AJC Watchdog: First Alert

Keeping watch on those who hold the public trust and money

Audit: State regulation of for-profit colleges improved

A new report from the State Auditor finds Georgia's regulation of private, for-profit colleges has improved.

The report follows a stinging 2013 audit that found the Georgia Nonpublic Postsecondary Education Commission did little to ensure students at these non-traditional colleges that their school was financial viable or provided a real education. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution followed up last August with an in-depth investigation revealing an agency so lax in its oversight that it gave its stamp of approve on institutions, like Corinthian Colleges, shortly before they collapsed.

The AJC report found handwritten inspection reports with inconsistent standards and a long-underfunded agency that made little show of meeting its statutory responsibilities to hold institutions accountable. The institutions took advantage of the poor regulation by simply ignoring their responsibility to report things like default rates on the federal student loans that make them profitable.

A week after the AJC report, Gov. Nathan Deal announced three new appointees to the NPEC board. A few months later, the long-serving director of the agency retired and was replaced by a Deal confidant.

The new state audit report finds all the attention placed on this tiny state office has had the desired effect. The audit found the NPEC has updated and standardized its policies and is working to make the student complaint process more responsive.

The auditor found that the policies were either already in place or were well on their way toward implementation.

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Joyner’s column, AJC Watchdog, investigates topics in your community and Georgia.