Public-College Leaders Rail Against Education Dept.’s ‘Regulatory Culture’

Career College Central Summary:

  • Ted Mitchell, under secretary of education, began his speech to a roomful of higher-education leaders on Monday with a conciliatory tone, stressing that the U.S. Department of Education shared a goal with them of serving the public good.
  • After laying out some details of the department’s major policy proposals, Mr. Mitchell invited the audience to tell him how the federal government was impeding new and more-effective approaches in higher education.
  • He got an earful from the attendees, mostly college presidents from members of the American Association of State Colleges and Universities, which is holding its annual meeting here this week.
  • The Education Department’s own regulatory actions—its "regulatory culture"—are the principal impediments to innovation, said George A. Pruitt, president of Thomas Edison State College, in New Jersey.
  • Mr. Pruitt and others cited, in particular, several rules meant to crack down on perceived abuses by for-profit colleges that rely primarily on distance learning. Those regulations include one strictly tying the credit hour to time spent in class, another requiring colleges to be authorized in every state where they enroll students, and one that evaluates the earnings of a college’s graduates in proportion to their amount of student debt.
  • Those rules may have been meant primarily for proprietary colleges, but they are having a negative impact on all sectors of higher education, Mr. Pruitt argued, and they reflect a view that makes compliance a priority over quality assurance.
  • "I understand that you get upset if your dog soils the carpet," he said, "but you don't go out and shoot your horse for that."

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