WASHINGTON, DC — January 28, 2011 — The Coalition for Educational Success filed a complaint for injunctive relief against the U.S. Department of Education (Department) for repeatedly failing to comply with the law and produce documents related to a routine Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. The Coalition has requested documents and materials associated with the development of the Department’s gainful employment regulation. Specifically, it requested communications between the Department’s Director of Workforce Development, investors who may have "shorted" stocks of career colleges and other sector critics who may have influenced the Department’s rulemaking process.
"President Obama during his presidential campaign and since becoming president has made ‘transparency’ a major theme of his administration, and specifically instructed his executive departments to lean heavily in favor of full disclosure, and not to be resistant, evasive, or obstructive in the face of legitimate FOIA requests," the complaint alleges. The Coalition is represented by Paul M. Smith of Jenner & Block, LLP.
The Coalition is seeking records from the Department that illuminate the influence investors – who “shorted” stocks of for-profit colleges – and known critics of the for-profit college industry may have had on the Department’s gainful employment regulation. Independent analysis and news reports have revealed that high-ranking Department officials involved these short sellers and critics in crucial discussions prior to the release of the notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM).
The Coalition’s complaint follows a series of requests for information that the Department has repeatedly rebuffed. On November 12, 2010, the Coalition filed a FOIA request with the Department, in an effort to determine to what degree short sellers who stood to benefit financially from the release of gainful employment, were in contact with the Department. By law, the Department had 20 working days to respond. On December 21, 2010, the Department asked for an extension until January 10, 2011, asserting that it needed more “research time.” The Coalition responded on December 23, 2010, requesting that documents be released on a rolling basis, as they are made ready. As of January 25, 2011, no documents have been received.
The Coalition has also filed a FOIA request with the Department around the development of the gainful employment regulation, as well as records related to the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on fraud and abuse at career colleges. The report was used repeatedly by opponents of career colleges to generate headlines and reduce the value of these companies. The GAO subsequently amended its report, removing many of the most egregious claims.
The Department has also failed to respond to this FOIA request. The Coalition has since filed a motion for summary judgment. Earlier this month, the Department asked the Coalition if they would limit the documents it would produce. The Coalition rejected this request.
About the Coalition for Educational Success
The Coalition for Educational Success includes many of the nation’s leading career colleges, serving more than 350,000 students at 478 campuses in 41 states. Career colleges provide training for students in 17 of the 20 fastest growing fields. The Coalition advocates for policies that support wider access to higher education, particularly for non-traditional students including full-time workers, workforce returners, working parents, minorities and veterans.