Senators Demand Action to Protect Students from Predatory Recruiting Tactics

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U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP), House Education and Labor Committee Chair Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (D-VA), House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Senator Tina Smith (D-MN) sent a letter on Friday urging the Department of Education to increase its oversight of online program managers (OPMs)—third-party companies that help colleges run and recruit students for online academic programs—to ensure they are not engaging in abusive recruiting practices.

In May 2022, the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report that found the Department of Education does not have the information it needs about colleges’ arrangements with OPMs to conduct oversight.

“The GAO report confirmed the current higher education accountability system, the triad of the Department, state authorizers, and private nonprofit accreditors, lacks adequate oversight of OPM arrangements, especially considering the significant amount of federal funding flowing to OPMs,” the Members wrote.

OPMs often provide recruitment services for colleges and receive a cut of the tuition revenue when they enroll students—raising questions about their compliance with the ban on abusive recruiting practices under the Higher Education Act.

“It is clear how these arrangements may create incentives for OPMs to guide students to less selective, more expensive programs, at all levels of higher education. There has also been litigation and reporting accusing OPMs of using aggressive recruiting practices, including the targeting of low-income and minority students, the type of abuse the incentive compensation ban was intended to prevent,” the Members wrote.

Read the full letter here.

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