Enforcement Chief at Postsecondary Bureau to Resign

by Jennifer Gollan, Bay Citizen

Resignation comes after The Bay Citizen revealed the bureau failed to properly oversee state’s for-profit schools

The administrator in charge of policing the state’s for-profit schools at the California Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education is stepping down next month.

Karen Newquist, the bureau’s chief of enforcement since November 2010, intends to leave her post in March. Her replacement has not been named.

Newquist’s departure comes after The Bay Citizen revealed that the bureau had not fulfilled many of its fundamental oversight responsibilities, including aggressively investigating complaints, monitoring the quality of educational programs and rooting out unlicensed schools and diploma mills.

The bureau was established by the state Legislature two years ago to strengthen protections for the approximately 400,000 students who attend private vocational schools across the state.

The Bay Citizen reported in December that the bureau had a backlog of about 200 investigations into complaints against schools accused of hiring unqualified faculty members, providing degrees of dubious value and other violations of state education code. Bureau officials acknowledged they had violated a state requirement to process and resolve at least some of these cases within 18 months.

Earlier this month, state regulators shut down the for-profit Institute of Medical Education, which had campuses in Oakland and San Jose, for violations of state educations laws, after The Bay Citizen reported that the bureau had received multiple complaints about the school.

Newquist did not respond to a message left at her office requesting comment. She earns $80,724 a year to oversee a staff of 26 inspectors and other employees in the bureau’s enforcement section, which is charged with ensuring the state’s vocational schools fulfill their educational promises and comply with state education laws.

Newquist intends to take a job as the chief of enforcement for the California Board of Vocational Nursing and Psychiatric Technicians, where she served as the enforcement program manager before joining the bureau, said Russ Heimerich, a spokesman for the Department of Consumer Affairs, which oversees the bureau.

After a brief stint as an office assistant with the California Student Aid Commission in 1979, Newquist worked off and on beginning in 1990 for various state agencies, including the state Department of Mental Health and the California Housing Finance Agency, according to the state Controller’s Office.

Joanne Wenzel, the bureau’s deputy bureau chief, declined to discuss the reasons for Newquist’s departure, but said she hopes to find a replacement ‘as soon as possible.’

In a Feb. 21 email to bureau staff, Wenzel praised Newquist’s leadership.

‘I can say without any hesitation that the Bureau would not be anywhere near to fulfilling its mandate without Karen coming in and taking on the development of the Enforcement Unit,’ Wenzel wrote. ‘Karen came in to the Bureau and set about reading, studying, comparing and creating. She took a law and developed a vision then created procedures and processes and she understands oh, so well how necessary change is.’