Last week, a series of bills of interest to private sector colleges and universities were introduced in Mississippi. The most significant, introduced by Representative Billy Broomfield (D – Jackson), would require Southern Association of Colleges and Schools accreditation for degree-granting postsecondary institutions by July 1, 2016.
According to H.B. 830, "this requirement applies whether or not the institution is domiciled, incorporated or physically located in the State of Mississippi." Rep. Broomfield also introduced H.B.831. This measure requires institutions subject to the Mississippi Proprietary School and College Registration Law to provide prospective students with statistics for job "placement in the field" of study. Additionally, the bill would require institutions to ensure instructors have a level of credentials appropriate to the courses they teach; allow students the right to file complaints against the institution at anytime; and require institutions to publish and implement procedures for student grievances. Republicans control the Legislature and the Governor's Office in Mississippi. Majority party sponsorship, or co-sponsorship, is seen as important to bill passage in the highly partisan Mississippi Legislature.
The Chairs of the Mississippi House and Senate Universities and Colleges Committees introduced companion bills – H.B. 614 and S.B. 2786 – that would require a person employed by one ormore licensed institutions to obtain a permit from the Commission on Proprietary School and College Registration before directly or indirectly influencing the decision of any prospective student to enroll for a fee in acourse of instruction. The measures would also require schools todisclose to prospective and current students their right to file a complaintand contain language stating that the existence of an arbitrationclause in no way negates the student's right to file a complaint with the Commission. Furthermore, the bills would eliminate a provision in current law that statesthat nationally accredited private business and vocational schools may submit evidence of current accreditation in lieu of other application requests, and applications submitted on evidence of national accreditation must be approved or denied within 30 days after receipt.
PSCUs open doors to many of the 13 million unemployed and 90 million undereducated Americans by providing a skills-based education. To remain competitive over the next decade, we must identify between 8 and 23 million new workers with postsecondary skills. PSCUs are a necessary part of that solution, having produced over 800,000 degrees last year alone.