Only days after the Obama administration released its final "gainful employment" regulation, U.S. Sen. Tom Harkin is set to hold his fifth hearing on for-profit schools–likely without the full cooperation of Senate Republicans serving on the Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee he leads.
On May 31, U.S. Sen. Mike Enzi, minority leader of the HELP Committee, wrote in a letter to Harkin, "I am writing on behalf of the Republican members of the HELP Committee to inform you that we will not participate in the hearing scheduled to take place on June 7." Enzi further stated that Harkin should not expect any GOP participation in ongoing hearings until and unless for-profit schools are no longer the individual focus.
Since that time, it is believed that GOP Committee members have had at least a partial change of heart, and will attend the second panel of the hearing, "Drowning in Debt: Financial Outcomes of Students at For-Profit Colleges," which will feature U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan.
In response to the GOP letter, according to Harkin’s spokeswoman Kate Cyrul, Harkin has told Republicans that he is happy to continue working with Ranking Member Enzi and his staff on content and framework for upcoming hearings, and would welcome discussions about additional hearings or roundtables that look toward legislative solutions to the problems identified in this investigation. “He is encouraged that Committee Republicans have changed their position and now plan to attend the June 7 hearing with Secretary Duncan and looks forward to the conversation that will take place,” she said.
Gainful Employment Regulation
The minority remains unhappy with ongoing regulations of the for-profit education industry. In a statement released Friday, following release of a much watered-down final rule, Enzi said, “While this rule is not as onerous as what was originally proposed, the Department of Education’s new gainful employment regulation is still troubling because it ignores larger issues affecting the entire post-secondary education sector.”
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