Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Arbitration and For-Profit Colleges: Public Citizen, a consumer group, asks the Department of Education to bar for-profits from forcing students to arbitrate their fraud claims. What a good idea!

Public Citizen, a consumer rights group, formally petitioned the U.S. Department of Education to cut off federal student-aid money to for-profit colleges that force their students to sign arbitration agreements that bar students from suing the colleges for fraud or misrepresentation or from filing class-action lawsuits. Julie Murray, spokesperson for the group, explained Public Citizen's position. "Taxpayers should not have to subsidize predatory schools that deny their students a day in court," Murray said in a press release.

What a good idea! Everyone knows that thousands of low-income and minority students have been lured into enrolling at expensive for-profit colleges by misrepresentations and high-pressure recruiting tactics.  The for-profits have very high student-loan default rates, high dropout rates, and high percentages of students who are seeing their loan debt growing larger because they are forced into economic-hardship deferment programs due to the fact that their post-studies income is not high enough to pay off their student loans.

In fact, as Stephen Burd pointed out in an Inside Higher Ed essay, a for-profit institution's shareholders can sue a for-profit college for misrepresenting job-placement figures while the students themselves cannot.

Arbitration clauses always favor the for-profit industry because the for-profits pick the arbitration company, which gives the arbitrators an incentive to rule in favor of the colleges or at least to go easy on them in order to get "repeat business."  Discovery is often limited in arbitration proceedings, and arbitration can be expensive, since the student must bear part of the arbitrator's cost.

I agree with Mr. Burd, who wrote:
Congress should eliminate this injustice by barring colleges that participate in the federal student aid program from including binding arbitration clauses in enrollment agreements, just as Senators Tom Harkin of Iowa and Al Franken of Minnesota proposed . . . . As [the senators] wrote, "Colleges and universities should not be able to insulate themselves from liability by forcing students to preemptively give up their right to be protected by our nation's laws.
Student-loan debtors--and there are 42 million of you--should ask presidential candidates if they are willing to cut off federal student-aid funding to for-profit colleges that force their students to sign arbitration agreements.   What would Hillary's answer be? Donald Trump's? Bernie Sanders?


Stephen Burd. Signing Away Rights. Inside Higher Ed, December 17, 2013. Available at

Ashley A. Smith. U.S. Urged to Deny Aid to For-Profits That Force Arbitration. Inside Higher Ed, February 24, 2016. Available at:

1 comment:

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