APSCU Press Release: APSCU Statement on the Conclusion of Negotiated Rulemaking

March 18, 2016 - Washington, DC - The below can be attributed to Steve Gunderson, president and CEO of APSCU:

Much like the gainful employment regulation before it, the likely action by the U.S. Department of Education on defense of repayment is nothing more than a very thinly vailed attempt to deny higher education access and opportunity to new traditional students that rely on our institutions. Effort like these put the future of career education in America at risk.

Department or advocate claims to the contrary are misleading.

Despite efforts by the Department, and its ideological allies, to try and pass arbitration as nefarious and anti-student– the fact is arbitration is used all across the country, every day by parties on all sides of all issues. Every American carrying a credit card today has agreed to arbitration in the event there is a dispute between the cardholder and their bank. To portray arbitration as exceptional or highly unique to higher education is ridiculous.

This latest regulatory effort is just an another attempt to pretend to be on the side of students, but really the Department is advancing an ideological effort instead of working cooperatively with the Congress and higher education stakeholders to advance meaningful reauthorization of Higher Education Act reauthorization.

Direct link to article: http://career.org/news-and-media/press-releases/APSCU-Statement-on-the-Conclusion-of-Negotiated-Rulemaking.cfm

MarketWatch:The government paves the way for students to file class-action lawsuits

Published: Mar 14, 2016 4:31 p.m. ET

The U.S. government wants to make it easier for student loan borrowers to sue their colleges when they believe they’ve been wronged.

The Department of Education released a proposal Friday evening that would make it more difficult for colleges to require students to settle disputes in arbitration, a private, closed-door process that critics say prevents students from getting a fair shake when they raise issues about their schools.

“The Department is working to ensure that no college can dodge accountability by burying ‘gotchas’ in fine print that blocks students from seeking the redress they’re due,” Ted Mitchell, the undersecretary for the Department said in a release.

Critics say for-profit colleges regularly include so-called mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses — or provisions that require students to litigate claims in arbitration instead of going to court — in the agreements they require students to sign when they enroll at the school. In addition to barring students from taking their claims to court, the clauses also can prohibit students from bringing claims as a group. Those provisions can have a chilling effect on student suits, critics say, because individuals have to bear the often expensive cost of arbitration alone.

Businesses of all types increasingly deployed arbitration clauses in cellphone plans, credit card agreements, employment contracts and other areas (including banks) over the past several years. Companies and their lawyers often argue that class-action lawsuits are more about enriching plaintiffs’ lawyers and less about helping consumers. In addition, they say, arbitration provides a cheap and efficient way for consumers to get relief. Thanks to two Supreme Court decisions in 2011 and 2013, the agreements and the class action bans that often come with them are typically difficult to challenge in court, forcing consumers to settle disputes over bills, employment discrimination and other issues through the arbitration process.

Critics of mandatory arbitration say the clauses have no place in higher education. “I just don’t think that there’s a plausible justification for using these provisions in an educational context and I think that becomes clear the more you examine the way that they work,” said Eileen Connor, the director of litigation at the project on predatory student lending at Harvard Law School, who pushed the Department to curb schools’ use of mandatory arbitration clauses.

The Department’s proposal regarding mandatory arbitration is part of a larger, months-long rulemaking process to set clear standards for how and when borrowers should have their federal student loans forgiven if they believe they’ve been defrauded by their schools. In the wake of the collapse of for-profit college chain, Corinthian Colleges, last year amid scandal, borrowers have been clamoring for debt forgiveness. Connor, who previously submitted a proposal on behalf of the legal aid community as part of the negotiated rulemaking process that would ban schools that use mandatory arbitration agreements from receiving federal financial aid dollars, called the Department of Education’s proposals on arbitration “fantastic.”

Steve Gunderson, the CEO of the Association of Private Colleges and Universities, disagreed, saying he was disappointed with the Department’s proposal. Gunderson noted that arbitration clauses have been a part of higher education since the 1970s to protect faculty as part of collective bargaining agreements.

“Our attitude has always been to try to find a way to protect students,” he said. “Lawyers are the ones who make the money” off class action suits, he added.

The Department proposed two possible routes to curbing mandatory arbitration in a draft rule it released ahead of the final negotiating session with stakeholders this week. Both would make it easier for students to bring claims together. One would require a student to give consent to move a claim to arbitration. The other would require that any arbitration proceedings be open to the public and recorded. Since arbitration sessions are typically held behind closed doors, any violations of law discussed in the sessions rarely come to light.

Julie Murray, a staff attorney at Public Citizen, a nonprofit advocacy group that submitted a petition to the Department last month asking the agency to make a rule barring schools that use mandatory pre-dispute arbitration clauses from receiving federal financial aid funding, said the option that requires a student’s consent to move to arbitration goes further to protect students than the Department’s other proposal.

The other proposal “gets at some of the most egregious aspects of (arbitration clauses) without getting at the root of the problem, which is putting students into arbitration at all,” she said. “That being said, we’re pleased to see what the Department said on Friday and we’ll be intrigued to see how the negotiations unfold this week.” Regardless of whether either of the Department’s proposals are included in any new rules, the Department still has to respond separately to Public Citizen’s petition, Murray said.

The Department’s proposal is just the first step of many before the provisions actually become law and there’s a chance that won’t even happen. At the final negotiating session next week, stakeholders will discuss the arbitration proposal, among others. If the group, which includes consumer advocates, for-profit college representatives and others, reaches a consensus, the Department will put forward a proposed regulation for comment. If the negotiators don’t reach a consensus, the Department has to decide whether to move forward with the regulations.

“I’m delighted that the Department listened to the proposal and really hopeful that we’ll see something in the final rule along these lines,” Connor said.

Direct link to article: http://www.marketwatch.com/story/the-government-paves-the-way-for-students-to-file-class-action-lawsuits-2016-03-14

APSCU Press Release:APSCU Statement On Gainful Employment Litigation

Washington, DC – March 8, 2016 - Following the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit ruling on APSCU’s litigation against the U.S. Department of Education’s gainful employment regulation, APSCU president and CEO Steve Gunderson released the following statement:

“When the first gainful employment regulation was struck down by the courts, we expressed hope that the era of overregulation and litigation would give way to a public-private partnership focused on giving Americans the occupational skills they need to succeed in the workforce. We again call on the Department to engage with us in finding ways to enhance both quality and opportunity for all students – especially those seeking employment skills.

“Judging an academic program by a debt to income ratio does not define academic quality. If it did, many programs all across higher education would fail. This sector is very different today than it was when the Department published its first gainful employment regulation years ago. As a country, we need to be very careful that overregulation does not result in denying access to students seeking a higher education.”

APSCU Press Release: Shortage of Skills:Information Technology & Cyber Security

March 4, 2016, Washington, DC - This month the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 7.8 million Americans are unemployed, while at the same time 5.6 million jobs remain unfilled in America. This crisis exists because employers demand "job ready" employees and prospective employees are simply not able to bridge the skills gap without appropriate education and training.

APSCU's fourth look at the shortage of skills in America examines the skills gap currently facing the information technology sector.

If one wants a career where demand far exceeds the rest of the economy, and where median wages are far higher than average pay the information technology sector is the place.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics most recent data, software developers are projected to grow by almost 19% over the decade of 2014 to 2024.  At the same time, all computer occupations are projected to grow by over 13% -- more than double the projected growth of 6.5% for all occupations.  At the same time these jobs produce median wages that are very good.  The average for computer occupations is $79,420 while the median wage for software developers is $95,510.

With regular 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 one of the fastest growing occupations where technology and a specific occupational knowledge combine to produce incredible new job demand. But companies are experiencing the "largest human capital shortage in the world" as they try to keep up with evolving technologies and security needs, according to one senior industry figure.

"Over the past few years, we have diversified our programming in an effort to create a STEM pipeline to prepare students to meet global challenges," said Jason Pistillo, president and CEO of University of Advancing Technology in Tempe, AZ. "To address demand, we have launched many emerging programs such as Digital Maker and Fabrication, Business Technology and continue to run one of the oldest and most respected cyber security programs in the nation.  We now place our graduates in over 41 states."

Employers are struggling to find qualified people to fill vacant information technology and cyber security positions, largely due to a shortage of certified professionals. A 2015 Burning Glass report stated that in 2014 alone, employers in the US posted nearly 50,000 jobs requesting a CISSP – one of the main cyber security certifications. However, only around 65,300 people in the country hold a CISSP, according to the International Information Systems Security Certification Consortium's July 2015 membership counts.

The problem is expected to worsen over the next few years – Financial Times recently reported that demand for cyber security experts across the globe is forecast to outstrip supply by a third by 2020.

"We have grown our Information technology programming at every one of our campuses," said Lauren Weymouth of Ridley-Lowell Business and Technical Institute in Danbury, Connecticut. "We find that demand for qualified graduates remains high and our programs have strong placement.
Private sector colleges and universities provide millions of students with the education and skills necessary to compete for jobs in high-demand occupations like cyber security and information technology. The quality vocational programs they offer will play an integral role in making sure America's workforce can keep up with the sector's growing demand.

As Burning Glass recently stated, "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."

About Shortage of Skills
Each month APSCU will profile America's "Shortage of Skills" (SoS) in one key industry. We will examine industries that are critical to America's economic advancement and explain how a well-educated and well-trained workforce can address these issues.

About The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU)
The Association of Private Sector Colleges and Universities (APSCU) is a membership organization of accredited institutions of higher education that provide postsecondary education with a career focus. APSCU's work supports thousands of campuses that educate millions of students.