For-profit colleges talk to the House higher-ed committee

Having met the state House’s higher education committee, the Minnesota Career College Association — that’s for-profit colleges to you and me — made its spiel in front of the Senate.

Similar stuff as last month. Rather short hearing — less than an hour.

As he was last time, Tom Kosel, director of government relations for the association, seemed quite aware of the hit that for-profits have taken nationally to their credibility. But then as now, he stressed that Minnesota colleges in his association have performed much better than the miserable national statistics show. (Senators, however, didn’t seem as aggressive in looking behind the stats the way a couple of House members did last time.)

A few bits:

  • Jobs. Kosel and his colleagues stressed the jobs that the for-profit college sector generates, as well as the low-income graduates who land jobs — and get on the tax rolls. Although placement rates have dropped around 3 percent, Jon Blumenthal, director of education at Minneapolis Business College, stressed high-placement programs such as medical assisting and related fields, where the placement rate exceeds 80 percent. He stressed the “soft skills” taught to students and career advisement his college provides.
  • Data. Always an odd topic. Though Kosel presented data to counteract “myths” he says the public believes about for-profit colleges, he did not have data in an area or two because “we’re friendly competitors who don’t share all information with each other.”
  • Gainful-employment law. Kosel said that in trying to pass the law that would restrict for-profits’ access to student financial aid from the government, “government is trying to tell people what they can and can not study and what they can borrow to do it.” The rule would require that students’ annual loan payments not be more than 8 percent of their income — a potentially low amount in their first three years of employment. (Higher debt would mean the programs would be ineligible for federal student loan money.) Kosel said the regulation would be fairer if it measured gainful employment according to paychecks at the five-year mark, because they would be larger as graduates got experience.