Governor Deval Patrick today signed H.3625 "An Act Relative to Oversight of Private Occupational Schools" to provide greater protections for consumers. The legislation, originally filed by Governor Patrick in January 2011, establishes the Office of Private Occupational School Education within the Division of Professional Licensure (DPL), eliminating the current overlapping authority over proprietary schools between DPL and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). The change will allow DESE to focus on its core mission of K-12 public education.
"I am proud to sign this legislation that will increase protections for students and streamline oversight of institutions that are vital to workforce development and job training," said Governor Patrick.
The legislation also removes the cap on the security that may be required from schools to ensure that students receive tuition refunds if a school suddenly closes. The legislation provides students with appropriate financial recourse without being burdensome to the school owners.
"I applaud Governor Patrick for signing this important legislation," said Secretary of Education Paul Reville. "Private occupational schools in the Commonwealth serve an important role in workforce development, but these schools deserve an appropriate degree of oversight over their business practices. This move will provide greater protection for students and consumers, and better training opportunities for the Commonwealth's workers."
"We are looking forward to the expanded role at the Division of Professional Licensure because it will enable us to provide greater and more streamlined service to Massachusetts residents who are looking for expanded career opportunities," said Barbara Anthony, Undersecretary of the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation, which oversees DPL. "Schools, students and consumers will be able to work closely with the DPL if they need any assistance in this area."
"This legislation accomplishes much needed efficiency and consumer protection both for the citizens of the Commonwealth as well as students at these private institutions," said Senator Michael Moore. "The success of this bill likewise brings much-needed accountability and structure to a system that is too often understaffed and uncoordinated. I commend Governor Patrick for recognizing the need for this legislation, and his ongoing efforts to eliminate unnecessary overlap and bureaucracy in state government."
"People turn to these schools because they are looking to better their lives. A select group of predatory schools however leave these students with nothing but crushing debt," said Representative Tom Sannicandro. "The changes made in this law will protect consumers of occupational school without putting an onerous burden on those schools that are providing legitimate and important services."
There are nearly 300 non-degree granting private occupational schools, also known as proprietary schools, approved to operate in the Commonwealth. These schools provide training each year for approximately 45,000 individuals throughout Massachusetts and include private trade schools, correspondence schools and private business schools that offer training in areas such as medical technician, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and computers.
"In working with our program participants who are struggling to overcome oppressive student loan debt as a result of attending for-profit occupational schools, Crittenton Women's Union became aware of the need for better oversight of the industry," said Ruthie Liberman, Vice President of Public Policy, Crittenton Women's Union. "This legislation will better protect students and ensure for-profit occupational schools adhere to fair business practices."