Orlando Sentinel: Misguided proposal would harm students: Front Burner

June 20, 2014

By Curtis Austin

In Florida, more than 300,000 students obtain their post-high-school education at career colleges. Many are from Central Florida, where 73,000 students choose to attend private, for-profit schools to gain skills necessary to change their lives through education and employment.

One of the best-kept secrets of higher education is that career schools have topped public institutions as the main producers of frontline talent. In 2012-13, career schools accounted for approximately 60 percent of all health-care and 60 percent of all computer and information-technology graduates in Florida. They accounted for 93 percent of cosmetology and 83 percent of culinary graduates.

Unfortunately, the U.S. Department of Education is promulgating a regulation known as "gainful employment" that would reduce postsecondary educational opportunities. The proposal would require graduates of career-oriented programs to meet arbitrary future income and student-loan debt-repayment thresholds. Programs failing the test would lose eligibility to participate in federal student-aid programs.

The regulation would hit the Orlando economy right where it lives. Orlando-area career-college programming is diverse, from in-demand skills areas such as medical assisting and information technology to highly specialized, niche employment fields such as digital animation and theatrical make-up and costuming.

The Department of Education has proposed the regulation as a way to protect students from unmanageable debt. The focus is right, but the solution is wrong. If implemented, this regulation would force many programs to close, creating a long-lasting and detrimental effect on students and businesses.

First, the regulation fails to address all student debt. Nearly 70 percent of student debt and more than half of student-loan defaults are attributed to students in traditional institutions. The way the regulation is crafted, degree programs at state colleges and universities are exempted.

Second, the rule fails to acknowledge the long-term value of education. A student loan may "pay off" more quickly for a registered nurse than for a schoolteacher, but both benefit tremendously from their education.

Third, gainful employment fails to recognize that the federal government is part of the problem. A Government Accounting Office report noted that the government made $66 billion from student loans in the past five years. This evidence flies in the face of the government's protests about debt default rates. Overcharging students just adds to the problem.

Better approaches exist to help students manage debt, including:

•Counseling individuals to budget their spending based on realistic income projections.

•Expanding income-based repayment programs so that graduates entering lower-paying fields are not penalized for their career choices.

•Adapting reforms to include student borrowers at all institutions.

•Limiting student loans to educational needs rather than the total amount students may be eligible for based on federal formulas.

•Reducing federal student-loan interest rates, lowering the risks involved in seeking education.

More than 100 Florida leaders, including Associated Industries of Florida, the Florida Hospital Association and the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association, recently asked the Department of Education to drop its proposal.

With more than 200 area schools serving thousands of students, career colleges are a critical part of Central Florida's postsecondary landscape and its work-force development infrastructure. With so much at stake, let's find better ways to address the debt issue.

Curtis Austin is executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges, the state's private career colleges.

News 13: Father Graduates College with 6 of his Family Members

It's a big milestone for anyone who walks across the stage during their college graduation, but for one family, big wasn't big enough.

Seven members of the same extended family graduated on the same night from Florida Technical College -- a first in FTC's history.

The family members say they never planned it, and initially didn't even know they were going to school at the same time.

"One day I was walking around school and all of sudden I see my aunt," said Jeannette.
Jeannette's dad, mom, sister, a second aunt and her cousin were also attending school.
They say being together actually helped them perform better in school.

"It was like a friendly competition, who did it better. You know, the grades," said Sonia Perez.
But the journey wasn't always easy. Still, the message this family wants to get across is that all it takes, is a little dedication, and hard work; but most importantly the support of each other.

From culinary arts, to cosmetology, to medical assistants; all seven members of the family proudly displayed their accomplishments showing anything is possible.

Direct link to article: http://mynews13.com/content/news/cfnews13/news/article.html/content/news/articles/cfn/2014/6/14/_7_family_members_gr.html

The Chronicle of Higher Education: Final Gainful-Employment Rule Is Expected in October

June 13, 2014

By Andy Thomason

The Department of Education plans to finalize its controversial gainful-employment rule in October, according to a notice scheduled for publication in Friday’s Federal Register. The rule, which proposes cutting off federal financial aid to programs whose graduates have high rates of default or high levels of student-loan debt relative to their incomes, has been the subject of long and contentious debate.

In 2012 a judge struck down parts of the proposed rule, which was then taken up by a panel of negotiators charged with designing a new one. Those sessions ended in deadlock. The department’s rewrite of the rule was open to public comment until late last month.

For-profit colleges have protested the draft rule, saying it would limit access to higher education for millions of students nationwide.

Direct link to article: http://chronicle.com/blogs/ticker/final-gainful-employment-rule-is-expected-in-october/79777

Black Press USA: Beyond the Rhetoric: ‘Gainful Employment’ Attacks Education Opportunities

June 9, 2014

By Harry C. Alford
NNPA Columnist

On March 17, Obama administration took aim at career colleges and schools across the country with a new raft of regulations that would displace millions of minority students, strain local economies and reduce overall access to education for all Americans. The administration’s proposed “gainful employment” rule is nothing short of a direct attack on private-sector schools, which have a long tradition of helping to provide opportunity for life improvement to the underserved in this country by providing them access to important vocational training and higher education that they would otherwise be unable to access.

The proposed rule targets programs offered at private-sector schools and colleges and would deprive them of access to Title IV federal student aid if they fail to meet certain arbitrary and arduous metrics. While the administration claims that these regulations will help lower student debt and single out “bad actors,” it neglects to mention that they will also shut down accredited programs with good outcomes and high pass rates on independent licensing exams, or force them to abandon their mission of serving many African-American, Latino and other minority students who otherwise would not have the opportunity to pursue a higher education. As the Washington Post editorial board recently noted, the current draft regulations would force schools to admit only low-risk students, making it harder for minorities, low-income people and nontraditional students to obtain the education needed to improve their lives.

Independent studies have shown that if the current draft of the rule were implemented as written, 42 percent of programs at proprietary schools would fail or be in the failing zone. This includes more than one-third of certificate programs, three-quarters of associate degree programs, one-fifth of bachelor degree programs and one-third of professional degree programs. Moreover, in excess of 1.1 million students that are currently enrolled in these programs would lose eligibility for Title IV federal student aid under the proposed regulations, many while in the middle of pursuing their education.

By singling out private-sector schools with this rule the administration shows a clear preference for public and non-profit colleges and universities, despite the fact that many of these schools perform no better, and in many cases, worse, than their private-sector peers. On top of that, community colleges would not even be able to absorb all of the students affected by the proposed rule. Many community colleges are already filled to capacity, and, in many case, making substantial cuts.

Despite concerns from industry experts and members of Congress, including members from the president’s own party, the Department of Education continues to push this regulation on the American people. Additionally, the Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, has attempted to back up the administration’s work with questionable, and sometimes false, statistics and misleading statements. Duncan claimed that 72 percent of graduates from for-profit programs earned less than high school dropouts, a statistic that was proven to be “bogus” by the experts at the Washington Post. Nevertheless, the Education Department has taken to social media to promote its fabricated numbers in an attempt to deceive the American public and damage the reputation of these important institutions.

Recent reports show that student’s aren’t enamored with the administration’s decisions, either. To the contrary, students realize that these regulations would not only hurt their own academic opportunities, but those of many future students and employers who rely on these important programs. CBS’s South Carolina affiliate television station recently captured comments from some of these students who are preparing for important careers in specific fields. “I believe that it not only just limits choice but it also limits creativity,” said one student studying fashion retail management.

Gutting important programs offered at private-sector institutions by denying students the financial aid they need does nothing to further the administration’s stated goals of improving access and affordability in higher education. Furthermore, the regulations would serve as another setback to the U.S. economy by adding to the skills gap we are currently experiencing in this country.

If the administration truly believes its rules to be so great, it would apply them equally to all institutions and end its crusade against private-sector institutions. In fact, as the administration develops its proposed college scorecard, if the metrics embodied in the gainful employment rule are a good measure of quality and outcomes for the private sector institutions, why not use those same metrics to measure the outcomes and quality of programs offered at traditional institutions, public and non-profit?   The 845-page draft gainful employment regulation fails to acknowledge the important role that private sector colleges and universities play in educating an often neglected segment of the U.S. population and shows just how out of touch the administration is with the American people. The administration should rethink its gainful employment rule if it truly wants to help students receive the education of their choice and expand opportunities for low-income minority Americans in higher education.

Harry C. Alford is the co-founder, President/CEO of the National Black Chamber of Commerce.  Website: www.nationalbcc.org. Email: halford@nationalbcc.org


Higher Education for All: Opposition To Gainful Employment Continues To Grow In Both Chambers And Both Parties

May 30, 2014

By APSCU Communications 
Two letters were sent from groups of Congressmen to Sec. Arne Duncan regarding the flawed gainful employment regulation.

First, a bi-partisan group of 40 House members (16 Democrats and 24 Republicans) wrote to Sec. Arne Duncan about the damaging effects of the gainful employment rule. They cited “widespread agreement that the punitive gainful employment regulation is the wrong track” and the proposed metrics’ “arbitrary thresholds that penalize certain institutions” as reasons to re-evaluate the regulation.

Second, a group of five Republican Senators wrote that “the proposed regulation will almost certainly deprive students of access to programs or institutions without adequate alternatives.” They also noted the Department’s lack of regard for the capacity gap in American higher education and the fact that the regulation does not fairly apply to all of higher education.

Click here to read the full House letter.

Click here to read the full Senate letter.

Members of Congress who signed either letter:
Rep. Andre Carson (IN-7)
Rep. Henry Cuellar (TX-28)
Rep. Theodore Deutch (FL-21)
Rep. Eliot Engel (NY-16)
Rep. Lois Frankel (FL-22)
Rep. Joe Garcia (FL-26)
Rep. Alan Grayson (FL-9)
Rep. Alcee Hastings (FL-20)
Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (AZ-1)
Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (NY-4)
Rep. Patrick Murphy (FL-18)
Rep. Loretta Sanchez (CA-46)
Rep. Robert “Bobby” Scott (VA-3)
Rep. Krysten Sinema (AZ-9)
Rep. Albio Sires (NJ-8)
Rep. Mark Veasey (TX-33)
Sen. Lamar Alexander (TN)
Sen. Richard Burr (NC)
Sen. Mike Enzi (WY)
Sen. Mark Kirk (IL)
Sen. Marco Rubio (FL)
Rep. Lou Barletta (PA-11)
Rep. Susan Brooks (IN-5)
Rep. Larry Bushon (IN-8)
Rep. Bradley Byrne (AL-1)
Rep. Charles Dent (PA-15)
Rep. Scott DesJarlais (TN-4)
Rep. Virginia Foxx (NC-5)
Rep. Brett Guthrie (KY-2)
Rep. Joseph Heck (NV-3)
Rep. John Kline (MN-2)
Rep. Kenny Marchant (TX-24)
Rep. Patrick McHenry (NC-10)
Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon (CA-25)
Rep. Luke Messer (IN-6)
Rep. Thomas Petri (WI-6)
Rep. Robert Pittenger (NC-9)
Rep. Tom Price (GA-6)
Rep. David Roe (TN-1)
Rep. Todd Rokita (IN-4)
Rep. Matt Salmon (AZ-5)
Rep. Bill Shuster (PA-9)
Rep. Glenn Thompson (PA-5)
Rep. Tim Walberg (MI-7)
Rep. Joe Wilson (SC-2)