The Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) is responsible for regulating private colleges and postsecondary educational institutions in California. For the last decade, the Bureau has served as the first line of defense against exploitative bad actors for California students who enroll in private postsecondary programs. Their role is crucial to the most vulnerable students – including veterans, foster youth, students of color, and single mothers – who are often targeted by predatory programs, bear a disproportionate risk, and suffer the consequences. Students at for-profit institutions are less likely to graduate and are more likely to have significant debt and default on their loans compared to their traditional 4-year-degree counterparts. And given the steps to deregulate for-profit colleges at the federal level taken by the Trump administration, the Bureau has never been more essential for Californians.
The Bureau undergoes what is called a “sunset review” every few years, during which the agency is reviewed by four legislative policy committees to determine if it should be reauthorized and continue to operate. The Bureau was originally scheduled for review in 2020; however, the committees pushed the review to 2021 because of the pandemic. In 2021, SB 802 was introduced by Senator Roth, to reauthorize the Bureau. TICAS and its partners have supported SB 802 as it has moved through both the California Senate and Assembly policy committees and recommended several additions to the bill, including:
- Enabling the Bureau to prevent harm to students proactively,
- Empowering the Bureau to create minimum operating standards to evaluate institutions,
- Creating a surety bond requirement to cover the costs of unexpected school closures,
- Giving the Bureau more discretion on institutional approvals, and
- Implementing a fee proposal that can ensure the continuation of a sufficiently-funded and stable Bureau with the capacity and authority it needs to protect students.
However, the Assembly Business and Professions Committee decided to grant a one-year reauthorization to several agencies with sunset reviews on the docket – including BPPE – and pursue a regular sunset review for those agencies again in 2022. Although a full reauthorization was not achieved in 2021, and not all of our recommendations were incorporated this year, there’s still good news! Most crucially, the Bureau has been reauthorized and will continue to protect students in California. In addition, the harm requirement has been amended, which will empower the Bureau to take action to protect students proactively.
Predatory for-profit colleges have preyed on historically disadvantaged students, and given that Pell Grant recipients, first-generation, and Black students are all more likely to enroll at for-profit colleges in California, it is essential that the Bureau be equipped with the authority and capacity needed to protect students. We are hopeful that the recommendations made by TICAS and its coalition members this past legislative session will once again be incorporated into legislation in 2022. Through his leadership on SB 802, Senator Roth has shown his commitment to protecting students in California. TICAS and our partners look forward to working with him and the relevant committees during the 2022 sunset review of the Bureau.
 Jasper Craven (Apr. 22, 2020). “Scammed Out of Their GI Bill Money, Army Veterans Are Standing Up Against Predatory Colleges.” Arnold Ventures. Available at: https://www.arnoldventures.org/stories/veterans-finding-a-new-battle-to-fight/. Annie Waldman (Mar. 18, 2016). “How a For-Profit College Targeted the Homeless and Kids With Low Self-Esteem.” ProPublica. Available at: https://www.propublica.org/article/how-a-for-profit-college-targeted-homeless-and-kids-with-low-self-esteem. Genevieve Bonadies, Joshua Rovenger, Eileen Connor, Brenda Shum and Toby Merrill (July 30, 2018). “For-Profit Schools’ Predatory Practices and Students of Color: A Mission to Enroll Rather than Educate.” Harvard Law Review Blog. Available at: https://blog.harvardlawreview.org/for-profit-schools-predatory-practices-and-students-of-color-a-mission-to-enroll-rather-than-educate/. The Leadership Conference Education Fund (Oct. 2019). “Gainful Employment: A Civil Rights Perspective.” Available at: https://tacc.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019-11/gainful-employment-brief.pdf. The Campaign for College Opportunity (Feb. 2021). “The State of Higher Education for Black Californians.” Available at: https://collegecampaign.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/SHE-Black-Californians-2021-FINAL.pdf. Christina Cauterucci (Sept. 22, 2017). “More Single Mothers Are Going to College Than Ever. But Very Few Will Graduate.” Slate. Available at: https://slate.com/human-interest/2017/09/for-profit-schools-and-low-graduation-rates-plague-a-rising-population-of-single-student-mothers.html.
 The Leadership Conference Education Fund (Oct. 2019). “Gainful Employment: A Civil Rights Perspective.” Available at: https://tacc.org/sites/default/files/documents/2019-11/gainful-employment-brief.pdf. Jordan Matsudaira and Lesley Turner (Nov. 2020). Towards a Framework for Federal Financial Assistance Programs in Postsecondary Education.” The Brookings Institute. Available at: https://brook.gs/2XjmRe1. Anthony Carnevale, Ban Cheah, Martin Van Der Werf, and Artem Gulish (2020). “Buyer Beware: First-Year Earnings and Debt for 37,000 College Majors at 4,400 Institutions.” Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. Available at: https://cew.georgetown.edu/cew-reports/collegemajorroi/.
 TICAS (June 2021). “Dreams Dashed: California Colleges Where Many Borrow but Few Repay.” Available at: https://ticas.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Dreams-Dashed_CA-Colleges-Where-Many-Borrow-but-Few-Repay.pdf.