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david dies mtg

David Dies, executive secretary of the Wisconsin Educational Approval Board, in 2015.

Board members of Wisconsin’s for-profit college watchdog said Wednesday they’re concerned by Gov. Scott Walker’s plan to eliminate the board in the next state budget.

Walker, in his 2017-19 budget proposal released last week, moved to eliminate the state Educational Approval Board and transfer its duties to another agency, the Department of Safety and Professional Services.

The board licenses and regulates for-profit schools, which have weathered criticism for questionable marketing practices and degree programs.

At a meeting Wednesday, board members postponed any official response to Walker’s budget until their next meeting in March.

An overview of the plan produced by Walker’s office says the move would “provide enhanced oversight for the authorization and review of private postsecondary educational institutions.”

Among the questions board members want to address is how the move would result in “enhanced oversight,” said David Dies, the board’s executive secretary.

Board member Mark Kapocius questioned how the board’s focused mission and small workforce would fit within the much larger agency, which oversees state licensing of professions ranging from accountants to cosmetologists.

“My concern would be that the actual mission would get lost in the shuffle, which is to say, looking out for the best interests of the students,” Kapocius said.

This isn’t the first time Walker has tried to eliminate the board. Two years ago Walker’s budget proposal called for transferring the board’s equivalent of 6.5 full-time employees to one part-time staffer. The Legislature’s joint budget committee removed that provision from the final budget.

This time Walker’s budget calls for moving all 6.5 full-time equivalent positions to DSPS. But Dies said the budget doesn’t specify how many of those employees would retain comparable job descriptions or if existing staff members would transfer to the department.

Walker’s proposal comes at a time when federal oversight of for-profit colleges is expected to weaken. After the Obama administration toughened oversight of for-profit colleges, the Department of Education under President Donald Trump is expected to ease that pressure, which could shift much of the industry’s regulation to the states.

Capital W: Plug in to Wisconsin politics

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