The schools are part of a higher-education sector that is growing so fast the federal government wants to put the brakes on, The Washington Post reported Monday.
For-profit schools such as the University of Phoenix, DeVry University and Kaplan University offer professional, vocational and technical training and attract many minority, low-income and first-generation college students. But they face federal scrutiny for burying some students under mountains of debt, the newspaper said.
Proposed new rules would tighten oversight of the industry, and Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, plans to initiate hearings on the recruiting practices and student loan default rates of the for-profit schools.
Supporters say the proposals could shut down hundreds of schools, leaving students scrambling to find room in increasingly crowded public education institutions.
"It will have a horrendous effect on programs in California and nationally," said Harris N. Miller of the Career College Association.
The association represents more than 1,400 for-profit schools, and is expected to fight the proposals in Washington.