The Tallahassee Democract:Career schools are creating opportunity


March 27, 2014
Written by Curtis Austin

In Florida, the majority of the health-care and information technology graduates are educated at career schools — more than 60 percent, according to 2011-2012 state data. The same is true in other industries — 93 percent of cosmetology students, 83 percent in culinary arts and 82 percent of commercial drivers.

With such a strong track record, Florida has entrusted the education of much of its frontline workforce to private career colleges. That is why the attacks on our sector, played out over and over in news media, are so misleading. Here’s the real story of what happens at Florida’s career schools.

• Accountability: Our schools are highly regulated and accountable to our students. The more than 1,000 private career schools in Florida are licensed by the Florida Commission for Independent Education to ensure that institutions are providing quality programs and that students’ consumer rights are protected. More than 83 percent of degree-granting schools are accredited by one or more agencies that closely monitor institutions to ensure they meet defined graduation and job placement benchmarks.

• Student debt: Students in all sectors acquire debt to improve their lives through education. And the reality is, the majority of students who face financial hardships and go into default end up paying back their loans. Taxpayers made more than $66 billion from the student loan program from 2007-2012, according to the Government Accounting Office. Under federal law, the student loan program is an entitlement program and schools cannot prevent students from taking out more loans than they “need.”

• Student success: Across the country, two-year career college programs are outperforming other sectors, graduating 63 percent of students compared with the 22 percent who graduate from public colleges and the 56 percent who complete programs at private, nonprofit schools, according to an Imagine America Foundation 2013 report.

Florida’s career schools are committed to providing access, opportunity and accountability to our students. In the last year, I have visited 75 schools, observing eager students focused on their futures, actively engaged in learning and in hands-on lab work. As executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, I invite anyone who questions this to spend a day with me at a career college.


Curtis Austin is executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, which works on behalf of Florida’s 370 degree-granting and 550 non-degree granting career schools and colleges.(http://www.fapsc.org). Contact him at Curtis@FAPSC.org.
  

The Hill: Private schools: New regs to hurt minorities

March 14, 2014

By Tim Devaney

A group of private colleges and universities is blasting the Obama administration's effort to tackle burdensome student loan debt, because they say it would force them to turn away low-income students, and in particular, minorities.

They also charge the proposed law unfairly targets private institutions while leaving their public counterparts unscathed.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU), said the move was an "ideological declaration of war" against private schools by the Obama administration.  

"Millions of prospective students — particularly working adults, minorities and people with scarce financial resources — will see their access to higher education and prospects for better employment dramatically reduced," Gunderson added.

Republicans criticized the rule, while Democrats said it did not go far enough.

The Department of Education released its second attempt at "gainful employment" regulations on Friday morning, aimed at schools that "prey on students" by charging exorbitant amounts of money without providing adequate job training.

The regulations would apply to thousands of for-profit programs, as well as certificate programs at both nonprofit and public institutions. They would look at certain fields of study and measure the amount of debt students would face compared to their projected earnings, as well as the default rate among former students. Schools that perform poorly would lose federal student aid funding.

The Obama administration says this is part of an effort to push back against schools that saddle students with unreasonably high debt only to graduate and find a low-paying job, or no job at all.
"Higher education should open up doors of opportunity, but students in these low-performing programs often end up worse off than before they enrolled: saddled by debt and with few — if any — options for a career," Education Secretary Arne Duncan said in a statement. 

But Gunderson said the new rule would provide a "perverse incentive" for private colleges and universities affected by the rule to restrict access to educational opportunities for low-income and minority students, who often depend on loans to go to college.

The private schools also say it could create divisions within a single college or university among students who will graduate into high-paying jobs and those who will not. These schools might even be forced to scrap programs that train students for initially low-paying jobs.

"Individuals interested in careers with lower starting salaries, such as communications, psychology, visual and performing arts, and social work will be barred from receiving the same federal aid as their classmates choosing more lucrative fields," Gunderson said.

Gunderson also expanded on his view that the gainful employment regulations unfairly target for-profit private schools.

"If the regulation were applied to all of higher education, programs like a bachelor's degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a law degree from George Washington University Law School, and a bachelor's degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University would all be penalized," he said.

An earlier 2011 version of the rule was scrapped after a federal court struck it down. But the Education Department is taking another crack at it.

Meanwhile, Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, said the rule would not go far enough to protect students from subpar educations.

"Based on what I've seen so far … I once again have serious concerns with this proposed rule's ability to protect students and taxpayers from costly programs that consistently over-promise and under-deliver," Harkin said in a statement.

But Republicans disagree.

House Education and Workforce Committee Chairman John Kline (R-Minn.) said in a statement he was “extremely troubled” by the new version of the proposed rule.

Inside Higher Education: Building Walls to the Middle Class

March 17, 2014 
 
Last week, for the first time in the gainful employment regulatory process, the U.S. Department of Education revealed its true motivation and bias against private-sector education and the students who attend our institutions.

While defending a regulation that limits access to higher education and obstructs a pathway to the middle class for new traditional students, Education Secretary Arne Duncan and Deputy Director of the Domestic Policy Council James Kvaal hid behind the assertion that the gainful employment policy is designed to grow the middle class and protect students.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The regulation does not apply to all of higher education, therefore it cannot protect all students, and it will limit access to the very postsecondary institutions that serve lower-income students trying to join the middle class through new career skills.

What this boils down to is the unfortunate reality that the Education Department engaged in a sham negotiated rulemaking process with the sole goal of reaching a predetermined conclusion that will severely limit access to higher education and opportunity for millions of students based on the type of institution they attend.

The department estimates one million students will lose access to postsecondary education, but neither Duncan nor Kvaal offered a realistic solution for how to serve these historically overlooked and underserved students or the millions more denied access once this regulation is promulgated.
In addition to the students denied access to critical career training programs, the economic reality is that others will be harmed when reduced numbers of students enrolled make the programs or possibly the entire institution no longer viable.

The department’s regulation will result in the new traditional student -- working adults, minorities and people with scarce financial resources -- seeing their access to higher education and prospects for better employment dramatically reduced.

Individuals interested in careers with lower starting salaries, such as communications, psychology, visual and performing arts, and social work will be barred from receiving the same federal aid as their classmates choosing more lucrative fields.

All of this because of an institutional bias by the current Education Department against the private sector’s involvement in the delivery of postsecondary education -- something that has been a key element of America for generations.

At the heart of this sits the department overreaching its statutory authority to interpret the “gainful employment” language in the Higher Education Act, the federal law that governs financial aid, as authorizing it to evaluate program eligibility on the basis of complicated debt calculations.

As Senator Lamar Alexander noted last week, the fact that it took the Department 841 pages to define two words in the Higher Education Act – longer than the law itself – “shows exactly what is wrong with Washington and its desire to overregulate institutions of higher education.”

Even with all those pages, the department uses an arbitrary one-size-fits-all approach by not taking into consideration the level of preparation and the characteristics of entering students.. As a result the department has created the perverse incentive for institutions to avoid enrolling low-income and minority students.

America’s private sector institutions strongly support accountability that applies to all programs recognizing the diversity of students and institutions, as President Obama has promised in creating a rating system. We would support measuring outcomes and performance for all programs across higher education based on quantitative indicators like: retention and progression rates, completion, employment of graduates, earnings and graduate satisfaction.

What we object to is a regulation imposing an arbitrary debt-to-earnings metric as the definition of what is or is not academic quality.

We cannot stand silently by as a regulation is promulgated that would fail programs (if it were applied to them) like a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a law degree from George Washington University Law School and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University. These programs get a pass since the department has chosen to focus on a narrow band of programs that serve the new traditional student.

The purpose of the federal financial aid programs has always been to help provide disadvantaged students access to higher education. It is incredible that this administration is on the verge of promulgating a regulation that limits access to education for disadvantaged students based on the very factors that caused them to be disadvantaged in the first place.

APSCU Press Release: U.S. Department of Education Releases Highly Biased, Flawed and Arbitrary Regulation for Public Comment

Bad Public Policy Will Displace Millions of Students Over The Next Decade; Inhibit Employer Needs For Job-Ready Workforce


Washington, D.C., March 14, 2014 – Following the public release of the gainful employment regulation NPRM, Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, released the following statement:

“The U.S. Department of Education’s actions confirm that they engaged in a sham negotiated rulemaking process with the sole goal of reaching a predetermined conclusion that will result in eliminating higher education access and opportunity for millions of students based on the type of institution they attend.

“The Department has never been interested in constructive input or ensuring that student access is protected. As a result, millions of new traditional students will lose access to postsecondary education and hundreds of thousands of dollars in lifetime earning potential.

“Stakeholders have repeatedly expressed concerns that this regulation would restrict access to postsecondary education for an increasingly diverse group of students, many of whom would not be able to attain education at another institution, either because of capacity, location, scheduling or financial aid.

“If the regulation were applied to all of higher education, programs like a bachelor’s degree in journalism from Northwestern University, a law degree from George Washington University Law School and a bachelor’s degree in social work from Virginia Commonwealth University, would all be penalized. The logic behind singling out our students and institutions despite this fact is discriminatory, punitive, and will lead to a higher education system that fails countless students.

“The Department should carefully listen to the input and concerns of those impacted by the regulation, something that has been missing from the rulemaking process to date, and either reverse course or modify the regulation to limit the impact on students.”