Coalition Launches Advertising, Lobbying Campaign for Federal Student AidA coalition of groups representing students, faculty, consumer advocates and admission and enrollment officers has formed to oppose the proposed elimination of rules that safeguard federal student loans and other student aid programs. The coalition, called “Keep Integrity,” began its campaign last month. The group’s first newspaper advertisement, “Why go back to the bad old days of higher education scandals?” documents scams perpetrated by career and correspondence schools before the current protections were incorporated into federal law in 1992. The text also says, “Today, despite federal rules governing student recruitment and program integrity, students at some schools are still getting bilked.” The ad cites recent scandals in the for-profit school sector, such as the record $9.8 million fine levied by the U.S. Department of Education on one large institution and the raid by the FBI of 10 campuses operated by another corporation during an investigation of falsified grades and attendance figures. The coalition’s ad concludes by appealing to Congress to keep the current safeguards in place and “give our students a promising future and not repeat the mistakes of the past.” Keep Integrity was scheduled to run its first advertisements in Roll Call, The Hill, Community College Week and insidehighered.com, among other publications. The ads were timed to appear on March 1, when the House Committee on Education and the Workforce planned a hearing on charges raised by the CBS program “60 Minutes” of alleged incidents of fraud in the for-profit education industry.In early February, the committee’s Republican leaders introduced H.R. 609, a bill that would eliminate many of the rules that proprietary schools must follow to qualify for federal student aid programs. One rule requires a for-profit college to get at least 10 percent of its revenue from non-federal student aid sources. “We were troubled that the committee’s leaders would introduce legislation to eliminate federal safeguards on student loans and other student aid programs the same week that a network program exposes widespread abuses,” says American Federation of Teachers vice president William Scheuerman. The AFT represents more college and university faculty than any other union, with 150,000 higher education members.Keep Integrity and other higher education groups have begun talking to members of Congress about the problems that would be created if safeguards were removed. According to Joyce Smith, executive director for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, “We don’t want a situation where students are pressured into enrolling in programs where they receive little to no benefit, yet incur substantial costs. We fear that if these practices are left unchecked, students will rack up unneeded debts and taxpayers will be left covering a high default rate.”
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