In Speech on Senate Floor, Durbin Calls Out Corruption Of For-Profit College Industry

Durbin highlights his legislation that aims to improve oversight over the predatory for-profit college industry

WASHINGTON –Today, U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) delivered a speech on the Senate floor, criticizing the for-profit college industry for their continued abuse and manipulative tactics to lure students into a lifetime of debt in exchange for a near-meaningless degree. In his remarks, Durbin emphasized that for-profit colleges have been running this scam for years while the Department of Education has continued to provide billions in federal support to the industry.

“For-profit colleges enroll only eight percent of America’s college students, [but] they account for 30 percent of federal loan defaults,” Durbin began. “For-profit colleges deliberately lure in first-generation and low-income students with slick marketing…They pressure students to take on as much debt as possible to pay for the courses, and they charge a lot more than community colleges…Once the students are enrolled and on the hook for huge amounts of debt, these for-profit colleges provide low-quality education and very little support.”

Durbin explained that despite the well-documented misconduct of these for-profit schools, they continue to rake in billions in federal dollars each year. Under the Trump Administration, then-Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos eliminated the Gainful Employment Rule, which sanctioned the worst performing career preparation programs, many of which were part of the for-profit college industry. DeVos also allowed borrower defense claims to pile up, preventing nearly 230,000 borrowers who were scammed by for-profit colleges from receiving student loan relief.

“Early on, Secretary DeVos said she was going to prioritize individual students. Instead, by removing these safeguards and accountability, she left them even more vulnerable to unscrupulous for-profit colleges,” Durbin said. “The DeVos Education Department even refused to provide defrauded borrowers with the loan discharges that they deserved under borrower defense. After Secretary DeVos’ indefensible ‘borrower defense’ policies were struck down in federal court, she continued to refuse to act even after the court ruled against her, allowing a backlog to build up of 230,000 student borrowers who languished under the mountains of debt that Secretary DeVos would not remedy in any way.”

Durbin continued on by discussing the Biden Administration’s efforts to process borrower defense claims and hold for-profit colleges accountable for their manipulation of students.

“Unlike the Trump-DeVos Department of Education, President Biden’s Department has processed borrower defense claims, as the law requires. This has cancelled the student loan debt of nearly 1.1 million borrowers who were defrauded and swindled by predatory for-profit colleges, legendary names like Corinthian Colleges, ITT Tech, Westwood,” said Durbin. “It has enabled these students to get a chance to start again, to make up for time lost from a bitter experience at a for-profit school.” 

In March 2021, Congress passed the American Rescue Plan Act, which closed the “90/10 loophole” and prohibited federal dollars from the GI Bill and Department of Defense from being counted as nonfederal revenue for for-profit colleges. Durbin applauded the Biden Administration’s recently released regulations to implement closing the “90/10 loophole,” which will take effect in January 2023.

“It [the Biden Administration] has taken the steps to close the infamous ‘90/10 loophole.’ That’s a loophole that basically says for-profit colleges do not count GI Bill and service member benefits as part of their revenue from the federal government, resulting in some schools generating more than 90 percent of their revenues from federal tax dollars…The GI Bill was not designed to be wasted on for-profit schools,” said Durbin.  

Durbin concluded his speech by offering his legislation, the Proprietary Education Interagency Oversight Coordination Improvement Act, as a means of keeping the for-profit college industry in check. Durbin’s legislation would establish an interagency committee tasked with improving coordination of federal oversight of for-profit colleges and would require the committee to publish an annual report detailing enforcement actions taken against for-profit colleges across federal agencies. The committee would also be required to produce an annual For-Profit College Warning List for potential students to help them make informed decisions about their post-secondary education options. 

“Looking ahead, we need to take steps to ensure that students are protected, and there’s real supervision and reform. That’s why I recently introduced the Proprietary Education Interagency Oversight Coordination Improvement Act,” Durbin said. “It [the bill] creates an interagency task force with the Departments of Education, Justice, Labor, Veterans Affairs, and Defense to improve coordination and oversight of the for-profit college industry.” 

Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.

Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here. 

Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here for TV Stations.