EDITORIAL: For-profit colleges use their sway against bill

by The Editorial Board, Fresno Bee

We are troubled by the for-profit college industry’s stand on legislation to require the schools to administer basic English proficiency tests before admitting students.

The reason for the bill was simple: to prevent profit-making schools from admitting students who are deficient in English. Given that classes are taught in English, these students would be doomed to fail from the moment they step into the classroom door.

Many students will take out thousands of dollars in federally guaranteed loans to pay for tuition. Once they fail, as many do, they will default on the loans, to the ultimate detriment of taxpayers.

The legislation is backed by the Consumers Union, Consumer Federation of California, and Legal Aid Foundation of Los Angeles. The for-profit college industry mounted a lobby effort to kill the bill.

Industry lobbyists maintain there is no problem, that schools never would admit people who can’t speak English, that the measure would jack up costs, create burdensome regulation, and require “profiling” of prospective students who have accents.

Finally, they noted that the bill would create a new cause of action subjecting for-profit career colleges to more litigation. Of course, if admission of non-English speakers is not a problem, as the industry contends, for-profit schools would have little to fear from lawsuits.

Setting aside that inconsistency, the provision that would open the way for litigation was removed. Even with that language deleted, the bill failed in a Senate committee.

Three Republicans voted against the bill in the Business and Professions Committee, and three Southern California Democrats — Juan Vargas, Gloria Negrete McLeod and Ed Hernandez — failed to cast votes, the oh-so-brave equivalent of voting no.

Earlier this year, California lawmakers took a step toward reducing the cost to taxpayers of these colleges by limiting the use of taxpayer-subsidized grants for students attending profit-making schools.

At a minimum, these businesses should not be permitted to profit at the expense of prospective students with limited English skills who have little or no chance of success.