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.

Direct link to article: http://apscu.org/news-and-media/press-releases/association-to-focus-on-career-edu.cfm

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.”

Direct link to article: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/federal-671435-programs-profit.html

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.

Direct link to article: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/education/247155-the-real-issue-is-still-real-jobs

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."