Private Sector Schools Sue Education Department

January 31, 2011 Updated: January 31, 2011

Over 1,500 private sector educational institutions have filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Department of Education (DOE). The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), which represents the institutions, filed the suit on Jan. 21 in an effort to block what they call the DOE's "unlawful and unfair limitations on access to higher education."

"These regulations as written are not fair, lawful, or workable," stated Harris Miller, president and CEO of APSCU in a statement. "We've filed this lawsuit to halt the implementation of three specific regulations."

At issue are measures that the APSCU claims would "have a chilling effect on job creation and innovation, forcing our schools to waste resources defending themselves against frivolous lawsuits at the expense of investment in students, faculty, facilities, and technology."

Among the specific DOE points that the APSCU is challenging are the creation of regulatory regimes instead of state oversight structures and prohibition of merit-based salaries. The organization said in its statement that they believe the DOE "has violated the Constitution, the Higher Education Act, and the Administrative Procedure Act."

Criticism of schools for profit, which prompted the regulations addressed in the lawsuit included deceptive, high pressure recruitment of students who were not academically prepared, and overly high costs for credit hours compared to nonprofit two-year colleges or trade schools. Critics of the sector have said that for-profit education sometimes exploits students by pressuring them to take out loans to pay for schools that do not provide quality education or job placement. Students are then left with debts that cannot be discharged in bankruptcy.

Advocates of for-profit schools say they help people who cannot take advantage of conventional four-year colleges.