The Business Council of New York State, Inc. strongly opposes legislation to impose differing oversight rules on institutions of higher education based solely on how the schools are founded. As such, we oppose S.5581 (Stavisky) which would require that only proprietary schools with non-degree programs submit reports on the gainful employment outcomes of students.
There are many private and public institutions of higher education who have extensive certificate and non-degree offerings. If the interest is truly to ensure these programs are serving students and employers, these requirements would be extended to all schools who have certificate programs for workforce training. The State invests significantly in public colleges and universities who have non-degree programs without asking for outcomes and reporting for these programs.
Industry engagement in any of these programs is crucial and the hallmark of a quality training program. We know that programs with strong industry engagement have higher placement rates for students and strong industry aligned curriculum. If the State wants to bolster employment outcomes, it should encourage the strengthening of industry partnerships, which would be more beneficial than simply reporting on employment outcomes.
From an employer standpoint, there is an unrelenting demand for “middle skilled” employees, those who have some post-secondary education but not a bachelor’s degree. This includes certificate programs and associate degrees. Across the state, many of these SED-accredited proprietary schools are successfully training an in-demand workforce vital to the economy. These schools have strong industry partnerships, and their primary challenge is that they cannot get enough students to fill the needs of local employers. These programs are crucial for training the most high-demand STEM careers. Healthcare, advanced manufacturing, and IT all have a high demand for middle skilled employees and rely heavily on certificate and associate degree programs.
The specific targeting of proprietary schools, with no interest in other private or public institutions the State funds, demonstrates a clear bias against proprietary schools. Many of these institutions in New York were founded over a hundred years ago and are family-owned education institutions. As such, they are privately held and never pursued a non-profit status, mostly because it is a long and complex process.
If proprietary schools in New York State continue to face rules and regulations, and resulting compliance costs, that their non-profit and public counterparts don’t, it will cause many to seek a non-profit status in order to continue their great work of preparing the workforce.
Because of their for-profit status, these schools are taxpayers and contribute to state and local revenues. With the State’s concern about revenue and municipalities on already tight budgets, transitioning a whole sector of institutions across the state from for-profit taxpayers to non-profit, tax-exempt organizations would have an adverse economic impact on state, local, and school budgets statewide.
All institutions of higher education in New York are subject to the New York State Education Department’s (SED) rigorous standards for accreditation (some of the highest in the country), which all the State’s for-, non-profit, and public colleges and universities are governed by. All the State’s institutions of higher education should be subject to the same regulations and governing laws.
If SED has concerns about the quality and standards of the programs at proprietary colleges, or any accredited institution, there are ways to address and remedy them within SED.
Laws that disproportionately effect one sector of higher education over another are unnecessary and undermine SED’s oversight of all institutions of higher education. The State’s employers need more training and education partners to recruit skilled talent in order to meet their workforce needs. As such, The Business Council strongly opposes S.5581 (Stavisky) which would require only proprietary schools with non-degree programs to submit gainful employment outcomes of students.