THE CHRONICLE OF HIGHER EDUCATION: Where 3 Accountability Measures Meet, a Hazardous Intersection

Career College Central Summary:

  • Last week the U.S. Department of Education released a list of 544 colleges facing an extra level of financial scrutiny known as "heightened cash monitoring," after initially refusing to make the list public.
  • The department's release of the list brought into focus yet another arcane-sounding accountability measure. (Colleges can face one of two increasingly strict levels of monitoring, both of which include a delay in colleges’ student-aid reimbursements.) Two other measures, colleges' financial-responsibility scores and cohort-default rates, have been around for years. All three metrics have the potential to help policy makers and the public make better decisions about colleges.
  • But how much can we learn from this tangle of accountability measures? The Venn diagram below shows just how little overlap there is among colleges facing sanctions or potential sanctions for violating the department's standards under these metrics: Only 26 institutions ran into trouble in all three categories.
  • Six of them are private nonprofit and the other 20 are for-profit institutions. The majority of these colleges, such as Taylor Business Institute, in Chicago, and the Florida School of Traditional Midwifery, are very small vocational colleges. However, two institutions are better-known. Allen University, a nonprofit historically black university in South Carolina, has been placed on warning by its accreditor for financial issues as it struggles with enrollment. Everest College, once a part of Corinthian Colleges Inc., has been partially purchased by ECMC Group and will make a transition to nonprofit status.
  • These accountability measures may sound trivial, but violating any one of them can have serious consequences. Last year, Corinthian was subjected to the less-severe of the two levels of heightened cash monitoring, and the giant for-profit educator eventually collapsed. Colleges with high default rates can lose access to federal financial aid. And running afoul of any of these standards can attract negative news-media attention that prospective students and their families will see.

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