High and Dry: the Politics of For-Profit Colleges

Hastings

In reaction to the (rather weak) gainful employment rules issued yesterday by the Department of Education, half a dozen House Democrats are complaining. But they’re complaining that the regulations are too tough.

From a press release by Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL-23rd)’s office:

Today, Reps. Alcee L. Hastings (D-FL) [right], Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), Donald M. Payne (D-NJ), Edolphus “Ed” Towns (D-NY), Tim Holden (D-PA), and Ted Deutch (D-FL) reacted to the Department of Education’s (DOE) release of their Gainful Employment regulations. Under the Higher Education Act, proprietary colleges and universities and career training programs are required to offer programs that lead to gainful employment in a legally recognized occupation in order to participate in the federal student aid programs…. DOE recently released a regulation that would make programs ineligible for federal student aid if they fail to meet one of three measures of “gainful employment” which utilize the student loan debt-to-income ratio of graduates and repayment rate of graduates in the programs rather than actual measures of educational quality such as job placement and graduation rates.

“It is deeply troubling that an administration supposedly committed to increasing college completion in the United States would propose a regulation that restricts minority access to higher education and limits job opportunities for those who need them most,” said Congressman Alcee L. Hastings. “Career colleges are economic engines all across the country with demonstrated successful student outcomes. This misguided regulation not only impacts the thousands of students who will be left high and dry in their efforts to obtain a college degree, but also the many dedicated individuals who will lose their jobs as entire programs are eliminated.

This is actually untrue. By virtue of the regulations issued yesterday, even for-profit colleges found not to be in compliance with rules about debt and repayment burdens will still have three years to operate with no requirements to improve before they are cut off from federal funds. Because more than 80 percent of these courses of study are two year programs, however, students will still be allowed to complete their studies, such as they are.

It doesn’t appear that any students will be “left high and dry” by the new regulations, unless one considers living with a huge debt burden and low earning potential “high and draw.”

Daniel Luzer

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer