April 02, 2019

Senator Hassan Takes to Senate Floor to Push for Hassan-Durbin Legislation to Protect Students from Predatory Higher Education Practices

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To watch the Senator’s speech, click here.

WASHINGTON – Senator Maggie Hassan (D-NH), a member of the Help, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee, joined Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL), Democratic Whip, on the Senate floor today to highlight legislation they introduced last week that will help protect students and taxpayers from predatory higher education practices. The PROTECT Students Act will help safeguard students, including servicemembers and veterans, and taxpayers from predatory and anti-student higher education practices and ensure that higher education meets the needs of hard-working students. The comprehensive bill has been endorsed by 56 organizations representing and advocating for students, families, taxpayers, veterans and service members, faculty and staff, civil rights and consumers.

“Education is the cornerstone of expanding opportunity and it is vital that we ensure that more students have access to quality, affordable higher education that will help them thrive,” Senator Hassan said. “Unfortunately – too often – hard-working students, including our veterans and service members, are taken advantage of by predatory, for-profit colleges.”

Senator Hassan continued, “Students attended these institutions with the hope of furthering their education and building a better life for themselves and their families. In reality, though, these companies were raking in billions of taxpayer funds that enriched their executives and investors all while their students were receiving subpar degrees at high costs, even though they were often recruited with a promise of a good-paying job after graduation. This has left tens of thousands of student borrowers with huge amounts of debt that they'll never be able to repay, credits or degrees of little value and few job prospects. Unscrupulous actions by for-profit colleges have also widely impacted our country's veterans who bravely fought in defense of our freedoms, then in turn were taken advantage of by predatory, corrupt schools. And our current system has done little to stop these bad actors.” 

The PROTECT Students Act comes in response to the recent collapses of Education Corporation of America, Vaterott Colleges, and Dream Center Education Holdings in the past few months, which show that for-profit colleges continue to represent a disproportionate risk to students and taxpayers even years after the collapses of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and ITT Tech. To make matters worse, Department of Education Secretary Betsy DeVos has consistently put the interests of fraudulent, for-profit colleges ahead of students.

“Secretary DeVos has done a disservice to students by hiring into the Department officials who have close ties with companies that have defrauded students,” Senator Hassan said. “They then – unsurprisingly – have supported her mission of rolling back student protections in favor of predatory companies. Secretary DeVos has worked to gut key consumer protections and weakened relief for students who were victims of fraud. This is unacceptable. By supporting the PROTECT Students Act, members of the Senate can send a message to Secretary DeVos that we will not stand for these actions.”

The Senator concluded by thanking Senator Durbin for being a leader on this issue and working hard to ensure that predatory institutions are not taking advantage of students across the country.

To read the a full bill summary click here, or click here for the bill text.

See below for Senator Hassan’s remarks on the PROTECT Students Act or click here to watch:

 

Mr. President, I rise today to join my colleague from Illinois, Senator Durbin, to discuss the work we are doing to protect students and taxpayers from predatory higher education practices. 

 

And I want to thank Senator Durbin for his incredible and steadfast leadership on this issue. 

 

Mr. President, all hardworking students deserve the opportunity to receive a quality education that will prepare them to compete in this 21st century economy.

 

Education is the cornerstone of expanding opportunity and it is vital that we ensure that more students have access to quality, affordable higher education that will help them thrive. 

 

Unfortunately too often, hardworking students, including our veterans and service members are taken advantage of by predatory for-profit colleges. Mr. President, we have seen this issue time and again.

 

Years ago we witnessed the collapse of Corinthian Colleges, Inc. and ITT Tech. And just recently we saw the collapses of Education Corporation of America, Vaterott Colleges, and Dream Center Education Holding. 

 

Students attended these institutions with the hope of furthering their education and building a better life for themselves and their families. In reality, though, these companies were raking in billions of taxpayer funds that enriched their executives and investors all while their students were receiving subpar degrees at high costs, even though they were often recruited with a promise of a good-paying job after graduation. 

 

This has left tens of thousands of student borrowers with huge amounts of debt that they'll never be able to repay, credits or degrees of little value and few job prospects.

 

Unscrupulous actions by for-profit colleges have also widely impacted our country's veterans who bravely fought in defense of our freedoms, then in turn were taken advantage of by predatory, corrupt schools. And our current system has done little to stop these bad actors. 

Mr. President, students and taxpayers have been exploited in astounding ways and to an outrageous degree. We need to do more to address and to stop these predatory practices. 

That's why I was pleased and honored to join with Senator Durbin last week to introduce the Preventing Risky Operations from Threatening the Education and Career Trajectories of Students Act of 2019, otherwise known as the PROTECT Students Act. 

 

This legislation would implement a number of commonsense protections to hold predatory institutions, including for-profit schools accountable when they engage in unfair, deceptive, and other fraudulent practices.

So to start, the PROTECT Students Act would safeguard our veterans and service members from predatory practices. It would close a loophole in existing law that allows colleges to count G.I. Benefits as non-federal dollars towards the required 10% of their revenues that must be from a non-federal source. 

This has led some predatory for-profit schools to deliberately and aggressively recruit veterans and even provide false information to them regarding their programs, including the expected level of student debt and what kind of jobs would be available to the student once they graduate.

 

By closing that loophole through the PROTECT Act, we can eliminate the incentive for these schools to prey on veterans and prevent veterans from going into significant debt for a credential or degree of little practical or economic value. 

 

Next this legislation would add a new review process for for-profit institutions that seek to convert to nonprofit or public status, something that they have been doing as a strategy to escape key accountability requirements. Our bill would also take steps to ensure that career education programs actually prepare students for good-paying jobs.

 

Because if students invest thousands of dollars in their education, they should be able to find a job that will help them pay back their loans. The PROTECT Students Act would also codify the 2014 gainful employment regulation, which helps prevent students from enrolling in low-quality programs that charge more than what a student can reasonably pay back after their graduate. 

This provision requires improvement by schools whose students are found to have too much debt compared to their earnings and it cuts off federal financial aid for those schools that don't improve. The measure also has the obvious benefit of preventing Federal taxpayer dollars from being wasted on worthless programs.

 

The PROTECT Students Act would also help student borrowers who have been cheated or defrauded by predatory institutions, including for-profit colleges by improving the process for borrowers to have their loans forgiven if the school they attend engages in fraud. 

And this legislation would increase consumer protections by banning the practice of mandatory arbitration which has limited students' ability to seek legal action if they've been defrauded. 

 

Mr. President, these are just some of the vital steps that the PROTECT Students Act would take. This bill would be a strong step forward for both students including veterans and service members and taxpayers. 

 

We are at a time when the Department of Education led by Secretary Betsy DeVos is doing everything in its power to undermine protections for students on these issues.

 

Secretary DeVos has done a disservice to students by hiring into the Department officials who have close ties with companies that have defrauded students.

They then - unsurprisingly - have supported her mission of rolling back student protections in favor of predatory companies. Secretary DeVos has worked to gut key consumer protections and weakened relief for students who were victims of fraud. This is unacceptable.

 

By supporting the PROTECT Students Act, members of the Senate can send a message to Secretary DeVos that we will not stand for these actions. 

 

Mr. President, I want to take a moment to thank my friend and colleague Senator Durbin for his consistent leadership on this issue. For years Senator Durbin has been sounding the alarm about the dangers of for-profit colleges introducing legislation and taking to the Senate floor and bringing much needed attention to this matter.

 

It’s time that more of our colleagues listen to his calls to stop these predatory institutions from taking advantage of students all across the country. 

 

Senator Durbin, thank you again for leading on this issue. I am thrilled that we have been able to work together to introduce the PROTECT Students Act, and I look forward to working with you to pass this legislation as part of the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act. Thank you, Mr. President. And I yield the floor to my colleague from Illinois.

 

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