By Mikaila Hernández
On February 19, 2020, the Bureau of Private Postsecondary Education (BPPE) distributed a one-page “BPPE At A Glance” informational flyer at its Advisory Committee meeting, summarizing the work that BPPE completed in 2019. The BPPE Advisory Committee is a 12-member committee that holds four meetings a year to discuss the oversight functions and operational policies of the Bureau. They advise and make recommendations to BPPE on the policies and regulations of private postsecondary education. The information on the flyer includes (1) the history of BPPE, (2) the mission statement, (3) the approval mechanism for private for-profit institutions, (4) recent and upcoming administrative changes, (5) legislative impacts, (6) community outreach, (7) licensing statistics, (8) Institutional Annual Report status, (9) compliance/inspections, and (10) enforcement statistics.
Of note, BPPE conducts outreach primarily for private postsecondary institutions and utilizes the Office of Student Assistance and Relief (OSAR) to conduct student outreach. BPPE Licensing Staff holds several Application Workshops a year to guide institutional applicants through each section of the application, to explain what the minimum operating standards are, and to provide the necessary resources for properly completing the licensing application. BPPE staff also provides Compliance Workshops and School Performance Fact Sheet (SPFS) Workshops twice a month throughout California for institutions that are already approved to operate to teach them how to maintain operational compliance, SPFS compliance, and accreditation compliance. BPPE canceled all scheduled workshops in March and April in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In 2019, OSAR reported 83 student outreach events: 24 proactive student outreach events, mostly at college expos, 33 outreach events to assist veterans, and 26 school/program closure outreach events to assist students after their institution had ceased operations. OSAR informs prospective, current, and past students of private institutions of their rights show them how to file a school complaint and points them with available resources, including the Student Tuition Recovery Fund (STRF), for possible reimbursement when they suffer economic harm due to a school’s closure. There are no scheduled student outreach events for the remainder of the 2020 school year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
BPPE announced at the Advisory Committee’s February 19 meeting that the Bureau plans on increasing the number of unannounced institutional inspections for the 2020 fiscal year. In 2019, BPPE conducted 48% more unannounced inspections than in 2018 but issued one less enforcement referral than it did in 2018. BPPE staff noted that the slight decline is likely attributable to the fact that the Bureau now offers institutions with minor violations the opportunity to correct the violation on-site with the inspector. BPPE’s Chief Officer reported that this was in the best interest of the students because it created a better working relationship with institutions to comply rather than issuing a citation for minor violations. When the Advisory Committee asked BPPE staff if there was a system in place to track these on-site corrections, BPPE replied that there was not but agreed that there should be one in place moving forward.
At this writing, the next BPPE Advisory Committee meeting is scheduled for May 28, 2020, at the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) Hearing Room in Sacramento. Still, the date or format of the meeting may change in response to the rapidly evolving COVID-19 pandemic.