For Immediate Release - January 09, 2014

AG Coakley’s Office Holds Public Hearings on Proposed For-Profit and Occupational School Regulations

Public Testimony Taken at Hearings in Boston and Springfield

BOSTON – Looking to address problems experienced by consumers when enrolling in some for-profit and occupational schools, Attorney General Martha Coakley’s Office held two hearings to gather public testimony regarding proposed regulations that enhance consumer protections governing the for-profit and occupational school industry.

Boston City Councilor Ayanna Pressley, Senator Eileen Donoghue, the Veterans Education Success, Crittenton Women’s Union, the Midas Collaborative, National Consumer Law Center, and the Service Employees International Union, among others members of the public, including students, offered testimony supporting the new regulations.

“Our office has raised significant concerns about the for-profit education industry across the country, and these comprehensive regulations will help put the right protections in place for prospective students in Massachusetts before enrolling,” AG Coakley said. “We value and encourage input from the public and stakeholders when proposing regulations.”

In November 2013, AG Coakley filed the proposed amendments to existing regulations to better protect students from potentially unfair or deceptive practices. The new regulations would require all for-profit and occupational schools in Massachusetts to provide accurate information to the public, prohibit misleading advertising practices, and address unfair lending practices.

The proposed changes to regulations include:

  • Scope: Creating broader regulations that would apply to all for-profit schools and occupational schools. If a school advertises to or enrolls students in Massachusetts, it would be covered by the regulations.
  • Disclosures: Schools would be required to disclose, in their advertisements and recruitment literature, accurate and readily comparable information about tuition and fees, placement statistics, graduation rates, and program completion time.
  • Prohibited practices: Schools would be prohibited from using high pressure sales tactics, including repeated solicitations through phone calls and text messages, and misrepresenting the role of recruitment personnel by referring them to “counselors” or “advisors.”
  • Lending: Creates a new section pertaining to unfair and deceptive acts and practices involving student loans and financial aid.

In November 2013, the AG’s Office filed a lawsuit against American Career Institute (ACI), alleging the school falsified student signatures, enrollment records, attendance, and grades to receive government-funded student loan proceeds, and failed to provide students the course material and training for which they incurred tens of thousands of dollars in debt.

In April 2013, AG Coakley launched Eliminate Deceptive Education Business Tactics (D.E.B.T.), an extensive consumer protection campaign with free educational trainings across the state and a new website offering resources for consumers related to for-profit schools.

In October 2013, AG Coakley reached a $425,000 settlement to reimburse former students of Sullivan & Cogliano Training Centers, Inc., a Brockton-based for-profit career school, for allegedly misrepresenting job placement numbers and making other misleading statements about its medical field training programs. The settlement resolved the AG’s lawsuit filed in April.

In March, AG Coakley signaled her support for proposed federal legislation which would stop for-profit schools from spending taxpayer money on marketing. In June 2012, AG Coakley obtained $225,000 for the state in a multistate settlement with QuinStreet which resulted in the deceptive for-profit marketing website GIBill.com being taken down and handed over to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

Written comments may also be submitted to the Office of the Attorney General. For more information, please visit www.mass.gov/ago/regulations. Copies of the proposed regulations may be found online, or may be obtained at the Attorney General’s Office in Boston.

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