House On Track To Approve Amendment Blocking Enforcement of ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule

By Kevin Kuzma, Editor

Feeling confident in its bipartisan support, Rep. John Kline (R-Minn.) yesterday called for a verbal vote on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives for his amendment that would effectively block the Department of Education from enforcing its controversial "gainful employment" rule.

The "Kline/Foxx/Hastings/McCarthy/Payne" amendment to the Republican’s Continuing Resolution Bill (H.R. 1) was supported by a chorus of "ayes," which was followed by the Chairman announcing that the "ayes" prevailed. But the rule hasn’t been formally approved, yet. Kline requested a recorded vote and the Chairman postponed further proceedings on the question of adoption of the amendment. A recorded vote will likely follow today.

The discussion leading up to the verbal vote was heated at times. Comments made by the likes of Rep. Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), who vehemently referred to “rip-off” schools and predicted the for-profit sector’s eventual meltdown that would rival the subprime mortgage collapse, were countered by level-headed criticism of the gainful employment rule by her colleagues. Elected officials from both sides of the floor, such as Rep. Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) and Rep Rob Andrews (D-NJ), agreed that while some reform might be needed to clean up the “bad actors” in the for-profit education sector, the “gainful employment” rule was not the way.

Hastings offered his own personal story about graduates of for-profit schools, noting that the last eight people who cared for his mother the last two years of her life “in two different hospitals and at home were graduates of for-profit schools.”

The verbal vote represents a temporary victory for for-profit colleges who hope to achieve another delay in the Department’s attempts to approve the rule that ties their eligibility for U.S. government student aid to students’ incomes and loan repayment rates. To take effect, the amendment must be adopted by the Senate, many of whose Democratic members haven’t supported the for-profit sector. The Senate’s Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions committee has launched a series of hearings into the marketing and recruitment practices of the schools. The next hearing could take place next month.

For-profit school leaders lobbied against the rule with speculation that it would lead to the shutdown of some programs where graduates’ salaries were not in line with the Department’s stipulations, and cause the closing of many schools.

Throughout the regulatory process, the Department and its rule hit several stumbling blocks, both becoming the subjects of government investigations and lawsuits filed by pro-for-profit school organizations. From its inception, for-profit school leaders characterized the rule as discriminatory since it would limit access to education among minorities.

The amendment was introduced by Representative John Kline (R-Minn.), who is a Republican and also education committee chairman. During several days of discussions involving nearly 600 amendments to H.R. 1, many Democratic members of the House called out Republicans and the continuing resolution they drafted as being a “job-killing” spending bill.

H.R. 1 proposes cutting about $60 billion from outlays for the fiscal year, which are deep slashes Democrats said will risk crippling a modest economic recovery and harming national security. Republicans have argued that cuts will help deflate the nation’s ballooning deficit and shrink its swollen national debt.

The vitriolic debate on the House floor did little to foreshadow a bipartisan vote on the amendment, as predicted earlier in the week by Rep. Hastings. But the vote indeed matched Hastings’ description, granting for-profits a chance at derailing the rule’s implementation.

Career College Central will continue following this amendment as it progresses through the House today.

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