Critics Assail Potential New York Move on Regulating Online Colleges

Consumer advocates, legal aid organizations and labor unions are urging New York State’s education commissioner not to sign an interstate agreement that they say would expose students to harm at the hands of online colleges and universities.

News Story (NATIONAL, New York)

Kate Taylor
New York Times (NYT)
March 16, 2016

Tags: For-profit college, Loan Forgiveness, Student Debt

Organizations mentioned/involved: Mobilization for Justice (New York City), National Consumer Law Center (NCLC)


The agreement, known as SARA, is meant to remove a significant obstacle to the expansion of higher education online: the patchwork of state regulations that required schools to go state by state to seek approval for enrolling students. States that sign the agreement essentially agree to let a college’s home state regulate it, whether it is public, private or for-profit.

In a letter they sent to Ms. Elia on Wednesday, the groups said the agreement provided too little oversight, especially of for-profit schools.

“Historically, New York has been a national leader in protecting its citizens from unfair business practices,” the groups wrote. By signing the agreement, “New York would formally agree to the weaker oversight of out-of-state online schools, effectively ceding the ability to guard its citizens against abusive practices.”

“We’re basically leaving our most vulnerable students open to being scammed,” said Evan Denerstein, a senior staff attorney at MFY Legal Services Inc., an organization in New York that provides free legal services to people who have defaulted on their student loans.