USA Today: Marco Rubio wants to expand for-profit schools' role in higher education

Ledyard King, USATODAY 6:20 p.m. EST December 4, 2015

WASHINGTON — On the presidential campaign trail, Marco Rubio likes to poke fun at a higher education system that he says churns out droves of liberal arts majors saddled with student loan debt and dim job prospects.

The Florida senator and Republican presidential candidate says the nation needs more welders and fewer philosophers.

Rubio should know about leaving school with a pile of debt. On the day he was sworn into the Senate in 2011, he owed more than $100,000 in student loans after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Florida in 1993 and a law degree from the University of Miami in 1996.

It helps explain why he's so critical of federal student loan programs, which he says unfairly favor four-year colleges.
Rubio wants to change accreditation rules to let more vocational schools and online universities take advantage of the roughly $130 billion a year in federal loans and grants — but only if they meet certain benchmarks tied to student outcomes and debt repayment.

“Although these programs have proven to hold great promise, they are neglected by our current higher-education system,” Rubio wrote in a recent column for the National Review. “These innovative providers cannot compete with the cartel of existing brick-and-mortar colleges and universities that dominates the accreditation process and shields our higher-education system from reform, competition, and accountability.”

Schools win accreditation if they meet or exceed federally approved standards that are set by regional boards, whose members come from already accredited schools.

Schools must be accredited to qualify for federal financial aid, including Pell Grants. Because four-year schools help set the standards, many alternative private schools and academies specializing in career training have had a difficult time winning accreditation.

Critics of Rubio’s proposal say it would benefit for-profit schools that have come under sharp scrutiny by government regulators for high-pressure recruiting tactics and failure to deliver on their promises of success in the job market.

That's why the Obama administration implemented a rule July 1 saying colleges and universities must prepare students for "gainful employment in a recognized occupation" before students at those schools can qualify for federal aid.

Programs are considered in compliance if a typical graduate's annual loan payments don't exceed 20% of discretionary income or 8% of total earnings.

Students at for-profit schools represent about 11% of the higher-education population but account for 44% of federal student loan defaults, according to the Education Department.

The answer is to reduce — not increase — federal aid to for-profit schools, said Whitney Barkley, legislative policy counsel for the Center for Responsible Lending.

“This is a spigot issue," Barkley said Tuesday during a forum on student debt at the liberal Center for American Progress. "The problem is there are federal dollars flowing into unscrupulous schools and somebody needs to turn them off. We turn the spigot off and the problem goes away.”

Rubio’s support for for-profit institutions isn't unusual considering he represents a state where almost 18% of about 1.7 million college students attended for-profit schools during the 2012-13 academic year, according to federal data. Nationwide, about 12% of college students attend for-profit schools

Rubio went out of his way to help one for-profit school — Corinthian Colleges — when California state regulators and federal education officials investigated it last year for false advertising, deceptive marketing and misrepresenting job placement rates.

Last year, Rubio asked the Education Department to “demonstrate leniency” after regulators restricted Corinthian’s access to federal financial aid.

“Of utmost concern is the thousands of students attending 14 Corinthian-affiliated campuses throughout the state of Florida,” Rubio wrote in a June 20, 2014, letter.

“It would be nothing less than an injustice to disrupt the educational endeavor of those students who are seeking to better their futures by effectively forcing Corinthian to shut their doors.”

That letter — combined with the $15,000 Corinthian donated to Rubio and his leadership PAC from 2010 to 2013 — have fueled criticism of Rubio's advocacy on behalf of for-profit schools.

Corinthian shut down in April after it was fined $30 million by the Education Department. The government’s decision to forgive the federal loans of students who attended Corinthian or one its affiliates could cost taxpayers tens of millions, Education Undersecretary Ted Mitchell told reporters in June.

The head of the trade group that represents for-profit schools said the Obama administration has waged “an ideological war” on the industry, noting that more than 500 campuses have closed since 2009.

Former GOP congressman Steve Gunderson of Wisconsin, now president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, praised Rubio for seeing the “bigger picture” on higher education.

“He is the one candidate of either party that’s really raising that issue and is addressing what clearly the data shows is going to be an emerging skill gap over the next few years as baby boomers retire and as new jobs require additional skills,” Gunderson said.

Rubio has teamed with Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado on a bill that would benefit a number of alternative higher education programs currently ineligible for federal student aid. The measure would allow them access to such aid if they demonstrate “high student outcomes, including student learning, completion, and return on investment,” according to Bennet’s office.

The bill would create a new accrediting authority using more expansive criteria — such as job placement rates and student loan repayment rates — than those used by the regional boards.

The proposal gets a thumbs-up from Amy Laitinen, who handles higher education issues at New America, a Washington think tank.

Current accreditation rules rely on irrelevant yardsticks such as the number of books in a university library and the percentage of faculty holding Ph.D.s, said Laitinen, a former higher-education policy adviser in the Obama administration. Those metrics “have nothing to do with whether or not students are learning anything and whether or not they’re getting a good value on their education,” she said.

“I actually think this is an attempt to make accreditation meaningful,” Laitinen said of the Rubio-Bennet proposal. “If (Rubio) was just saying, let’s let new providers in the market and give them money, I would say absolutely not. That’s a terrible idea. But if you’re saying we’re going to hold them to a higher standard than we hold traditional higher ed, then yeah, absolutely, because we don’t hold higher ed to any standards at this point.”

Contributing Fredreka Schouten and Bill Theobald, USA TODAY

Tampa Bay Times: For-profit college seeks access to Florida dual enrollment program

October 16, 2015

Jeffrey S. Solochek, Times Staff Writer

Over the past several months, he's talked with Pasco school district officials about getting juniors and seniors from nearby Sunlake High School to participate in Rasmussen's early honors program. The teens would take one college course per quarter at no charge, with the district covering the instructional materials costs.

Knobl envisioned the process working withing Florida's dual enrollment model. That's where students substitute state college or university courses for high school classes, free of charge to the students.

There's a sticking point, though, and it's in state law. For-profit colleges that are not accredited by the Commission on Colleges of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools or the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools are not eligible to participate in dual enrollment.

"We're handcuffing parents and kids," said Knobl, who's begun lobbying state Sen. John Legg to rewrite the rules.

Legg, who chairs the Senate Education Committee, said for-profits have floated this idea for the past couple of years, primarily in the Florida House. He did not discount the concept, but said he suspected if dual enrollment were to expand, the state's independent non-profit schools would be next in line to participate.

St. Leo University, also in Pasco County, has asked to get into the system as well, he said. The for-profits, some of which have been blasted for predatory admission and lending practices, would be the last layer, he said.

"I don't see it happening this year," Legg said. "I can't say it will never happen."

Knobl remained hopeful that his efforts will pay off at some point, saying the real benefactors will be the students who otherwise might not be able to get to college.

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 [Last modified: Friday, October 16, 2015 11:25am]

APSCU Press Release: APSCU Statement on Obama Administration Community College Announcement

09 Sep 2015 /By APSCU Communications 
Washington, D.C., September 9, 2015—APSCU president and CEO Steve Gunderson released the following statement today:

“Today’s announcement by the Administration is just the latest extension of its multiyear effort against private sector participation in the delivery of higher education. While pushing down private sector institutions, the Administration continues to lift up the concept of free community college as the only solution for new traditional students. In doing so, they continue to ignore the millions of students who depend upon alternative education options created around career education.

“The reality is that new traditional students want accelerated, focused programs that move them from the classroom to their new careers as quickly as possible. The promise of ‘free community college for all’ papers over the reality that enacting such a program would come with an astronomical price tag for taxpayers.

“Instead of the Administration picking winners and losers based on politics instead of outcomes, they should work with Congress to lift up the diversity of America’s higher education system and advance policies that provide access and opportunity for all students.”

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APSCU: Private Sector Institutions Fill Critical Job Gaps in Cyber Security and IT

18 Aug 2015 /By APSCU Communications 
With recent headlines on high-profile security breaches at the highest levels of government and business, it is not surprising that demand for trained cyber security professionals is growing. As a result, employers are struggling to find qualified people to fill vacant information technology and security positions. Private sector institutions are responding to this demand, as they play an outsize role in educating America’s IT and cyber security professionals and providing employers with job-ready employees.

As has been stated before, private sector institutions prepare students for jobs in a range of high-demand fields, thus strengthening the education of the 21st century American workforce. Additionally, when it comes to high-demand professions, graduates see significant earnings gains. For information technology and cyber security, the contributions of the private sector are particularly significant.

Given their relative representation in higher education, private sector institutions graduate high numbers of students with job-ready credentials in computer science. Private sector institutions awarded approximately 16 percent of all higher education degrees/certificates completed in 2012-13, while 24 percent of students who received degrees/certificates in Computer and Information/Support Services attended private sector institutions.
Computer Services Degree Data
Private sector institutions’ disproportionate role in educating these students is especially important when considering a recent report from Burning Glass, which said, “Because cybersecurity jobs require years of training and relevant experience, skills gaps cannot easily be resolved though short-term solutions. Employers and training providers must work together to cultivate a talent pipeline for these critical roles.”

As businesses looks to meet their cyber and IT employment needs, private sector institutions are carrying more than their weight in preparing qualified industry professionals. After all, this is the nature of the private sector—responding to the needs of employers and students by providing valuable career-oriented educations that fill critical skills gaps.

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APSCU: Association to Focus on Postsecondary Career Education

Washington, D.C., July 14, 2015—The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities announced today plans to focus its collective work on postsecondary education with career skills, in response to the essential need to empower 55 million new workers with the skills by 2020.

The Association’s Board of Directors, in a meeting this week, directed the creation of a new organizational mission that emphasizes postsecondary career education.

Steve Gunderson, president and CEO said, “The reality is that over time, just as the students served by our institutions have diversified, our membership has diversified. Now is the time for us to act with an even greater focus on the importance of career education. Our organization’s mission, purpose, and structure must reflect the diversity of our members, the students they serve, and the employers that hire our graduates.”

“The reality is that some private sector institutions are becoming more closely aligned with traditional education programming and online services for students. Our Association recognizes that we’ll never create a new middle class until we adequately equip millions of Americans with in-demand career skills,” Gunderson added.

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Orange County Register: After Corinthian, scrutiny on college grad jobs may widen

July 12, 2015

By: Jodie Tillman/Staff Writer

This month, a regulation went into effect cutting federal money to career-training programs whose graduates – like many of those from shuttered Corinthian Colleges – can’t find decent jobs.

The Obama administration touted the new rule as its signature effort to make the for-profit college industry more accountable. But to some, the new “gainful employment” rule raises a question:

Why stop with career schools?

Law schools, graduate programs and undergraduate degrees in such career-oriented majors as social work could use additional scrutiny of their graduates’ abilities to pay off their debts, experts say.

But such programs tend to be located at public and private, nonprofit colleges – like University of California schools or Chapman University – whose degree programs aren’t affected by the new rule.

“There is broad movement toward accountability in higher education, outside of the for-profit sector,” said Mamie Voight, director of policy research at the Institute for Higher Education Policy.

The Obama administration, amid pressure from public and nonprofit colleges, last month canned the closest proposal it had for measuring performance at all schools.

The proposed broader ratings system would have tracked student debt, among other metrics. Higher education institutions panned the tool as impractical and unfair, saying data among schools aren’t uniform.

Unlike the new rule aimed at the for-profit schools, the broader rating system did not tie outcomes to federal funds. But it might have amounted to a public “shame list” for colleges that did not fare well, said Rachel Fishman, a senior analyst with the New America public policy institute.

Still, the new gainful employment rule that covers for-profit schools marks the first major instance that the federal government will measure the value of an academic program by linking student investment and outcome. While the federal government has said it has no plans to extend the rule for non-vocational programs, the momentum could be headed that way.

If that happens, expect the entire higher education field to put up a fight, Fishman said.

“The higher education lobby is very powerful,” she said. “They’re very good at preventing accountability.”

‘Gainful employment’

The new regulation requires that career education programs track their graduates’ performance in the workforce. Now, the programs won’t be able to accept federal student aid – long the lifeline of the for-profit schools – if too many graduates are spending more than 20 percent of their discretionary income, or more than 8 percent of their total income, paying off loans.

By federal estimates, at least 1,400 programs across the nation will fail the test. Those programs could lose eligibility for federal funds as early as 2018.

At for-profit colleges, the rule applies to all non-liberal arts degrees. At public and private, nonprofit colleges, the rule applies only to non-degree programs, such as a medical assistant certificate.

The upshot? A nursing degree program at, say, the University of Phoenix now risks losing access to federal student aid money if too many graduates leave with debt they can’t repay. A nursing program at UC Irvine or Brandman University does not.

California’s community colleges have already started tracking that information for degrees and certificates.

Two years ago, the system began investing in data tools including Salary Surfer, which tracks actual wages of graduates mapped against their degrees and certificates.

“The new federal rules change only what the California Community Colleges system has already begun to do,” said spokeswoman Paige Marlatt Dorr.

The for-profit industry says it’s being singled out and has fought the gainful employment rule in court. It also says the federal government is wrong to use early-year earnings rather than track salaries over time.

In its publicity materials, its industry group quotes leaders from Harvard and UC Berkeley saying that the earnings in a first job are a poor proxy for measuring the value of a degree.

Noah Black, spokesman for Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, says there are public and nonprofit programs that wouldn’t pass muster under the gainful employment rule.

Among them are George Washington University’s prestigious law school and a social work program at University of Texas in Austin, according to an analysis performed by the association.

“But we are education companies,” Black said, “and that seems to be the issue.”

‘No paying customers’

The for-profit industry has been caught in an implosion fueled primarily by the downfall of Santa Ana-based Corinthian, which stood accused of misrepresenting job placement rates and loading up students with insurmountable amounts of debt.

Barmak Nassirian, director of federal policy at the American Association of State Universities and Colleges, said the for-profit industry’s heavy reliance on student aid is a key reason they deserve additional scrutiny.

Members of his group, all public universities, face demands by state governments, which hold their purse strings.

“How come these programs can find no paying customers but student aid?” he said.

Still, that’s not true only in the for-profit world. Brandman University, a career-oriented college system affiliated with Chapman University, derives around 80 percent of its tuition and fees from federal loans and grants – a percentage similar to many in the for-profit sector.

That amounted to about $71 million in the 2013 fiscal year, said officials at the Irvine-based system. But Brandman cites its relatively low loan-default rate – 3.5 percent – as evidence that it’s in a different league than for-profit career schools.

“We’re really focused on our students’ success,” said Saskia Knight, executive vice chancellor for enrollment and student affairs

Nassirian said the public and nonprofit universities welcome additional scrutiny.

He called Obama’s college ratings idea “a non-starter because the federal government can’t do it. It’s too complicated a task.”

UC President Janet Napolitano was one of the ratings plan’s early critics. Last week, she said in a statement that officials need to rethink the approach.

“While I had expressed skepticism about the feasibility of a single ratings system for the wide variety of institutions across the United States,” she said, “we at the University of California support the administration’s goal of improving transparency.”

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The Hill: The real issue is still real jobs

July 08, 2015

By Steve Gunderson

In a recent commentary, Education Secretary Arne Duncan painted the U.S. Department of Education’s closing of Corinthian Colleges as “the right thing to do.” The Department’s clumsy response left tens of thousands of students halfway through their programs with nowhere to go. Even if one believes the Department’s actions were appropriate, no fair-minded person would suggest that a "bad institution” defines an entire sector of higher education, but this is what the Secretary does. As the Department continues to defend its actions, the Secretary overlooks clear evidence that private sector institutions do a far better job of preparing tomorrow's workforce than their public sector peers.

Compared to public and private non-profit institutions, private sector institutions educate far more new traditional students. Eighty percent of students at private sector institutions are on their own financially, compared to 49 and 34 percent at public and private non-profits, respectively. Similarly, 63 percent are over the age of 25, 50 percent have children, and 35 percent are working full time. Public and private non-profit schools don't come close to serving these students who are often struggling to juggle family, work, and school.

Private sector institutions also outperform other sectors in terms of outcomes. Two-year private sector institutions have graduation rates three times higher than community colleges, while borrowers default at lower rates. Even when the community colleges' performance is rated generously, they fall drastically short of the private sector. Additionally, private sector institutions offer credentials in high demand fields, such as business, technology, and healthcare, at a rate that far outpaces public institutions – 66 to 39 percent. Graduates of private sector institutions also experience significant earnings boosts. For some programs, these gains can approach a 100 percent increase in earnings for graduates. For students, that is the difference between welfare and a path to the middle class.

The Department continues to attempt to distract from the mistakes it made in the actions that resulted in the forced shutdown of Corinthian by lobbing accusations and fines. But there is no distracting from the fact that their approach has left tens of thousands of students' degrees in jeopardy and may have even discounted the degrees of students who had already gone on to graduate and seek employment.

In 1992, then candidate Bill Clinton coined and campaigned around a phrase now registered in the lexicon of political history: "It's the economy, stupid!"

The words resonate today as the current Administration pursues its attack on our nation’s career colleges through the gainful employment regulation, which will shut-off access to over a thousand programs at private sector institutions and deny over three million students access to higher education. Secretary Duncan is actively lobbying against bipartisan legislation that would stop a series of overreaching and destructive regulations. In doing so, the Administration is attempting to block Americans from an education and job opportunity.

During the recession, America lost 9.3 percent of its middle-skills jobs, but in the first four years after the recession, only 1.9 percent of these jobs were recovered. This is due, in part, to the lack of career-oriented opportunities that traditional colleges and universities offer to new traditional students and also the lackluster economic recovery since the recession. In this respect, the administration's attacks on private sector institutions are troublesome in two regards. First, private sector institutions are specifically geared toward career-oriented and middle skills education – seeking to shut them down will only exacerbate the shortfall in skilled workers. Second, the Administration seems to be ignoring the role it has played in the sluggish economy.

Right now, America is losing the battle for real and sustained job growth, especially middle-skills jobs that are essential for the development of a new middle class. The key to winning this battle is providing the opportunity of higher education for all. Private sector institutions and career colleges provide that opportunity. These institutions serve the students left behind by traditional higher education. New traditional students are the new normal, and as a nation we must stop discounting the value they can bring to our economy if given access to higher education.

The current efforts in Congress to suspend this regulation are actually far more thoughtful than the ideological attacks and “reauthorization by regulation” approach that the administration is currently undertaking.

Leaders in Congress have made clear their intent to address the Department’s regulatory overreach, as well as create a better system of student disclosures and protection, as part of reauthorize the Higher Education Act in this session of Congress.  Therefore, it makes little sense for the Department to begin implementing rules and reporting requirements for a few months prior to reauthorization being completed.

To that end, the Department should engage with Congress and other higher education stakeholders on the reauthorization of the Higher Education Act in a way that creates a path to real skills for real jobs and a real chance for a place in America’s middle class.

Gunderson is president and CEO of the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities.

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APSCU Press Release: APSCU To Appeal Gainful Employment Regulation Litigation

Washington, D.C., July 2, 2015—Today, the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) filed a notice of its intent to appeal the District Court ruling in APSCU v. Duncan.  APSCU President and CEO Steve Gunderson released the following statement:
"The gainful employment regulation will impact millions of students enrolled in thousands of programs over the next decade.  We believe this regulation is arbitrary and capricious and in violation of federal law. The regulation is harmful to students and inconsistent with the intent of the Congress under the Higher Education Act.  It needlessly complicates the efforts of new traditional students to achieve a career-focused education that helps them get jobs and we will continue to fight to keep opportunities open for students who are often struggling to juggle family, work, and school."

The Chronicle of Higher Education:Gainful-Employment Rule Survives For-Profit Group’s Court Challenge

 June 24, 2015

[Last updated at 8 p.m., 6/23/2015, with additional comments about the proposed rule and its effect.]

The U.S. Education Department’s gainful-employment rule is one step closer to taking effect.

A federal judge on Tuesday rejected a serious legal challenge, brought by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities, to the controversial rule. The lobbying group’s lawsuit was the highest hurdle remaining for the proposed rule, which will judge career-oriented programs on their graduates’ ability to repay their student loans. The rule is slated to take effect on July 1.

The department originally introduced the rule in 2011. The effort was dealt a major setback a year later, when a section of the rule was thrown out as a result of an earlier court challenge by the association, the main lobbying group for for-profit colleges. The group’s second challenge, to a revised rule, used many of the same arguments, asserting that the department had exceeded its authority in issuing the rule and that the rule was capricious and arbitrary.

In his ruling on Tuesday, Judge John D. Bates of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia dismissed those claims, saying the association “throws a host of arbitrary-or-capricious arguments against the wall in hope of a different outcome. None of them stick.”

Arne Duncan, the secretary of education, said in a written statement that the ruling was “a win for America’s students and taxpayers.” He added that every student “who enrolls in college of any kind deserves a fair shot at a degree or credential that equips them for success,” and said the department would “continue to fight until that’s a reality.”

Also in a written statement, the private-sector association’s general counsel, Sally Stroup, said the group was “disappointed” in the court’s decision and was considering its options. “Indeed, as numerous commentators have observed, the primary impact of the regulation will be to deprive hundreds of thousands of students of access to higher education,” she added.

The final rule, which was released last fall, is expected to cause 1,400 programs, 99 percent of them at for-profit colleges, to be put at risk of losing eligibility for federal student aid.

The victory for the department occurred on the same day a committee of the U.S. Senate approved a spending bill that would ax the gainful-employment rule and the department’s college-ratings plan.

Young Invincibles, a nonprofit group that lobbied for a tough gainful-employment rule last year, said in a statement on Tuesday evening that lawmakers “should allow the rule to go into effect — as planned — on July 1. It’s long past time for failing programs to be held accountable.”

Terry W. Hartle, senior vice president for government and public affairs at the American Council on Education, said the court’s ruling “was not a great surprise” because after the first rule was thrown out on legal grounds, “the department went to great lengths to make its regulation legally bulletproof.”

Mr. Hartle, whose organization has endorsed proposals to eliminate a number of Education Department regulations, including this one and the proposed college-ratings system, said he was not sure if the regulation would achieve the results its backers want. “No one really knows what the impact will be,” he said.

“It will create burdens for institutions,” he said, referring to the extra administrative and reporting requirements for many community colleges that offer career-focused certificate programs. Few such programs were predicted to fail any of the gainful-employment tests because those colleges don’t charge as much as for-profit colleges do. But community colleges are still required to administer the rule. And he said, “it may or may not provide information that will influence student decision making.”

Mr. Hartle also noted that many advocates of the rule were concerned that the revised regulation wasn’t tough enough to close down programs that are costly to students and leave them too deeply in debt. But after years of legal wrangling over the regulation, he said, “today’s decision pretty much guarantees that we’ll find out.”

Several for-profit-college companies said they had already taken steps in anticipation of the regulation, in some cases eliminating high-priced programs. Some, like ITT Educational Services, said they had also increased their spending on scholarships, which has reduced debt levels for students.

Despite the concerns of some student and consumer advocates over potential weaknesses in the regulation, Kevin Kinser, an associate professor at the State University of New York at Albany who studies for-profit colleges, said the revised rule was a step forward.

“There are very few ways to hold institutions accountable for the financial aid they are given,” Mr. Kinser wrote in an email to The Chronicle. “So now the Department of Education has another one. It’s the ‘skin in the game’ that Arne Duncan keeps talking about.”

“That said,” he added, “it’s pretty weak tea as far as immediate impact. But it’s a model for other kinds of accountability measures that could transform financial-aid policy from being only about access to something that actually cares about outcomes as well. That is something that all of higher education — not just the for-profits — should watch for.”

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APSCU: Statement on APSCU v. Duncan

Washington, D.C., June 23, 2015—Following today's ruling in APSCU v. Duncan, APSCU's General Counsel Sally Stroup released the following statement:

"We are disappointed by today's decision from the District Court for the District of Columbia. We are closely reviewing the opinion and considering our options. This case presents very serious legal issues, of great significance not only to APSCU's members, but also to students.

"Indeed, as numerous commentators have observed, the primary impact of the regulation will be to deprive hundreds of thousands of students of access to higher education. That is inconsistent with the congressional plan under the Higher Education Act, unlawful, and bad policy."

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The Daily Caller: A Pincer Movement: U.S. Department of Education vs. For-Profit Schools

June 16, 2015

Glenn Bogart, Contributor 

Recently a Federal District Court in New York ruled against a coalition of New York private for-profit colleges in a suit where they sought relief from the U.S. Department of Education’s “gainful employment” rule, which is set to take effect in July of 2015. But that isn’t the end of this controversy. Another lawsuit is being decided by the Federal District Court for the District of Columbia — which was brought by the Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) on behalf of its member schools all over the country. That’s the suit people in this industry are following. It’s their last hope, unless Congress acts, and it seems unlikely that even congressional action would survive a presidential veto.

The gainful employment rule, in the current incarnation and in the previous one (which was vacated in an earlier lawsuit) seeks to eliminate from participation in the federal student aid programs (Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, etc.) certain educational programs where the graduates of these programs allegedly do not earn enough money to make their student loan payments. It affects private for-profit schools overwhelmingly. That’s the short version.  But there is a lot more to this, than just that. There is actually a pincer movement, or squeeze, being pursued by the federal government in order to destroy these for-profit schools. First there was the 90/10 rule, and now there is the gainful employment rule. One has to look at these two things together in order to understand what the government is doing here.

The “90/10 rule” requires for-profit schools, if they wish have their students continue to be able to receive Pell Grants and federal student loans, to receive at least 10 percent of their tuition revenue from sources other than the federal student aid programs. Because many first-year students can receive more than $15,000 in federal student aid per academic year, these schools have to charge a bit more than that, so as to be sure students have to pay some cash for tuition on top of what they can get from Uncle Sam. This rule has been around for years.

And it’s insane. It almost guarantees that such schools will have to increase tuition in order to survive. If you’re a for-profit school, even if you could do just fine on the amount of money your students could bring in in federal student aid, you have to charge more than that if you want to stay in business — because otherwise, your students will lose their ability to get federal student aid, and if that happens, you can’t compete. Thanks, Congress, for making sure tuition is higher than it needs to be at these schools, just to be able to comply with this rule. Nice work. Imagine how grateful the students would be if they understood what you have done. They’re paying up to 10 percent more in tuition, just so their schools can meet this artificial requirement.

But now, there’s a “gainful employment rule” on top of that. Gainful employment requires that these schools’ educational programs graduate students who are able to earn enough, in their first jobs after school, so that their student loan payments will not exceed 8 percent of their incomes, or 12 percent of their “disposable incomes.”

So we have federal pressure both to increase tuition (to meet the 90/10 requirement) and to decrease it (to make it more affordable, so that graduates will not have student loan payments that are “too high,” according to an arbitrary formula developed pretty much out of thin air by the U.S. Department of Education).

At least the 90-10 rule has the benefit of having been passed by Congress. People in the industry don’t like it, and it’s pretty stupid, but it’s really a law. But the “gainful employment” rule cannot boast of the same. It is strictly the invention of the Department of Education.

op-ed: Miami Herald: Career-college grads contribute greatly to state’s economy

Career colleges and universities play a major role in educating Florida residents, and the results speak for themselves. In the past five years, more than 500,000 graduates have completed degree and certificate programs for jobs critical to Florida’s economy.

The person who takes your temperature at the doctor’s office, the person at your computer help desk, the person who cuts your hair and the person who prepared your meal most likely graduated in Florida from a career school.

Graduation rates for students in two-year programs at career colleges — the majority of our students — are three times the rates of comparable public two-year institutions, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Our students who earn their bachelor’s degree earn substantially higher incomes than state university graduates as documented by the National Center for Education Statistics last December.

Florida’s private, taxpaying, postsecondary institutions educate more than 60 percent of Florida’s information-technology and healthcare graduates, more than 80 percent of the state’s culinary and commercial truck driver graduates and more than 90 percent of its cosmetology graduates.

The Miami Herald found such a track record unworthy of reporting, but focused instead on 158 student complaints over an 18-month period in three South Florida counties that served over 108,000 students.

Statewide, fewer than one of every thousand student have complained to regulators about any issues regarding their experiences.

The stories in the Herald series Higher Ed Hustle failed to point out that 80 percent of schools have zero complaints filed with regulators.

Every student deserves a high quality education. Valid issues that students face should be resolved. Multiple safeguards exist to assure that this is the case, including those provided by the institution, the independent accrediting body and the state.

Regarding the complaints in question, all were reviewed by the state regulator, the Commission for Independent Education (CIE). The CIE invited the Herald reporter to show one instance in which the law or state regulation was not enforced in any complaint closed by the CIE. The reporter failed to respond. Instead, he chose to retry complaint cases without balancing the story.

The reporter also failed to recognize that, in 2009, the state was facing a looming workforce crisis, forcing the state’s healthcare facilities to actively recruit nurses from other states and foreign countries. After the Florida Center for Nursing projected increasingly large deficits in Licensed Practical Nurses (LPNs) and Registered Nurses (RNs), the Florida Legislature allowed career colleges to increase their offerings in nursing. There were few dollars in the state budget available to address the need.

Without taxpayer expense, private college students have become a key part of the solution to the critical shortage in nurses. Since 2009, virtually all the growth in nursing in Florida has come from private colleges. Private career colleges and schools produced 10,000 more nurses from 2009 to 2014 than they did in 2008. The state universities and community colleges increased the number of nurses they were producing by fewer than 1,500 over the six-year period.

More than 20,000 educators and college staff work in Florida’s private schools and universities to ensure the success of the students we serve.

Most of our students are not right out of high school, but have jobs and families. Many of them are the first in their families to pursue an education beyond high school.

Our students are adults with adult responsibilities and an adult’s perspective on making the right postsecondary choices. They choose our schools for year-round enrollment, flexible course scheduling, convenient campus locations and online offerings.

We want every student to have the opportunity to work hard and succeed. Their education opens doors that would otherwise be shut.

The Miami Herald used a lot of ink to highlight exceptions to the rule, failing to recognize accomplishments of thousands of productive, working Floridians and their contributions to our state.

Curtis Austin is the executive director of the Florida Association of Postsecondary Schools and Colleges (FAPSC) in Tallahassee, Florida.

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APSCU: Private Sector Institutions Set Up Their Students For Success

04 May 2015 /By APSCU Communications 
Experts agree: individuals who decide to further their educations by attending postsecondary institutions are making worthwhile investments that pay off in the long-run. Research shows that individuals who obtain a bachelor’s degree experience a lifetime earnings increase of roughly $1 million compared to individuals with a high school degree.

As has been previously explained on this blog, private sector institutions are no different when it comes to providing students who earn degrees with significant earnings boosts. Many of these students are new traditional students who have been traditionally underserved by public and private nonprofit higher education institutions. Private sector institutions have been more responsive in meeting the needs of these new traditional students, and, as a result, have prepared many individuals to become professionals in high-demand fields.

As seen in the infographic below, a number of metrics support the fact that private sector institutions are increasingly setting their students up for success. By doing so, private sector institutions are justifying the growing number of experts that extol the benefits of an investment in higher education.

APSCU_infographics_v6 Infographic 3

op-ed Miami Herald:Opinion: For-profit colleges’ success ignored

May 02, 2015

I have spent decades at the top of two businesses that were juxtaposed on your front page last week: journalism and for-profit education. I had the honor of being publisher of The Washington Post for more than 20 years and the CEO of the company that owned it for 22. And I now have the equal honor of being CEO of the company that owns Kaplan University, which is one of the many colleges mentioned in your series.

Reading your series has made me sad indeed for one of my two professions.

Every journalist knows that he or she is supposed to report all sides of a story. In this case the reporter wrote an account of his own work — How the Higher Ed Hustle was reported. Every word is devoted to his efforts to learn what critics of the industry had to say. If he lifted a finger to learn whether any for-profit colleges in fact do a good job educating their students, he forgot to say so.

In other words, reporting on a story that has more than one side, the Herald’s reporter wanted to know only one. Every word of his series reeks of this. Every charge — from plaintiffs’ attorneys, former employees who were fired (though the Herald’s readers were not permitted to know they were discharged) and lifelong critics of the industry — is treated reverently. The few scraps of evidence of another side are treated contemptuously. If a politician doesn’t agree with the critics of the industry, it must be because he or she has received a microscopic percentage of his or her campaign contributions from those connected to us. (For the record, neither I nor Kaplan has ever contributed to a Florida politician).

So help me: “Not all students at for-profit colleges have a bad experience” is the start of the first quasi-positive paragraph in the first article — and it appears in the 27th paragraph of a story that begins with a stripper recruiting students to a long-defunct college and goes on to other horror stories. And after that short, lonely paragraph, the horror stories resume. One story (among nine!) about two students who experienced some success at for-profits is presented under the headline Industry Touts Success Stories.

When he contacted Kaplan for comment on some of the material he mentioned in his articles, the reporter said he had been working on the series since July.

The call came in February.

He worked for more than half a year on a story about colleges before he actually called the colleges.
Is there another side to the story? Well …

There are 2 million students attending for-profit colleges. Does the editor of the Miami Herald think that all were tricked or deluded into enrolling? Isn’t it likelier that most were well aware of their alternatives and made what they considered the best choice for them? Isn’t yours (as the Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year says in the 13th paragraph of one of the articles) a snob’s position — that poor students cannot understand their choices as well as you can?
In fact, they do.
I cannot speak for all the colleges your reporter writes about (though I do not believe a word he writes). Kaplan University is a decent place trying to offer a good education to its students and thereby improve their lives. When we fail (and your reporter points to one student who is disappointed with her education), they and I are bitterly sorry. But it is fair to ask: Is that student typical? How many are disappointed and how many benefit?

Over the last few years, Kaplan University — the same place referred to multiple times in your stories — surveyed all those who have graduated from the school. Not all replied, of course, but more than 17,000 did. This is not a scientific random sample; it’s possible it was disposed toward those who liked the place. But 17,000 people responding to a survey isn’t casual evidence, either. Here is what the most recently surveyed students had to say:

▪ 88.6 percent agreed or strongly agreed with, “Overall I am satisfied with my experience at Kaplan University.”
▪ 84.6 percent said, “I would recommend Kaplan University to others.”
▪ 86.2 percent agreed or strongly agreed with, “The education I received is relevant to my current goals.”

In each case, those who entered “strongly disagree” were between 1 percent and 4 percent.
I don’t know all the people who work at Kaplan University, but I know a lot of them. And for my whole working life I have known great newspaper people. Kaplan’s people, like the Herald’s, came to work there because they felt a sense of mission and a desire to serve others — in your case readers, in ours a particular group of students. (Perhaps because of that sense of mission, Kaplan was just named one of Forbes Magazine’s 100 Best Employers for 2015). I have taught at Kaplan University myself off and on for four years.

The university is something of a Florida success story. It grew (and our company lost many millions of dollars while it was doing so) by satisfying the needs of students who had few or no options elsewhere. Our average student is 33, has a job and a family. It is hard going to a campus if you have a job and a family; online education wasn’t created by for-profits, but the industry popularized it (and was heavily criticized for that, too, before every college in America joined us in offering online courses).

Our students are almost uniformly low-income. They go back to college (many have at least a few credits) because life has taught them they must. Like every high-school principal in Miami-Dade County, Kaplan’s people know that a college degree leads to a much greater chance of success in life.
Reader: The people at Kaplan University — the teachers, the counselors and the administrators — are as dedicated to the success of our students as the other educators you know. Schools that primarily serve low-income students, and we are one, have their challenges. Yes, our students graduate with debt (low-income students must borrow to attend college, and KU’s adult students almost never have parents paying their tuition); many do not graduate (but according to the best information we can gather, KU’s graduation rates are far higher than the average traditional university achieves with students from similar demographic background); they sometimes default (but the default rate among Kaplan University graduates is 4.5 percent).

Much of the series refers to the recruiting practices of for-profit colleges. During a federal investigation in 2010, we learned that one recruiter at a Kaplan College vocational campus had used utterly reprehensible tactics in recruiting a student.

Readers might ask themselves: What would your company do if it was facing such a challenge? Here’s what Kaplan did.

1. We stopped enrollment on the campus for months, until we could assure ourselves that every student in attendance had been admitted properly. Every student was offered a full refund if they wanted to leave. (The vast majority chose to stay.)

2. We adopted a program called The Kaplan Commitment, which offered something no university in the country did: A student could then enroll and take five weeks of classes, drop out any time during the five weeks and owe no tuition and incur no debt.

This program cost us well over $100 million. That’s how badly we wanted to ensure that no student attended Kaplan University because of false recruiting.

That’s how much money we lost — and that’s how much money Kaplan itself (not Kaplan University — the whole of Kaplan) makes in a good year. This was quite an extraordinary act; Your reporter ignored it. And all the information I have cited here is publicly available in obvious places (our SEC filings and Kaplan’s annual report).

I would like to say a last word as a longtime journalist. When a reporter writes only one side of a multi-sided story, such a reporter is normally kept in check by editors. Good editors demand that a reporter get both sides of a story. They do not publish blatantly unfair work. That wasn’t done at the Miami Herald.

The editors of the Herald deserve far more blame for this wretched work than the reporter. It is as if the words “for-profit education” made everyone at the Herald believe that there was no further reporting to be done.

But for-profit businesses can do a great deal of public good.

My Exhibit A would be the Miami Herald, a for-profit newspaper which at one time went to great lengths to give Floridians an honest and balanced view of the place they live.

Donald E. Graham is the chairman and CEO of Graham Holdings Company.

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APSCU: Private Sector Instiutions Prepare the High-Demand Professional for Tomorrow

April 24, 2015
By APSCU Communications 

Private sector institutions prepare students and provide them with relevant skills in high demand career fields. Since 2001, the number of credentials awarded to students attending private sector institutions increased by 165 percent. This means that each year, more and more students are receiving the skills they need to work in high demand fields that boost their earnings potentials.
As seen in the infographic below, private sector institutions award the majority of all allied health and culinary arts credentials earned. Private sector institutions also play a significant role in teaching the skills required to be an electrician or a vehicle maintenance and repair technician.

Private sector institutions provide new traditional students with opportunities to further their educations and obtain skills in career-relevant fields. These new traditional students, who are over the age of 25, have financial dependents, and/or are employed full-time while enrolled, have been vastly underserved by traditional institutions of higher education. Private sector institutions are well equipped to meet the needs of these new traditional students through flexible learning options that public and private nonprofit institutions typically do not provide.

In the infographic below, you can see that private sector institutions are increasingly preparing the high-demand professionals of tomorrow.

APSCU_infographics_v6 Infographic 2

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