Stepping Out

By Doug Lederman

In the year or so since Education Secretary Arne Duncan famously described the Obama administration’s intensifying scrutiny of for-profit colleges as an effort to rein in “a few bad actors,” it’s fair to say that nary an institution has come forward to identify itself as one of those. There have also been few attempts by for-profit institutions to distance themselves from peers they deem to be less worthy — partly because colleges in the sector have been impressively united in fighting the Education Department’s rules, and perhaps partly because calling oneself a “good actor” might seem a bit self-serving.

But all of a sudden, groups of career colleges are rushing to team up to align themselves as accountable, transparent and all the other things that consumer advocates and critical policy makers have been accusing the worst of them of not being. The latest to emerge is a collection of 20 regionally accredited for-profit institutions that have adopted a “pledge of public accountability,” under which they will publish information about themselves (prices, curriculums, and faculty qualifications) and their students (debt levels, loan repayment, and employment outcomes), with the goal of making the institutions “more transparent to students before they enroll.”

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