By Kevin Kuzma, Editor
Career College Central has obtained a letter signed by seven U.S. Senators, including John McCain (R-Ariz.), expressing concerns about the pending "gainful employment" rule change to Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. The letter, issued to the Department of Education on Dec. 22, was also signed by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.), Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.), Sen. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.), and Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho).
McCain, Hatch, Roberts, Burr and Coburn are members of the Senate’s Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee. The committee, as led by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), has been holding hearings to explore improprieties in the for-profit education sector. Students, educators, and executives affiliated with the for-profit education sector have criticized the hearings for featuring one-sided testimony, including that of "short-sellers" — investors who stand to gain financially when education stocks lose value.
The following is the letter in its entirety:
“We write to express our concerns regarding the U.S. Department of Education’s proposed rule related to the definition of “Gainful Employment.” This rule change could have a tremendously negative effect on Title IV funding eligibility for proprietary institutions of higher education. The American people deserve to have a process that is open, fair, and brings all members to the table to discuss the implications of any proposed rule, especially one of this magnitude. It is our expectation that the Department will judiciously and carefully consider all 90,000 public comments your agency received regarding the proposed definition of “gainful employment.”
“We applaud the Department’s efforts to help weed out unscrupulous actors in higher education. Schools that engage in deceptive practices or misrepresent student financial aid should be dealt with severely and harshly under current law. Moreover, we support the Department’s efforts to bar schools from paying recruiters based on the number of students they enroll and rules that would give prospective students they and enroll and rules that would give prospective students greater transparency with regard to a school’s graduation and placement rates. However, one particular area of concern for us is the definition’s most sensitive provision, the establishment of a student debt/income ratio, which is still awaiting final issuance.
“As currently proposed, we believe the definition of “gainful employment” would have serious, negative, and unintended consequences that could restrict millions of prospective student’s opportunities for advancement, their particular school choice, and access to attend proprietary colleges. Many of these colleges offer flexibility to students that traditional higher education institutions cannot or do not offer.
“While we understand the need to scrutinize unscrupulous schools in higher education, we should be careful not to limit prospective students’ access to or choice of schools and programs. We thank you for your attention to this matter and look forward to working with the Department on effective ways to improve postsecondary education.”