PA 17-139—HB 7120

Higher Education and Employment Advancement Committee

AN ACT CONCERNING POSTSECONDARY CAREER SCHOOLS

SUMMARY: This act makes the following changes to laws governing private occupational schools:

1. changes the definition of “private occupational school” ( 1);

2. applies the same financial reporting requirements for barbering and hairdressing schools enrolling fewer than 10 students to any type of non-accredited private occupational school with these enrollment numbers ( 2 & 4);

3. modifies student records maintenance requirements for private occupational schools and allows the Office of Higher Education (OHE) executive director to enforce them through assessment of administrative penalties ( 5); and

4. establishes a deadline by which students may apply to OHE for a tuition refund after their private occupational school becomes insolvent or closes and requires the OHE director to issue a full, rather than full or partial, refund ( 6).

It also makes several technical and conforming changes.

EFFECTIVE DATE: July 1, 2017

1 — DEFINITION OF PRIVATE OCCUPATIONAL SCHOOL

The act specifies that the definition of “private occupational school” includes postsecondary institutions that advertise vocational instruction in any trade or occupation, in addition to offering instruction in these areas as described in prior law.

Additionally, the act narrows the definition by specifying that instruction offered in the arts or recreation, including the training of students to provide such instruction, is excluded. It does not define instruction in “arts” or “recreation.”

2 & 4 — FINANCIAL REPORTING REQUIREMENTS

By law, all private occupational schools must submit statements to OHE detailing their financial condition when initially applying for a certificate of authorization to operate and also annually thereafter. The law generally requires that these financial statements be reviewed or audited by an independent licensed certified accountant or independent licensed public accountant.

Under existing law, non-accredited barbering or hairdressing schools that enroll fewer than 10 students annually must have their financial statements compiled, rather than reviewed or audited, by such an accountant. The act applies this same requirement to any non-accredited private occupational school that enrolls fewer than 10 students.

5 — STUDENT TRANSCRIPTS AND RECORDS

School Records Maintenance

Under existing law, private occupational schools must maintain all school records, including student or academic transcripts, in a manner approved by OHE.

The act requires such schools to maintain separate, duplicate files on each alumnus and enrolled student, including a copy of each alumnus's and student's transcript. (Prior law did not specify alumni records maintenance requirements, but rather referred to student records in general.) Under the act, the transcript of a currently enrolled student must contain the student's name, address, program of study, program length, grade point average, and completed courses.

By law, the OHE executive director may visit these schools, unannounced, during business or school hours to verify that they are maintaining records and information required by law. If during such a visit the executive director determines that a school has not maintained, preserved, or protected these records, then the act allows him to assess an administrative penalty on the school of up to $500 for each day of noncompliance, under existing procedures for assessing penalties on such schools.

Additionally, the act requires a private occupational school to transfer all transcripts described above to the OHE executive director immediately if the school ceases operations. The act specifies that all other student records the school possesses should either be filed with the executive director or their whereabouts described in writing for him. (Under prior law, this “file or describe” option applied to student transcripts as well.)

OHE Records Maintenance

The act specifies that the OHE executive director must maintain all records, files, and other private occupational school documents in a manner consistent with OHE's mission and responsibilities.

6 — TUITION REFUNDS

When a private occupational school becomes insolvent or closes abruptly, preventing a student from finishing a course or unit of instruction, the law allows the student to apply to the OHE executive director for a tuition refund. The act establishes a deadline for these refund applications of two years from the date when the school became insolvent or ceased to operate. Additionally, for applicants who the executive director determines are entitled to a refund, the act requires issuance of a full refund for the uncompleted course or unit of instruction. Prior law gave the executive director discretion to issue either a full or partial refund. Under existing law, unchanged by the act, the refund is paid to the extent the private occupational school student protection account (see BACKGROUND) has reached the level necessary to pay outstanding approved claims.

BACKGROUND

Private Occupational School Student Protection Account

This account is used to refund tuition to students unable to complete a course at a private occupational school because the school becomes insolvent or ceases operation. It is funded by quarterly assessments on private occupational schools and certain other fees (CGS 10a-22u).