institutions+Private Vocational Schools Phase II Report (pdf).
For more information, contact Project Manager Chris Page.