Assemblyman Das Williams, D-Santa Barbara, chairman of the Assembly Higher Education Committee, joined Sen. Ted Lieu and the Senate Committee on Business, Professions and Economic Development, the Senate Education Committee and the Assembly Business, Professions and Consumer Protection Committee to hear from Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education chief Joanne Wenzel and state Auditor Elaine Howle on Monday in the state Capitol.
"These colleges can play an important role in meeting the state’s educational and economic needs,” Williams said. "But the blatant abuses by some within the for-profit sector, which we read about in the news almost weekly, have forced California to focus on the business regulation and consumer protection side of oversight.”
According to Howle, the state's program for regulation of private colleges and vocational institutions has historically been plagued by problems; today's bureau continues to fail in meeting its statutory mandate to protect consumers and enforce the law.
Legislators heard testimony indicating many of the challenges facing the bureau can be tracked to delays in spending authority, inadequate staffing resources and expertise, and an inability to prioritize cases and establish clear and workable procedures.
“Given the large amounts of public money these private and for-profit institutions receive through financial aid and veteran's education programs, a strong oversight structure is necessary to ensure accountability in spending taxpayer dollars,” Williams said.
The primary goal of the hearing was to identify the statutory changes necessary to ensure regulation of schools that promotes student success and supports quality innovative programs, while also preventing predatory practices.
Of the 26 recommendations raised in the hearing background report, committee members expressed strong interest in reestablishing the bureau as a public board, increasing staffing and resource expenditure authority, and requiring degree-granting institutions to obtain accreditation.
— Josh Molina represents Assemblyman Das Williams.