Coalition Letter Supporting Rules that Protect Students and Taxpayers from Waste and Fraud in Higher Education (March 2017)
Coalition letter from more than 50 organizations to Congress conveying strong support for the continued implementation and enforcement of important Education Department accountability provisions designed to protect students and taxpayers from unmanageable student debt and waste, fraud, and abuse in higher education.
On January 9, 2017, the Department of Education released the first debt-to-earnings rates for career training programs as required by the Gainful Employment regulation. All career education programs at public, for-profit and non-profit colleges will have to clearly disclose the earnings of their graduates and whether the programs meet state licensure requirements as well as their cost, typical debt levels, and completion and job placement rates. Failing programs that are consistently leaving graduates with debts they cannot repay will now have to warn current and prospective students that the program will lose eligibility for aid next year if it does not improve.
On November 17, 2016, the Department of Education release program-level earnings date for career education programs. The data show the typical earnings for graduates of career education programs at public, for-profit, and nonprofit colleges. They show huge variation in earnings among programs at the same school and for the same program offered at different schools.
Final Borrower Defense and College Accountability Regulations
The Administration released final borrower defense and college accountability regulations on Friday, October 28, 2016. The news release announcing the rules and a summary of their key provisions is here. In addition to the regulations, a restoration of Pell Grant eligibility for students at closed schools was announced, and a report on the progress of borrower defense claims made in the wake of the closure of Corinthian Colleges was released.
Several organizations released statements on the final regulation, including:
American Federation of Teachers
Americans for Financial Reform
The Institute for College Access & Success
Project on Predatory Student Lending of the Legal Services Center of Harvard Law School
Letter to Education Secretary John King from 58 organizations that advocate for students, veterans, service members, civil rights, consumers, college access and success, and college faculty and staff expressing support for strong rules that protect students and taxpayers from fraud, deception and other misconduct by unscrupulous schools.
The U.S. Department of Education released proposed regulations that clarify and strengthen protections for federal student loan borrowers who were defrauded or deceived by their college. The proposed rules lower barriers between harmed borrowers and necessary relief in several ways that are dramatic improvements over current policy. However, there are several ways in which the proposed rules need to be improved to be more fair, transparent, and efficient.
Read the Department of Education’s news release here.
Coalition Letter to President Obama on Education Department Complaint Tracking System (October 2016)
Coalition letter to President Obama from 56 organizations and advocates working on behalf of students, consumers, veterans, servicemembers, faculty and staff, civil rights, and college access on the Department of Education’s complaints tracking system.
Letter to all Members of Congress from more than 50 organizations that advocate for students, veterans, civil rights, consumers, college access and success, and college faculty and staff expressing strong opposition to any appropriations rider that would block or delay implementation of the gainful employment regulation or other student protections from unscrupulous actors.
Letter from more than 50 organizations and advocates for students, consumers, veterans, service members, faculty and staff, civil rights and college access to Education Secretary John King thanking him for the Department’s commitment to fully implement the gainful employment regulation in 2016.
Coalition Letter Calling on Department of Education to Halt Federal Funding for Predatory Schools That Deny Students’ Legal Rights (March 2016)
Letter from 47 organizations in support of the citizen petition submitted to the Department of Education by Public Citizen requesting that the Department require educational institutions to agree, as a condition on receipt of Title IV assistance, not to include pre-dispute arbitration clauses in enrollment and other contracts with students.
Letter from more than 30 organizations and advocates working on behalf of students, consumers, veterans, faculty and staff, civil rights and college access urging the U.S. Department of Education to discharge more quickly and efficiently the federal loans of defrauded students under current regulations and to propose regulations that will make it easier, not harder, for such borrowers to get the relief they are entitled to under existing law. The letter expresses concern about the slow pace and small number of loan discharges approved to date and that many of the Department’s proposals in the current negotiated rulemaking process move in the wrong direction: reducing eligibility for relief, pitting students against schools, and creating unnecessary burdens on students and the Department.
Letter to Acting Education Secretary John King from 51 organizations that advocate on behalf of students, consumers, veterans, faculty and staff, civil rights, and college access responding to the Department of Education’s request for comments on the proposed Enterprise Complaint System. The organizations applaud the Department for proposing a student and borrower complaint tracking system that accepts complaints about loans, other aid, and colleges, while urging the Department to make the system public, searchable, and connected to the systems at other agencies.
28 Groups Urge Court to Protect Students and Taxpayers, Uphold Department of Education ‘Gainful Employment’ Rule
In a friend-of-the-court brief filed March 6 with the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, 28 organizations urged the court to reject a legal challenge by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) to the “gainful employment” rule. The groups advocate for students and college access, civil rights, veterans and consumers.
Nearly all of the groups also filed a brief on March 2 in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, where another industry group – the Association of Proprietary Colleges – launched a similar challenge to the rule.
Final Gainful Employment Regulation Released
The Administration released its final gainful employment regulation on Thursday, October 30, 2014. The news release and final regulation can be found here.
Several organizations released statements on the final regulation, including:
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)
AFT’s Weingarten on Gainful Employment Regulations
Center for Responsible Lending
The Weakened Gainful Employment Rule is a Step Forward, but Fails to Fully Protect Students
The Institute for College Access & Success (TICAS)
Statement on Final Gainful Employment Regulation
League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC)
Gainful Employment Rule Language Provides Important Accountability to Ensure Quality Higher Education
The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights
Civil and Human Rights Coalition Calls New Gainful Employment Standards a Step Forward
Mississippi Center for Justice
Advocacy Group Issues Statement On Revised Department Of Education Rules Governing For-Profits
National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC)
NACAC Comments on Education Department’s New Gainful Employment Rule
United States Student Association (USSA)
Department of Education Falls Short on Final Rule
Final proposed Gainful Employment fails to fully protect students at predatory for-profit institutions
New federal rules on for-profit colleges fail to stop poor practices
Weak Gainful Employment Rule Leaves Students Vulnerable
National Civil and Human Rights Groups Urge Administration to Release Strong Gainful Employment Rule
A coalition of eight civil rights organizations released a policy brief today, October 29, 2014, urging the U.S. Department of Education to release a strong gainful employment regulation to protect students, particularly African-American and Latino students, from substandard career education programs.
The brief, “Gainful Employment: A Civil Rights Perspective,” documents the adverse outcomes that African-American and Latino students experience as a result of policies and practices implemented at for-profit colleges. Students at for-profit colleges are much less likely to graduate, more likely to default, and more likely to incur debt than students at public and non-profit schools. The brief details how a strong gainful employment rule will provide much needed protections to both students and taxpayers.
“Stronger oversight is desperately needed to tackle the problems of poor outcomes and high debt within career education programs,” the brief urges. “Currently, even when better and lower cost options are available, African-American and Latino students are disproportionately enrolled in schools where they are both likely to borrow and unlikely to succeed, and there are few incentives for schools to improve poorly performing programs.”
The brief was released by The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the Center for Responsible Lending, the Children’s Defense Fund, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, MALDEF, the NAACP, the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, and the National Council of La Raza.
A broad coalition of more than 50 organizations representing students and college access, veterans, consumers, and civil rights filed public comments calling on the Department to strengthen its proposed gainful employment rule in four specific ways. They include providing financial relief for students in programs that lose eligibility; limiting enrollment in poorly performing programs until they improve; closing loopholes and raising standards; and protecting low-cost programs where most graduates don’t borrow. Read the coalition comments here.
Senate HELP Committee Report on the For-Profit Education Industry
On July 30, 2012, Senator Harkin unveiled a HELP Committee report on the for-profit education industry and the 30 companies that have been the focus of a two-year Committee investigation. The report provides a comprehensive analysis of how the $32 billion annual investment in the sector is serving taxpayers and the students enrolling in the schools. The report draws on data and documents not previously released including new student outcome data for each of the companies reviewed. Joining Senator Harkin at the press conference were Senator Blumenthal, Congressman Cummings, Amy Wilkins from The Education Trust, Tom Tarantino from Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, and Laura Brozek, a former Director of Recruitment for ITT Technical Institute.
The entire report, For Profit Higher Education: The Failure to Safeguard the Federal Investment and Ensure Student Success, can be found here.
On a visit to Fort Stewart in Georgia on April 27, 2012, the President signed an Executive Order designed to protect veterans and servicemembers and their families from colleges that seek to mislead them. In his speech, the president said:
“I’m not talking about all schools. Many of them — for-profit and non-profit — provide quality education to our servicemembers and our veterans and their families. But there are some bad actors out there. They’ll say you don’t have to pay a dime for your degree but once you register, they’ll suddenly make you sign up for a high interest student loan. They’ll say that if you transfer schools, you can transfer credits. But when you try to actually do that, you suddenly find out that you can’t. They’ll say they’ve got a job placement program when, in fact, they don’t. It’s not right. They’re trying to swindle and hoodwink you. And today, here at Fort Stewart, we’re going to put an end to it.”
The goal of the Executive Order is to:
• Create a centralized complaint system for students receiving Federal military and veterans educational benefits to register complaints that can be tracked and responded to by the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Justice, and Education, the CFPB, and other relevant agencies.
• Provide students with educational and financial information to make informed decisions.
• End fraudulent and aggressive recruiting techniques on and off military installations.
• Ensure support services for service-members and veterans.
• Develop and collect service member- and veteran-specific student outcome data.
• Begin the process to trademark the term “GI Bill.”
The full text of the Executive Order is here; the White House news release is here; background on the visit and event is here; a video of the President’s speech is here; the text of the President’s Fort Stewart speech is here, and President’s weekly radio address, which was also on this topic, is here. Veterans organizations that have been working on this issue came out in strong support of the Executive Order. Statements were issued by many groups, including the American Legion, Military
GAO Reports on For-Profit Colleges
The GAO issues two reports dealing with for-profit colleges in 2011. For the first, For-Profit Schools: Experiences of Undercover Students Enrolled in Online Classes at Selected Colleges (October 2011), the GAO was asked to conduct undercover testing by enrolling in online classes under degree-granting programs. It reported that, “during the course of undercover testing, GAO documented its observations related to enrollment, cost, financial aid, course structure, substandard student performance, withdrawal, and exit counseling. Overall, GAO observed that 8 of the 15 colleges appeared to follow existing policies related to academic dishonesty, exit counseling, and course grading standards. At the 7 remaining colleges, GAO found mixed results. For example, one or more staff at these colleges appeared to act in conflict with school policies regarding academic dishonesty or course grading standards, or federal regulations pertaining to exit counseling for student loans, while other staff acted consistent with such policies.”
The second GAO report, Student Outcomes Vary at For-Profit, Nonprofit, and Public Schools (December 2011), reviewed available studies to look at student outcomes according to student characteristics at higher education institutions. As reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education,” For-profit institutions perform worse than public and private colleges on most measures of quality, even when student demographics are taken into account.”
On July 21, 2011, the U.S. Senate Health, Education, Labor & Pensions Committee chaired by Senator Tom Harkin held a full committee hearing entitled: Improving For-Profit Higher Education: A Roundtable Discussion of Policy Solutions. The discussion was focused on finding policy solutions to the problems in the for-profit highed education industry. In a news release announcing the hearing, Senator Harkin said, “Over the past year, my Committee has documented serious problems at some for-profit schools including deceptive and misleading recruiting tactics, disturbingly high drop-out rates, and large numbers of students left with debt but little else to show for their attendance” said Harkin. “Given the annual $30 billion taxpayer investment in these schools, it is incumbent on both the industry itself and Congress to ensure this investment is being used wisely. I am looking forward to a thoughtful discussion with school leaders, student and consumer advocates, and my colleagues to discuss how best to address the problems we’ve uncovered and ensure our taxpayer dollars are being used to provide Americans with education and opportunity.”
Frontline: Educating Sergeant Pantzke
Tuesday, June 28: American public television’s public affairs series, FRONTLINE, began airing Educating Sergeant Pantzke.
FRONTLINE writes: As troops return from Iraq and Afghanistan, U.S. government spending on veterans’ education will more than double to $9.5 billion this year, and a growing percentage of this money has been ending up in the pockets of for-profit colleges. In a follow-up to FRONTLINE’s College, Inc., correspondent Martin Smith investigates how the for-profit schools are aggressively recruiting huge numbers of new veterans with educational promises that many now question whether they can keep.
You can find additional media coverage here.