Letter to the Dallas Morning News from NAICU and the American Association of Community Colleges

March 20, 2007

Letters to the Editor
Dallas Morning News

Re: "Getting American Ready," October 28


To the Editor:

Contrary to your editorial ("Getting America Ready," October 28), Congress must protect the integrity provisions that govern the student aid program and distance learning programs at colleges and universities so that the Higher Education Act best serves students and the national interest in the global marketplace. These provisions, which include those that affect institutions that teach a majority of their students or provide a majority of their courses at a distance, were put in place in 1993 to stem the tide of unscrupulous correspondence and "store-front" education providers offering inadequate training and education to students, and bilking the student aid programs. Too often, unsuspecting students were left with meaningless certificates and mounds of loan debt.

Responding to a rash of lawsuits, U.S. Department of Education investigations, and SEC inquiries over the past year, the Education Department's inspector general warned policymakers in March to proceed cautiously before eliminating outright the integrity provisions. This is not the route the House has decided to follow in its higher education legislation.

It is already possible under current law for legitimate institutions to be waived by the Education Department from distance education requirements. They have the opportunity to demonstrate that they are able to operate within the student aid program judiciously and effectively even without the provisions in place, as has been done in the department's education demonstration project.

However, gutting the student aid safeguards that have saved taxpayers billions of dollars and protected students from fly-by-night operators over the past decade is nothing short of irresponsible and dangerous. The programs that have made higher education possible for millions of Americans are too vital to our nation's future to be put at such grave risk.

There is no doubt that distance education will continue to be an important facet of higher education learning. In one way or another, online teaching has been adopted as an important learning tool at most of our institutions, and colleges and universities of all types and size recognize the value it holds to many students. The downside of distance learning is that its flexibility and convenience make it easy for students to be used by con men as nothing more than a conduit for profits received in the form of federal student aid.


George R. Boggs, President and CEO
American Association of Community Colleges

David L. Warren, President,
National Association of Independent Colleges and Universities

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