State higher-ed commissioner hires new consumer watchdog

Minnesota college students now have their own consumer protection advocate.

Next week, college financial-aid officer and former attorney Elizabeth Talbot will start monitoring colleges for the state Office of Higher Education.

She’ll try to ensure they’re not misleading students when it comes to recruitment, services and financial aid.

“We hope this position will be able to, from a student perspective, spend a lot of time promoting best practices by postsecondary institutions, and providing — when necessary — specific consumer advocacy or protection,” said Higher Education Commissioner Larry Pogemiller.

Talbot will also handle student complaints.

As I mentioned in a December post, the new position appears to show a somewhat more aggressive stance by Pogemiller compared to what it was in 2012. It comes at a time when for-profit colleges are undergoing intense scrutiny.

“The office has got a regulatory and licensing function,” he said, “and as part of that we think we ought to be just a little more proactive on the consumer side now.”

He stressed that Talbot will look at all types of colleges — public, nonprofit and for-profit.

Pogemiller said Talbot has been assistant director of financial aid at William Mitchell College of Law since September 2012.
She practiced law — tax, criminal, elder and estate planning — from 2008 to 2010.

She served as a consumer credit counselor from 2008 to 2009, and was an environmental educator with AmeriCorps from 2004 to 2005.

Talbot earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from the College of Charleston in 2003, a law degree from Seattle University in 2007, and a master’s in postsecondary education from Argosy University in 2012.