WASHINGTON--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Today, the Foundation for Educational Success released new Standards of Responsible Conduct and Transparency outlining key operating principles which it hopes will serve as a model for private sector colleges and universities and all institutions of higher education. The Standards, which build on existing federal, state, and accreditation regulations, will ensure that students have access to comprehensive critical information about program costs and typical student outcomes, so they can make the most informed decisions.
Initial signers represent an estimated 17 percent of the career college sector, and include: American Career College; Beckfield College; Blue Cliff College; Career Education Corporation; Concorde Career Colleges, Inc.; Dorsey Schools; ECHO Tech Academy; Education Affiliates; Golf Academy of America; Kaplan Higher Education Corporation; Ogle School; Star Career Academy; Swedish Institute of Health Sciences; YTI Career Institute; Vatterott Educational Centers, Inc., and Virginia College. By signing on, they have agreed to uphold and promote these standards across the sector, and on their campuses, nationwide.
The Standards build on extensive efforts to improve and encourage transparency and disclosure across all sectors of higher education. The Standards provide strong new student protections, including a trial, orientation or refund period, called a “Readiness Opportunity,” which shall be at least 21 days. Participating schools will also follow guidelines for improving training of enrollment and financial aid staff. The Standards establish independent enforcement mechanisms to ensure that participating schools adhere to the new principles, as well as a website that will identify those schools that are in compliance with these Standards. Former Rhode Island Attorney General, Patrick Lynch, will serve as the Foundation’s Compliance Advisor. The Foundation will also manage a student protection website (http://www.edsuccessfoundation.org), establishing useful resources for students.
The Standards announcement comes after an extensive process led by The Hon. Edward G. Rendell, former Governor of Pennsylvania; The Hon. Thomas H. Kean, former Governor of New Jersey; Dr. Sara Lawrence-Lightfoot, the Emily Hargroves Fisher Professor of Education at Harvard University; Dr. Jonathan Fanton, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Visiting Fellow at Roosevelt House and former President of the New School; Dr. Elizabeth Morgan, the Executive Director of the Grad Nation campaign for America’s Promise Alliance; and Avy Stein and Lincoln Frank, Co-Chairmen for the Coalition for Educational Success.
“We received valuable input from a broad spectrum of experts on issues and I’m glad to see the Standards have translated that input into strong student protections,” former Governor Rendell said. “By listening to leaders from academia, advocacy organizations, business groups, non-profits and the military, we are ensuring that the students are the ultimate beneficiary of these Standards.”
“Millions of students enroll in career colleges every year to seek new skills that will put them on a path to new jobs, promotions and higher earnings,” said Avy Stein and Lincoln Frank. “We are proud to lead the way with these tough new standards that will improve transparency, disclosure and provide useful information to incoming students across the nation. We hope that everyone in the career college sector and throughout higher education can sign onto these Standards. Our Board views these Standards as a model for higher education institutions of all types nationwide.”
“By signing onto these Standards, these colleges and universities are sending an important signal to students, the government and the marketplace,” said Foundation Compliance Advisor, Patrick Lynch, former Attorney General of Rhode Island. “These are important student protections that demonstrate willingness from career colleges to serve the best interests for all students.”
“These Standards illustrate how seriously career colleges take their role in the American education system,” Dr. Jonathan Fanton said. “The Standards offer strong protections for the millions of Americans enrolled in — and thinking about enrolling in — these colleges in order to acquire the skills, training and knowledge they need to succeed in the workforce.”
“These are common sense protections that can and should serve as a model for all of higher education,” said Dr. Sara Lawrence Lightfoot. “As more working parents, veterans and those recently laid off, turn to career colleges to gain important skills, these Standards show how much career colleges are working to adapt to society as it is and our economy as it is, rather than an abstract notion of how it used to be or could be.”
“For most students, selecting a college and course of study represents a significant personal investment in dollars and time,” said Andrew S. Rosen, Chairman and CEO of Kaplan, Inc. “Those decisions should be as well informed as possible, because the right enrollment decisions are more likely to lead to successful outcomes.”
“We wholeheartedly agree that students deserve clear, accurate information about the program of study that interests them. Providing prospective students a no-obligation opportunity to experience the rigors of programs they are considering should give them greater confidence in making their decision whether to pursue postsecondary education,” said Gary E. McCullough, president and CEO of Career Education Corporation, one of the first private sector postsecondary education providers to sign the Standards of Responsible Conduct and Transparency. “Additionally, the third-party audit requirement provides this agreement with teeth to back up the principles we espouse.”
The Standards of Responsible Conduct and Transparency reflect the idea that students receive clear and accurate information in order to make informed decisions through every step of the process — from enrollment to understanding tuition and financial aid packages to graduating and finding a job. They are intended to improve a sector that is significant for many students who have no alternative for higher education.
The Standards address five key pillars: Enrollment, Disclosure, Financial Aid, Student Readiness, and Career and Job Services:
- Enrollment: All admission and financial aid professionals must successfully complete a compliance review course annually and new hires must complete the compliance course before interacting with students. No representation will be made that students are assured of graduating or to receive specific employment or compensation. Representation of specific job placement or employment results must be supported by documentation.
- Disclosure: Before signing any enrollment agreement, new students must be informed of the total projected cost, completion rates, and employment rates in writing or electronically. Schools must also disclose whether successful completion of a program qualifies the student to receive, apply or take the examination for any license or precondition for employment that may be required, as well as the information that the student cannot assume credits obtained are automatically transferable.
- Financial Aid: Admissions associates will limit discussion of financial aid to a general description of financial aid programs in which the school participates and will refer all other financial-related questions from prospective students to financial aid associates. Each applicant will be provided with an electronic link to the Federal Student Guide to Financial Aid before signing an enrollment agreement and will also be informed that they should not falsify or provide any misleading information.
- Student Readiness: To ensure students are prepared for an institution’s academic rigors, participating schools shall offer new undergraduate students a trial or refund period, an orientation, or a combination of both (Readiness Opportunity). The Readiness Opportunity shall be at least 21 days. If at any time during or at the conclusion of the Readiness Opportunity period the student withdraws, the student is entitled to do so without incurring any tuition-related expenses or debt with the exception of nominal administrative fees, living expenses, or costs of specialized equipment, supplies, and textbooks associated with attendance.
- Career and Job Services Assistance: Participating institutions will offer career and job services or career counseling for recent graduates seeking employment, except with respect to those programs serving students who are already employed in their intended career.
Foundation for Educational Success
The Foundation for Educational Success is an independent 501(c)(3) organization established to implement and enforce the Standards of Responsible Conduct and Transparency. Its mission also includes educating the public on career colleges and conducting research and implementing social responsibility initiatives for the private college and university sector. Patrick Lynch, the former Attorney General of Rhode Island, is the organization’s Compliance Advisor. The Foundation’s website is http://www.edsuccessfoundation.org.