Education bills take aim at ‘predatory’ schools

Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) on Thursday will introduce legislation aimed at protecting students who are interested in technical careers from being enrolled in “predatory” schools.

The Protecting Students from Worthless Degrees Act would crack down on school programs that pledge to train students for technical careers but lack accreditation.

A second bill from Merkley, the BUILD Career and Technical Education Act, would provide $20 million in federal funding to help high schools and middle schools provide shop classes to students.

These programs will protect students who are interested in technical careers, such as becoming a mechanic, welder, computer technician or dental assistant, Merkley said.
“When you have been defrauded, you carry that debt with you,” Merkley told reporters.

Some technical colleges will promise students high-paying jobs after they graduate, but because they are non-accredited, their degree does little to help students find employment, Merkley said.

His bill would remove the federal funding for these non-accredited schools.

“At the end of the program, you apply for jobs and find out you can’t get those jobs,” Merkley said. “That predatory type of program needs to be shut down.”

Merkley praised the value of technical careers. He said manufacturing jobs typically pay 22 percent more than the average job.

His legislation would provide funding for schools to reopen shop classes that teach such skills, so students can “learn the joy of making things, and also the art of making things.”