Abigail Seldin (PA & St. Antony's '09) Featured in USA Today For Anti-Sex Trafficking Work

In 2019, Seldin Haring-Smith Foundation (SHSF) launched a project to investigate connections between sex trafficking and state-authorized institutions of higher education.

While the SHSF scan did not provide clear national data about scope and scale of sex trafficking in higher education, it is clear that a set of state authorizers and massage education experts believe it to be a widespread problem, particularly in state-authorized vocational programs like massage therapy and cosmetology.

SHSF’s brief explores a recent case where a state authorizer ordered the closure of an institution due to an explicit suspicion of sex trafficking, and the subsequent processes that enabled that school to continue operations without losing Title IV eligibility.

The ease with which a school disciplined for suspected sex trafficking can continue to operate raises serious concerns about whether the regulatory triad can protect students from more mundane fraud, poor education quality, and insufficient earnings outcomes at for-profit institutions within their jurisdictions.

It is our hope that this exploratory research generates action and engagement among policymakers, and new urgency around strengthening the resources and authority granted to state authorizers. State governments can take immediate steps to investigate the scale of trafficking in their states and to strengthen their regulatory framework to ensure that they only authorize schools -- not sex trafficking operations.

Read the front page USA Today coverage.

Scholars