Weekly Notes: Ed. Dept. meetings, Newark, Boys Town

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Ed/Jobs Notes, Week of 11/8/10

Sat in on the first day of last week’s Department of Education public meetings on the gainful employment rule affecting for-profit colleges. As I reported last week – Education Department Hears from Small For-Profits On New Regs – the day was filled with testimonials  from mom-and-pop career college operators who say the Department’s proposed new definition of gainful employment will force them to shut their doors.

But actual influencing of power appears to be happening behind closed doors.

I met with Harris Miller, CEO and President of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, after the conclusion of the first day of meetings. Miller, who did not step up to the podium on day one of the meetings, represents a trade group that pours in a ton of money to lobby congress in favor of the for-profit college sector.           

Miller had no plans of speaking at the meetings originally, saying he’s been in negotiation with Education Secretary Arne Duncan and does not feel left out of the debate.

He told me the next day that his E-mail invitation to speak at the meetings was hid in his spam folder and that he’d be speaking on day two of the meetings after all.

But regardless, after speaking with Miller and watching how the Thursday meeting proceeded  – speakers engaged in zero debate with panelists and were limited to discussing the exact same points they had already made in their letters to the Department – it is readily apparent that the meetings were a public display that the Department is listening to everyone with a stake in the matter. They will have zero influence on the fate of the gainful employment rule. 

The speakers on Thursday repeated many of the same points. Most of those on the career college side said they favored complete abolition of the proposed new definition, but nevertheless had proposals for how to amend a new rule to make it more reasonable. These changes included:

* Rolling out the new definition in 2015 instead of when it’s currently been proposed, for 2012. This way, speakers said, the definition would not apply retroactively to students who went through the loan application process before the new regulation went into effect.

* Changing the minimum debt-to-income ratio from 8 percent to anywhere from 10 to 13 percent, due to several reasons. One that was cited frequently: schools cannot be held accountable for graduates making life decisions that take them in a direction away from their originally desired post-graduation field.

* A rule exemption for schools below a to-be-determined minimum number of students, which would ensure the smaller career colleges are not forced to go under. If their students are not eligible for federal financial aid, the school directors said, these schools cannot sustain themselves from other revenue like the larger corporations can.

The significantly smaller contingent of speakers present on behalf of students’ rights, such as legislative director for the U.S. Students Association Getachew Kassa, called on stricter government oversight of for-profit colleges, such as instant notification to students when a school has been declared ineligible for federal student loans, and the removal of loan repayment requirements to students who attended such schools.

Who’s right? Tough to say. Private colleges have taken some tough hits this past year – and rightfully so considering all the cases of recruiting misconduct, low loan repayment rates and misleading accreditation claims, but this does not mean some technical college programs can’t offer a second chance for non-traditional college students who otherwise will not go to a four-year university. It would be sloppy for us to just assume all complaints are coming from money-grubbing businessmen.

None of this is likely to be decidedl before early 2011. But even if Duncan proceeds with the rule as proposed, expect a lawsuit or some sort of congressional interference, at Miller’s request.

 

 

 Newark:

 

Though we still don’t know details of how New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) and Newark Mayor Cory Booker plan on spending the $100 million donation from Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg to Newark Public Schools – plus another $43 million Booker says he has raised in other private donations for his school district – we at least know a tiny bit.

The city kicked off an estimated $1 million-campaign last week to engage parents in their children’s education. As reported in the Star-Ledger last week, the campaign includes knocking on doors, public meetings, advertising and phone banks.

I’ve spoken to several people in the education improvement field who expressed initial concerns when the Zuckerberg donation was first announced to mass hoopla in September that the money could be wasted on construction projects instead of initiatives to improve teaching quality or home support, so perhaps this announcement will alleviate some of those fears.

Anyone interested in charter schools – One investment heavily rumored to be a major source of the Newark funding: charter schools.

 

Teen Unemployment:

 

The teen unemployment rates for the month of October 2010 are out, and there’s hasn’t been much fluctuation in the past month or even the past year. Zacks Investment Research blog give a nice analysis of the stats. Here are a few highlights

-          In October the teen unemployment rate stood at 27.1 percent, up from 26.0 percent in September and down from 27.6 percent a year ago. This last month’s increase can be chalked up to a bump in participation rates from 34.2 percent in August to 35.2 percent last month.

-          The unemployment rate for high school dropouts is at 15.3 percent in October, and was 15.4 percent in August and 15.5 percent a year ago. The percentage of these dropouts who are employed is 39.8 percent.

-          High school graduates without a college degree have a 10.1 percent unemployment rate.

-          The private sector added 159,000 jobs in October, up from 107,000 in September.

 

Grants:

 

Global financial services company BNY Mellon announced a five-year $6 million initiative to assist vulnerable youth across the world transitioning to adulthood. The grant will give $250,000 a year over five years to Good Shepherd Services and the Children’s Aid Society’s Next Generation Center, the latter of which was profiled in Youth Today just last month (Youth Work Snapshots). These two New York programs provide educational and employment program for youth aging out of foster care.

 

The Week Ahead:

 

-          The American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research is hosting a discussion tomorrow, Tuesday Nov. 9, at its Washington headquarters on what the mid-term election results mean for education, including the issue of for-profit college regulation. Attendants must RSVP in advance of the 9 a.m. event.

-          Also tomorrow, Education Secretary Duncan will announce the National Education Technology Plan at the State Educational Technology Directors Association’s Education Forum, 1:30 p.m. at Gaylord National Hotel & Convention Center in National Harbor, Md., just outside Washington. Details on the plan are already available here on the Education Department’s website.

-          Tuesday Nov. 9- Wednesday Nov. 10 marks the National Summer Learning Association conference in Indianapolis, with 60 workshops designed for people who work with children, operate a summer program or are involved in youth education.  

-          On Wed. Nov 10 the National Coalition for Technology in Education and Training hosts a panel discussion about using technology to improve student performance. The 12-1:30 p.m. event is at the Rayburn building in Washington.