Public Weighs In on Gainful Employment Rules

The public comment period for the Education Department's proposed "gainful employment" rule closed on Tuesday. In March, the agency released its new proposed regulations that seek to cut off federal financial aid to career-oriented programs whose graduates have high student loan debt relative to their incomes. The department received over 1,500 comments on the proposal.

AACRAO joined a broad coalition of higher education groups to submit comments on the controversial regulations. The associations issued support for rules that would exclude from Title IV federal financial aid eligibility those programs that fail to serve their students well, regardless of where such GE programs are offered, but found that the agency's proposal does not do enough to protect students from predatory practices. The coalition argued that the substance of the proposed metrics is too weak to be effective against underperforming programs; the regulations, as designed, are not well-targeted and provide no reasonable safe harbors for good actors within the system; the statute as written requires a front-end gatekeeping mechanism for gainful employment; and the regulation's disclosure scheme, undergirded by elaborate and costly reporting requirements, is far too extensive and complicated to be of meaningful use to prospective students.

The for-profit education industry's trade association, backed by a 100-page report by economists, charged that the proposal is "flawed, arbitrary, and biased," and will deny educational access to as many as 7.5 million students over the next decade, The Chronicle of Higher Education reported. In comments that indicate the sector is preparing to legally challenge the rule should it be adopted in its current form, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) attacked the department for relying on "discredited sources" in developing the regulation and said the rule would affect far more for-profit college students than the department has projected.

Meanwhile, a bipartisan group of 37 lawmakers sent a letter last week to the House Appropriations Committee calling for a provision in the 2015 Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education Appropriations Act that would block the Education Department from enforcing the gainful employment rule. According to the legislators, the proposed rule would "increase costs and federal overreach in the higher education system, reduce data transparency, and limit postsecondary options for low-income students."


Related Links

Comments to the U.S. Education Department on the Proposed Gainful Employment Rule

The Chronicle of Higher Education

Letter to U.S. House Committee on Appropriations