Civil, Human Rights Groups Oppose Limits on ‘Gainful Employment’ Regulations

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The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, a coalition of more than 200 organizations, called on Congress today to defeat an amendment to the proposed Continuing Resolution (H.R. 1) that would block efforts by the Department of Education to impose “gainful employment” rules on all career colleges.

Rep. Danny David (D-Ill.), who is championing rejection of the amendment, said the proposed Education Department regulations are a matter of protecting “unskilled, undereducated, the most gullible” students from signing up for expensive programs that don’t deliver the education the students are seeking to better their lives, instead saddling them with huge debt.

The gainful employment standards would base eligibility to participate in federal loan and grant programs on whether graduates of the school or program can earn sufficient money to repay their federal loans. Programs would not be barred from the federal loan program unless a high majority of former students are unable to repay their loans, although the schools’ participation could be reduced with lesser default rates.

The regulations, a draft of which prompted more than 90,000 public comments when it was published last year, have not yet been finalized.
The amendment, sponsored by Rep. John Kline, (R-Minn.), chairman of the Education and the Workforce Committee, would prohibit any federal funds being spent to formulate or enforce a gainful employment standard. The House is currently considering amendments to the continuing resolution.

Wade Henderson, president and CEO of the Leadership Conference, said his group is opposing the amendment because “access to education is a fundamental human right,” and that attainment of advanced skills and access to education are “necessities” in today’s advanced economy. He dismissed the efforts of some black and Hispanic groups that oppose the gainful employment regulations, saying that “protection of the student” is utmost and that half of the students at for-profit colleges are students of color.

In addition, about six of 10 students attending for-profit schools – among the country’s most expensive education institutions – are low income. Women comprise two-thirds of the enrollment at for-profits and Iraq and Afghanistan war veterans are being targeted increasingly by the for-profits.

As recently as this week, the National Black Chamber of Commerce asked President Barack Obama to defund the Department of Education’s “gainful employment” regulations, saying they would limit college access to black and minority students.  The group supports the Kline amendment.

Other support for the continuing resolution amendment is coming from the for-profit school industry, including the Coalition for Educational Success, a group headed by a major owner of a for-profit college. It and another for-profit group, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, have lobbied heavily to stop the gainful employment regulation, as well as others dealing with how recruiters are paid.