CFC is Sponsoring AB 2393 – private post-secondary proprietary school reform

Bill Status: AB 2393 passed the Committee on Business, Professions and Consumer Protections by a vote of 7 to 4 on May 4th, and won approval by the Assembly Higher Education Committee by a vote of 6 to 3 on April 20th.

CFC Position: Sponsor

The Consumer Federation of California is pleased to sponsor AB 2393 (Ammiano).  This measure ensures that private for profit proprietary post-secondary institutions provide truthful information in materials provided to potential students regarding student success rates in obtaining gainful employment in occupations for which the state has established minimum training and skill standards. If adopted, prospective students will have important information about the likelihood of finding employment in an advertised occupation before enrolling in a costly job training program.

AB 2393 insures that a private post-secondary proprietary school that reports or disseminates information on student success, job placement rates or graduates’ salaries in any apprenticeable occupation, bases that information on the standards for job duties and mastery of job training curriculum that the California Division of Apprenticeship Standards has developed.  Additionally, AB 2393 requires these proprietary schools to apply the standards established by the Board of Registered Nursing to any information regarding student success, job placement rates or salaries in nursing occupations.

AB 2393 also requires that in these occupations, a student must be employed for a minimum of 60 days in a six month period following completion of the coursework before the school can claim that student as a successful placement. This standard existed in the previous law regulating private post-secondary institutions, but was omitted in AB 48, which reauthorized the Bureau of Private Post Secondary Education.  The bill also prohibits proprietary post-secondary institutions from avoiding adherence to these occupational standards by inventing an occupational title designed to mimic an occupation to which AB 2393 applies.

Many of these private postsecondary schools advertise coursework which suggests that graduates have high rates of successful job placement in building trades occupations, other apprenticeable trades, and as licensed nurses. However, current law does not include any truth in advertising standard to limit the wildly inflated student success claims of some proprietary institutions.

Current law allows a proprietary institution to count as a successful job placement any exiting student who spent any amount of time enrolled at the school, who finds any work, for as little as one hour or less, in any field, including a menial minimum wage job entirely unrelated to the training program in which they enrolled.  For example, in California today, it is lawful for a proprietary post-secondary institution offering a training program to become a registered nurse or a carpenter, to claim as a successful nursing or carpentry job placement a former student who earned minimum wage mopping floors for one hour in a fast food restaurant.

Apprenticeable Occupations

The California Department of Labor, Division of Apprenticeship Standards (DAS), is charged with overseeing apprenticeship programs in the state. These programs include a component of on the job training combined with supplemental classroom instruction to enhance related skills. Upon completion of the coursework the students transition into fulltime employment. The DAS identifies occupations in which apprenticeships may be offered and it also establishes minimum standards for certified apprenticeship programs.  Apprenticeship programs are certified for a variety of fields including the building and culinary trades.

In the case of proprietary for-profit post-secondary schools, there is no industry-accepted standard of skill training.  Consequently, prospective students may be lured into investing thousands of dollars to enroll in these schools based on advertised student job placement rates that would lead a reasonable person to conclude that the advertised classes will lead to a job in the apprenticeable occupation.  All too often these graduates find themselves with no prospect of gainful employment in the occupation. Saddled with tens of thousands of dollars of federal student loan debt, what follows is a cycle of bad credit, unemployment and bankruptcy, but federal student loans cannot be discharged in a bankruptcy proceeding.     

AB 2393 addresses this concern by prohibiting these schools from such misleading advertising.  If adopted, AB 2393 would ensure that any programs related to apprenticeship occupations actually meet state guidelines.  DAS apprenticeship standards are accepted industry wide as a guarantee that a person who successfully completes the coursework, including the on the job training component, is qualified as a journeyperson with mastery of a defined set of skills.  These standards have provided employers with assurances that the prospective employee is qualified for the job.  In situations where union hiring halls dispatch workers to job sites, the dispatcher has the same guarantee.

Licensed Nurses

California operates a licensure program for nurses to ensure the integrity and quality of the profession.  More specifically, the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN) oversees the Nurses Practices Act and administers the examination to receive official licensure as a nurse.  

Private postsecondary schools regularly advertise coursework related to the nursing field without any requirement that the classes meet minimum standards established by the BRN as necessary to qualify to sit for a nursing license.  The recently adopted AB 48 addresses one component of this issue by requiring private postsecondary schools to disclose whether advertised coursework meets all standards for state licensure.  However, this language applies only if the coursework is advertised as preparation for an established state license.  It does not limit the ability of these schools to advertise coursework related to a licensed field without a promise of licensure. 

Consequently, a school may promote classes in nursing, as long as there is no overt guarantee that a graduate will be qualified to sit for an examination.  Prospective students may be misled into believing that a nursing program does in fact meet minimum state standards. AB 2393 addresses this shortcoming by prohibiting schools from advertising its coursework as nursing related (e.g. nurse technician) unless it actually meets current statutory and regulatory standards.  This extra level of protection compliments the efforts of AB 48 and prevents students from spending thousands of dollars on dead-end coursework.

The measure would eliminate expensive coursework or at least, fully inform prospective students about the limitations of advertised coursework.  In the end, both students and these institutions will benefit from the passage of AB 2393 because there would be an increased certainty and confidence that coursework actually meets strict state-mandated job entry standards.  For these reasons the Consumer Federation of California is pleased to sponsor AB 2393.