Oct 4, 2016

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.

Private occupational schools raise public concerns

by | Oct 4, 2016

Last month, the U.S Department of Education issued what would ultimately be a death sentence for ITT, a large for-profit technical school. The department forbade ITT from enrolling new students who depend on federal financial aid — the main source of ITT’s revenue. This restriction was issued in reponse to concerns about ITT’s recruitment and financial practices. Furthermore, the department ordered ITT to increase its reserves from $94.4 million to $247.3 million.

Shortly after receiving the order, ITT announced they would close their doors for good — leaving the records and future educational options of tens of thousands of unexpectedly displaced students up in the air. The closure also meant that more than 8,000 ITT employees were suddenly without jobs.

Concerns about ITT’s recruitment and financial practices were not new. Recently, roughly a dozen state attorney generals have been investigating allegations that ITT misled students about job prospects and accepted unqualified students to its technical programs. Unfortunately, these allegations are not new to the for-profit school sector as a whole. In 2015, another big player in the sector, Corinthian Colleges, shut down after the U.S Department of Education issued a $30 million fine against the company for publicizing falsified data of job placement rates.

While the Department of Education’s order against ITT is a huge step in holding for-profit schools accountable, what consequences do these actions have on (often low-income) students who were trying to better their lives? In short, the students have two options: they can apply for the discharge of their federal student loans or they can transfer their credits to another comparable institution and finish their education.

Loan forgiveness is no easy path but seems to be the most common choice. After Corinthian Colleges shut down and left thousands of students displaced, the Department of Edudcation made a concerted effort to help students figure out what to do. In response to these issues, the department streamlined the process of forgiving federal loans. Unfortunately, these students don’t always just hold federal loans, but also private loans with higher interest rates. In fact, for-profit schools enroll the highest proportion of students taking out private loans. So, even if the federal loans are forgiven, students may be left with thousands of dollars in debt and no degree. Also, if students apply for federal loan forgiveness, they cannot transfer their credits to continue their education.

If students do not apply for loan forgiveness, they can attempt to transfer their credits to another school to continue their education, but evidence suggests this approach presents its own set of problems. There haven’t been many statistical studies of the transferring of credits from for-profit schools, but one study found a significant difference in the loss of credits students faced when trying to transfer their for-profit credits.

Historically, ITT’s credits do not tranfer easily. Indeed, prior to the closure, ITT cautioned  students that it was “unlikely that any credits earned at the school would be transferable to or accepted by any institution other than an ITT Technical Institute.” Since ITT closed, a number of schools have invited ITT students to consider continuing their education with them.

As evidenced from recent events, government oversight of private occupational schools is not always foolproof, but some reinforcements may be in order in Colorado.

In 2015, CCLP sought to amend the reauthorization act of the Division of Private Occupational Schools (Senate Bill 171) to strengthen their consumer information and protection role. Although unsuccessful,  CCLP later met with the Division of Private Occupational Schools seeking to strengthen the disclosure of consumer information such as graduation and job placement rates. CCLP and the Colorado Skills2Compete Coalition are exploring possible remedies to enhance transparency of these institutions for the 2017 legislative session.

Below are examples of what other states have done to regulate for-profit schools:

  • Virginia – Defrauded students in Virginia have access to a student-tuition recovery fund.
  • Illinois – Prohibits commercial misrepresentation and fraudulent activity from private, occupational schools.
  • California – Prior to enrollment, schools must provide potential students with a “school performance fact sheet, which includes completion rates, job-placement rates, license examination passage, and salary/wage information.
  • New York – As part of a “Know-Before-You-Enroll” initiative, the state oversees an online resource to help students research facts about different institutions.
  • Washington – Enrollment agreements for private occupational schools are not binding for at least five days.

There is plenty of room for improvement in how the government deals with private occupational schools. While efforts have been made to improve reporting standards for these institutions, ITT’s failure demonstrates that more must be done to protect vulnerable students from long-term financial consequences that don’t necessarily result in better employment prospects.

– By Samantha Kopf

Recent articles

CCLP testifies in support of Clean Slate updates

Bethany Pray, CCLP’s Chief Legal and Policy Officer, provided testimony in support of House Bill 24-1133, Criminal Record Sealing & Expungement Changes. CCLP is in support of HB24-1133, as it is one of our priority bills.

CCLP testifies in support of TANF grant rule change

CCLP's Emeritus Advisor, Chaer Robert, provided written testimony in support of the CDHS rule on the COLA increase for TANF recipients. If the rule is adopted, the cost of living increase would go into effect on July 1, 2024.


To maintain health and well-being, people of all ages need access to quality health care that improves outcomes and reduces costs for the community. Health First Colorado, the state's Medicaid program, is public health insurance for low-income Coloradans who qualify. The program is funded jointly by a federal-state partnership and is administered by the Colorado Department of Health Care Policy & Financing.

Benefits of the program include behavioral health, dental services, emergency care, family planning services, hospitalization, laboratory services, maternity care, newborn care, outpatient care, prescription drugs, preventive and wellness services, primary care and rehabilitative services.

In tandem with the Affordable Care Act, Colorado expanded Medicaid eligibility in 2013 - providing hundreds of thousands of adults with incomes less than 133% FPL with health insurance for the first time increasing the health and economic well-being of these Coloradans. Most of the money for newly eligible Medicaid clients has been covered by the federal government, which will gradually decrease its contribution to 90% by 2020.

Other populations eligible for Medicaid include children, who qualify with income up to 142% FPL, pregnant women with household income under 195% FPL, and adults with dependent children with household income under 68% FPL.

Some analyses indicate that Colorado's investment in Medicaid will pay off in the long run by reducing spending on programs for the uninsured.


Hunger, though often invisible, affects everyone. It impacts people's physical, mental and emotional health and can be a culprit of obesity, depression, acute and chronic illnesses and other preventable medical conditions. Hunger also hinders education and productivity, not only stunting a child's overall well-being and academic achievement, but consuming an adult's ability to be a focused, industrious member of society. Even those who have never worried about having enough food experience the ripple effects of hunger, which seeps into our communities and erodes our state's economy.

Community resources like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as Food Stamps, exist to ensure that families and individuals can purchase groceries, with the average benefit being about $1.40 per meal, per person.

Funding for SNAP comes from the USDA, but the administrative costs are split between local, state, and federal governments. Yet, the lack of investment in a strong, effective SNAP program impedes Colorado's progress in becoming the healthiest state in the nation and providing a better, brighter future for all. Indeed, Colorado ranks 44th in the nation for access to SNAP and lost out on more than $261 million in grocery sales due to a large access gap in SNAP enrollment.

See the Food Assistance (SNAP) Benefit Calculator to get an estimate of your eligibility for food benefits.


Every child deserves the nutritional resources needed to get a healthy start on life both inside and outside the mother's womb. In particular, good nutrition and health care is critical for establishing a strong foundation that could affect a child's future physical and mental health, academic achievement and economic productivity. Likewise, the inability to access good nutrition and health care endangers the very integrity of that foundation.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition information for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Research has shown that WIC has played an important role in improving birth outcomes and containing health care costs, resulting in longer pregnancies, fewer infant deaths, a greater likelihood of receiving prenatal care, improved infant-feeding practices, and immunization rates

Financial Security:
Colorado Works

In building a foundation for self-sufficiency, some Colorado families need some extra tools to ensure they can weather challenging financial circumstances and obtain basic resources to help them and their communities reach their potential.

Colorado Works is Colorado's Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and provides public assistance to families in need. The Colorado Works program is designed to assist participants in becoming self-sufficient by strengthening the economic and social stability of families. The program provides monthly cash assistance and support services to eligible Colorado families.

The program is primarily funded by a federal block grant to the state. Counties also contribute about 20% of the cost.


Child care is a must for working families. Along with ensuring that parents can work or obtain job skills training to improve their families' economic security, studies show that quality child care improves children's academic performance, career development and health outcomes.

Yet despite these proven benefits, low-income families often struggle with the cost of child care. Colorado ranks among the top 10 most expensive states in the country for center-based child care. For families with an infant, full-time enrollment at a child care center cost an average of $15,140 a year-or about three-quarters of the total income of a family of three living at the Federal Poverty Level (FPL).

The Colorado Child Care Assistance Program (CCCAP) provides child care assistance to parents who are working, searching for employment or participating in training, and parents who are enrolled in the Colorado Works Program and need child care services to support their efforts toward self-sufficiency. Most of the money for CCCAP comes from the federal Child Care and Development Fund. Each county can set their own income eligibility limit as long as it is at or above 165% of the federal poverty level and does not exceed 85% of area median income.

Unfortunately, while the need is growing, only an estimated one-quarter of all eligible children in the state are served by CCCAP. Low reimbursement rates have also resulted in fewer providers willing to accept CCCAP subsidies.