The recent editorial in The Washington Post
fairly expressed concern about the Education Department’s proposed rule
on gainful employment, which conspicuously targets the for-profit
sector. The U.S. Chamber agrees with the sentiment expressed and would
add a critical concern—limiting opportunities to close the pervasive
skills gap and provide critical pathways for gaining the education and
skills individuals need, and employers require, is extremely short-sided
in today’s economy.
Too often—in good economic times and in bad—low-income populations
are hit the hardest and the consequences of this ruling are no
exception. As our country faces an increasingly widening skills gap, now
hardly seems the time to strip at-risk students of opportunities for
educational equality. A high school diploma simply won’t get a foot in
the door; a postsecondary credential or training is now the bare minimum
to even be considered for a job.
For-profit institutions do serve at-risk student populations—and
rightfully tout that as a reason for their existence. These institutions
are often the first, along with community colleges, to answer the call
of employers when they require training to skill up their workforce or
recruit new employees. Our economy depends on a variety of educational
providers to address the needs of working adults—providers that can meet
them where they are—at home, at night, while juggling a family and a
We agree that poor programs should be evaluated and in some cases,
weeded out. But by no means should such a practice be limited to one
sector over another. If we are truly going to “put higher education on
notice,” why propose an arbitrary regulation that does nothing to
address quality, provide greater accountability, or even address the
rising costs of higher education? Business and education providers alike
would greatly benefit from better alignment between the classroom and
the workforce. But that’s not what the gainful employment test would do.
We need to refocus attention on our end goal: making sure all students, no matter their financial situation or age, have an opportunity to improve their lives through education.
Simply put, the gainful employment rule will place additional
barriers on an already difficult to reach population. We’re interested
in looking for ways to expand access and success for low-income
students, not limit them.