Differentiation Vs. Discrimination

Career College Central summary:

  • The Obama administration is toughening its regulation of for-profit colleges in numerous straightforward ways, most notably and publicly by taking another shot (after a federal judge blocked the last one) at drafting rules requiring vocational programs to prove that they are preparing students for "gainful employment."
  • Advocates for career colleges and other, more independent observers accuse the Obama administration officials of discriminating against for-profit institutions in a less-visible way, too — and twisting federal statutes to do so.
  • Specifically, they say, the U.S. Education Department is differentially applying rules governing state authorization of higher education programs, requiring for-profit institutions in California that are regionally accredited by the Western Association of Colleges and School to go through a rigorous state approval process from which the department has agreed to exempt nonprofit colleges that are accredited by WASC.
  • Education Department officials have told officials of the Western accreditor — as they told Inside Higher Ed — that federal rules adopted by the administration in 2010 purposefully distinguish between the two categories of colleges, justifying the department's decision to treat the sectors differently.
  • But many observers in California — including Ralph S. Wolff, the former head of the Western accreditor's senior college commission — say there is no legal justification for treating the institutions differently.

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