Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is striking down regulations that protect students from predatory, for-profit colleges.
According to The New York Times, the planned cut-back will remove gainful employment requirements. Under the Obama administration, for-profit universities were made to show the employability of their graduates. A crackdown on the industry and its enablers led to the collapse of schools like ITT Tech, which routinely misled applicants about their career prospects.
The same regulations also mandated that schools ‘advertise whether or not they met federal standards for job placement in promotional materials and to prospective students.’
A Friday report by the Times suggests that a draft regulation will undo the rules altogether, rather than modifying or tweaking their details. The proposal has purportedly been more than a year in the making. Older renditions kept some Obama-era provisions, but they’ve been removed from the latest publication.
The Times notes that a ‘final rule could look different,’ considering the many changes which have already been made to the Department of Education’s plan.
Along with the chance of further revision, the agency will also solicit public opinion before discarding part or all of the regulations.
The draft—which was obtained by the Times and described in detail by department insiders—would take the onus of demonstrating employability off for-profit colleges. Instead of having to publish figures in promotional material, data on ‘student debt burdens, federal loan repayment rates, degree completion rates and the average post-college earnings of alumni’ would be shifted to a public registry. Statistics would also be accessible on the government-owned ‘College Scorecard.’
The Education Department intends to update the ‘College Scorecard’ with program-by-program information for all colleges and universities which qualify for federal financial aid, “thus improving transparency and providing information to students to inform their enrollment decisions through a market-based accountability system.”
However, the draft rule would make an important concession to the for-profit education industry: it’d junk an Obama-era restriction on providing guaranteed federal loans to students enrolled at schools with poor post-graduation job placement rates.
Among the biggest criticism of now-defunct institutions like ITT Tech and Corinthians College was their inability to provide degrees alongside relevant work. ITT Tech, for instance, boasted high percentages of graduates finding jobs within their field.
But ITT Tech would often include low-paying, scarcely pertinent placements in its data.
Republican leaders and industry advocates have criticized the accountability rules for unfairly targeting for-profit schools and institutions. They’ve argued that the same measures should be applied to public universities and private colleges, too.
Since taking office, Secretary DeVos has scrapped and tweaked a variety of regulations intended to protect students and graduates from predatory for-profit colleges and negligent loan servicers. Several high-ranking members of her staff were industry insiders before accepting positions with the Department of Education. The Times says that one top DeVos adviser—former for-profit lobbyist Diane Auer Jones—hasn’t recused herself from participating in discussions on the draft and other relevant regulations.
“It took nearly a decade of rule making, litigation and public debate to write a gainful employment rule that protects hundreds of thousands of students from unaffordable debt,” said James Kvaal, president of the Institute for College Access & Success. Kvaal helped write the Obama-era regulations. “Now the Trump administration may just scrap these essential student protections. The evidence is in, and the gainful employment rule has helped students find better choices and forced colleges to improve the value of their career education programs.”