FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
State Rep. Paul Costa
Costa bill to help students regain lost tuition
HARRISBURG, Feb. 7 – State Rep. Paul Costa, D-Allegheny, plans to reintroduce legislation that would ensure students and families affected by private career and trade school closures are reimbursed for tuition.
"We are fortunate in Pennsylvania that students have access to a variety of higher education and career and technical school options. Whether the student chooses a traditional college or university or a career and technical school, they have access to some of the best educational opportunities in the nation," Costa said.
"While many of Pennsylvania’s private career and technical schools have been established for years and there have been no problems, there are others to which students and their families have paid or pre-paid thousands of dollars in tuition, only to see the school close. My bill would ensure that these schools have the funds available to fully reimburse students."
Costa’s legislation would amend Pennsylvania’s Private Licensed School Act (Act 174 of 1986) to require licensed private schools to be bonded at $200,000, which is twice the currently required maximum level.
"When the law was first enacted, $100,000 probably was sufficient to make students whole if the doors to an institution closed, but today, with rising student enrollment as well as the average tuition costs that have increased nearly double the rate of inflation, it is time for educational institutions to maintain a more appropriate level of bonding," Costa said.
"Quite simply, if a school closes, the students’ tuition should be refunded in the amount paid and not based on a percentage of that amount, or not at all. I don’t know too many families or individuals who can afford to spend thousands more dollars in tuition costs to enroll in another school. This means that for some students, if a school closes, they also lose the opportunity to pursue their career."
According to Costa, several well-established private for-profit educational institutions in Pittsburgh already support his proposal, which he first introduced during the last session (H.B. 2425).
"I give these schools a lot of credit, because I have heard of cases where these institutions have stepped up to the plate when another school closed, and have offered students who never received a tuition refund, or possibly only received a small percentage of their investment returned, either reduced cost or tuition waivers," Costa said. "When you talk to the officials at these schools, they tell you they did it because it was the right thing to do."
The Private Licensed School Act created the State Board of Private Licensed Schools and granted it the authority to license and regulate private career and trade schools, with the intent of protecting student records, establishing minimum standards and procedures for licensing and registration for schools, investigating complaints against these schools and providing enforcement action.
As of the end of 2010, there were 291 private licensed schools in Pennsylvania and 11 registered out-of-state schools. Most of the schools offer certificate or diploma programs with 85 of these institutions authorized to grant specialized associate degrees.