It takes some nerve for Vatterott College to blame the Department of Education for its failure and abrupt closure. If anything, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is the nation's foremost cheerleader for the nation's for-profit colleges. The Washington Post recently reported a step-by-step plan by DeVos to dismantle Obama-era regulations on the for-profit education industry.
The revised regulations she plans to introduce next year will open the way for more students to get fleeced by poorly run institutions like Vatterott. Before its closure, Vatterott was among the largest for-profit chains, with programs at 16 campuses across the Midwest and online. It had Metro-area campuses in Fairview Heights, Illinois; Berkeley, St. Charles and Sunset Hills, Missouri; as well as 11 more across the Midwest. It shut its doors on Monday, when students and staff were told to gather any personal belongings and leave campus.
In early December, Education Corporation of America announced closure of all its more than 70 campuses nationwide after its accreditation was suspended. Roughly 20,000 students found themselves scrambling for education alternatives. The corporation had planned to purchase Vatterott.
Earlier this year, Vatterott schools were placed on probation by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Last month, the commission voted to revoke Vatterott's accreditation on the grounds that the schools failed to "demonstrate successful student achievement" and maintain "acceptable rates of student graduation and graduate employment," the Post-Dispatch reported.
A degree from Vatterott is about as worthless as one from the now-defunct Trump University.
Vatterott said declining student enrollment had left it unable to make payments on its debt and rental fees and cited Department of Education restrictions on its participation in federal financial aid programs as contributing to its demise. Unaccredited institutions shouldn't be allowed to access federal loan programs, plunging vulnerable students into debt by promising a degree that is minimally marketable when graduates seek employment.
The Obama administration took aggressive action after the collapse of two for-profit giants, Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institute, which were accused of widespread fraud and low graduation rates. They received billions of dollars in federal student aid and were accredited until the day they closed.
DeVos plans to boost an industry with a track record of misleading and predatory practices, putting more students and federal dollars at risk. Relaxation of oversight and regulation gives such operations free rein to get rich by duping students with false promises.
DeVos recently restored federal recognition for the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, which the Obama administration had revoked for lack of compliance with federal standards. Three senior Education Department officials worked in the for-profit college industry before joining the Trump administration.
Vatterott failed its students. DeVos' plans will encourage more just like it.
REPRINTED FROM THE ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH