Here is a pop quiz for lawmakers: Can you make good on your often repeated pledge to cut wasteful spending?
Not in every part of government. That would be awfully bold. But there is one specific area that involves millions in state money. It won't be easy.
The industry that receives the money, for-profit career colleges led by University of Phoenix, is battle tested, having survived decades of investigations, lawsuits and multimillion-dollar fines.
Senate Democrats are proposing to cut grants given to students who attend for-profit colleges, this after letting the schools slide by for years with virtually no oversight.
Their main focus is the Cal Grant program, state aid reserved for the neediest students. The numbers are striking. Five years ago, the state gave $77 million in Cal Grants to students attending public community colleges and $70 million to students attending for-profit career colleges.
That equation has changed. Students attending for-profit colleges collected $94 million in Cal Grants last year, compared to $78 million for community college students.
Cal Grants to students at for-profit schools are worth up to $9,700 – the same as if they were attending nonprofit universities such as Stanford.
Sen. Roderick Wright, a Los Angeles Democrat, and Senate Budget Committee Chairman Mark Leno, D-San Francisco, want to scale back grants for students attending for-profit colleges, perhaps to the level given to community college students – $1,550.
"Quite often, they're scams," Wright said. Too many students don't earn degrees. If they get a certificate, there are few jobs waiting for them. With little or no income, many grads default on federal loans.
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