Washington, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Representative Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL-08) to introduce the Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act of 2023. This bill would help protect students from predatory for-profit college schemes by ending federal financial aid for unaccredited degree programs.
The legislation would close a loophole by preventing for-profit colleges from receiving federal financial aid dollars for students to attend or enroll in unaccredited degree programs. This loophole, created when the Trump administration eliminated prior rules, has left many students graduating from these programs deep in debt and lacking necessary skills or certifications that would allow them to work in their desired field.
“Higher education should be a path to the American Dream, but that dream is shattered if students graduate with worthless degrees and mountains of debt,” said Senator Merkley. “American taxpayers shouldn’t be subsidizing predatory programs that claim to provide career preparation, but instead target financially vulnerable students with programs that will leave them with no job prospects. Especially as college costs and student loan debt continue to rise, Congress must step in and stand up to these predatory programs that hurt students more than they help.”
“Unfortunately, too many students are lured in by the false promises of for-profit colleges, believing that they are being trained or educated to do a certain profession. But after being buried in debt, students find that their program does not qualify them to become licensed in their chosen profession,” said Senator Durbin. “Our bill protects students from these for-profit college scams by prohibiting federal student aid dollars from going to programs that don’t meet the professional licensure requirements and leave students with mountains of debt and no job prospects.”
“Even as American students spend enormous amounts of time, money, and energy to obtain a college degree, many complete their program only to learn that they lack the prerequisites to start their career,” said Congressman Krishnamoorthi. “Our legislation will ensure that taxpayer dollars only go to programs that fulfill their commitments to their students while cutting off funding for higher education institutions that offer inadequate or predatory programs.”
With the cost of college and student loan debt on the rise, it is more important than ever that both students and taxpayers receive a worthwhile return on their investment, and that students are protected from fraudulent practices. The Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act would help ensure that students receive the quality education and meaningful career opportunities they were promised – a fair deal that students deserve.
This legislation would:
- Ensure that students and taxpayers are not left footing the bill for predatory and worthless degree programs;
- Require all programs—including distance education programs—to meet any federal or state licensure requirements and programmatic accreditation that is necessary for graduates to enter their intended field;
- Make institutions that fail to meet this crucial consumer protection requirement ineligible to receive any federal student financial assistance, including Pell Grants, direct loans, G.I. Bill benefits, or Department of Defense Tuition Assistance funds; and
- Undo the Trump administration’s decision to eliminate the certification requirements from the Gainful Employment rule, returning to rules that ensure that career education programs must keep their promises to students in order to receive Title IV financial aid funds.
The Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act is endorsed by the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS), and the National Consumer Law Center (on behalf of its low-income clients).
“Predatory colleges put profit over people, duping students into shelling out huge sums of money for degrees under the false promise that they’ll get a job upon graduation. Yet many students don’t—or can’t—find jobs because the programs offered by these schools don’t enable them to work in their field. Rather than sufficiently investing in their students, these colleges are lining their bank accounts at the expense of hardworking Americans trying to start a career and build a better life. Thankfully, members of Congress are working to stand up for students seeking a better life through education by regulating these programs. The Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act would cut off federal funding for unaccredited degree programs that won’t help students find work in the field they studied, and it has our full support,” said Randi Weingarten, President of American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
“The Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act is a straightforward effort to prevent students from enrolling in programs that would leave them ineligible to find employment in their chosen occupational field. The bill also reinforces that states retain the right to enforce their laws to protect students and taxpayers from programs that too often come at a high cost while providing low quality and poor outcomes,” said Dr. Kyle Southern, Associate Vice President for Higher Education Quality at The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS).
Bill text can be found here.
Bill summary can be found here.