A House appropriations panel held an oversight hearing on Tuesday on the regulation of for-profit colleges, reported Courthouse News.
The House Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies invited Marc Jerome, president of Monroe College, a for-profit institution based in New York, to speak on behalf of the industry.
Some of the industry's most prominent critics also testified, including U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL); Kevin Carey, vice president of education policy and knowledge management at New America; and Robert Shireman, director of higher education excellence and senior fellow at The Century Foundation.
Eric Luongo, a disabled veteran and former for-profit student, spoke about his experience at DeVry University. Luongo said he received G.I. Bill educational assistance after being honorably discharged from the Navy. He believed he would attend college for web graphic design for free, but was pushed to fill out federal loan paperwork and sign promissory notes every year, and was left with over $100,000 in debt and a degree that did not result in employment.
While some for-profit schools—like Monroe College, headed by witness Marc Jerome—are an exception, others have made millions from loan money their students funneled in for tuition, reported Courthouse News.
Witnesses discussed a number of solutions to regulate the industry. Jerome suggested measuring which for-profits benefit the most from federal Pell Grants, and how many of their students with them actually graduate. Shireman recommended debt-to-income and other value measures, and also cautioned that Education Secretary Betsy DeVos' deregulation tactics—like reinstating the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools—are adding fuel to the fire, Courthouse News reported.
During the hearing, lawmakers across the aisle agreed that Congress needs to intervene against predatory behavior from private institutions like DeVry and the now-defunct ITT Technical Institute, Corinthian College, and, most-recently, Argosy University.
"There are dreams and aspirations being dashed by these for-profit colleges," Subcommittee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) said in her closing remarks.
Rep. Tom Cole (R-OK), ranking member of the panel, agreed that something should be done to curb problems in the system, but insisted there is value in having options for higher education outside public colleges. He argued there is a balance to be struck between having options and regulating "unscrupulous actors."