Want to Start a Private Postsecondary School in California? Good Luck

10226856_MNot everyone wants to attend a traditional four-year college. A lot of people want to learn a trade and start a career immediately out of high school. Vocational schools have served these people in the past and helped them learn a trade in fields such as automotive repair, cosmetology, or nursing.

Other people want more flexibility than a traditional college typically provides and opt for small for-profit colleges, many with evening classes. But government bureaucrats are stifling entrepreneurs who want to start new private postsecondary schools in California.

California’s Bureau for Private Postsecondary Education issues licenses for new private postsecondary educational institutions in California, including both degree-granting academic institutions and non-degree-granting vocational institutions. A new state audit blasts the Bureau for significant backlogs and chronic delays in processing applications to start new schools.

The California State Auditor Elaine Howle found:

  • The Bureau had more than 1,100 applications outstanding as of June 30, 2013
  • Some applications had been sitting at the Bureau for almost three and a half years
  • The Bureau took three times as long as its goal to process the applications it received in fiscal year 2009–10 through 2012–13

State Auditor Howle concluded this is a serious problem because: “[U]ntil the Bureau approves their applications, institutions seeking to provide private postsecondary educational services to students are not allowed to operate in California.”

The chief of the licensing unit even admitted that the Bureau does not track the status of each application it receives because its database doesn’t have this capability.

Let’s recap: California was struggling to climb out of the worst recession since the 1930s; people were desperately seeking re-training and new skills; entrepreneurs prepared innovative business plans to meet these needs; but California’s bureaucrats kept teachers from helping students when they needed it most, sometimes for years.

This is your government at work . . . but hopefully not for long.

The Bureau will cease to exist effective January 1, 2015, unless the legislature extends or cancels this date. The legislature should ensure this inept and counterproductive bureaucracy dies a quiet death.

From July 2007 through December 2009, the state of California did not regulate private postsecondary educational institutions, and the world didn’t end. And it won’t end again if California stops this unnecessary regulation. In fact, things would improve if entrepreneurs are allowed to respond quickly to changing educational demands and to help students prepare for their chosen careers on schedules that meet their needs.

Lawrence J. McQuillan is a Senior Fellow and Director of the Center on Entrepreneurial Innovation at the Independent Institute. He is the author of the Independent book, California Dreaming: Lessons on How to Resolve America’s Public Pension Crisis.
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