Legislation to Eliminate Forced Arbitration Clauses and Class-Action Bans From College Enrollment Contracts Is Welcome Step

Statement of Christine Hines, Consumer and Civil Justice Counsel, Public Citizen’s Congress Watch Division

Note: Today, U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and U.S. Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) introduced the Court Legal Access and Student Support (CLASS) Act of 2015 (PDF), which would eliminate forced arbitration clauses and class-action bans from college enrollment contracts.

It is heartbreaking to see for-profit colleges fatten their wallets by using fine print hidden in contracts to rip off students, who are working to improve their lives through education.

Public Citizen thanks Senator Durbin and Representative Waters for introducing a crucial piece of legislation that would protect students by prohibiting the use of forced arbitration clauses and class-action bans in enrollment contracts.

This legislation is more needed now than ever. Over the past few years, more institutions have been charged with using misleading and deceptive information, such as lying about job prospects, to persuade students to enroll in their programs. Then students often are left with nothing but inadequate training, meager job prospects and thousands of dollars in student loans.

Because of forced arbitration clauses in their contracts, students have no way to seek remedies for harm caused by institutions’ predatory conduct. The one-sided corporate clauses require disputes to be settled in private arbitration – instead of before a jury in an open court. To make matters worse, many of these clauses include class-action bans, which bar students from banding together to pursue claims of wrongdoing.

Students – and consumers across the board – have a constitutional right to access the court system. More legislators should fight to protect students’ rights by supporting the CLASS Act.